In the wake of the recent public fight between teachers’ unions and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), the Center for American Progress (CAP) has released a report authored by Saul A. Rubinstein, Ph.D. and John E. McCarthy, titled, “Reforming Public School Systems through Sustained Union-Management Collaboration.” The report focused on six case studies of six public school districts with a varying range of demographics and geography, ranging from Los Angeles’ ABC Unified School District to the Toledo City School District. For each case study, the authors detailed the relationships between the teachers’ union and the district administrators, recalling the history and background between the two sides, and the factors that have sustained a positive relationship between unions and administrators (or management). At the end of their analysis of all case studies, the common themes that the CAP authors found were that crises motivated a change in union-management relations, teacher quality emphasis, a focus on student performance, and using “substantive problem solving, innovation, and willingness to experiment.” The report gives credit for union-management unity to support from the school boards, where “local unions got directly involved in Board of Education elections…helping to defeat board candidates who did not support a collaborative approach to school governance and management.” Also, it highlights the importance of long-term leadership through recruitment from within, or simply, training, keeping, and promoting union members and not seeking new talent that thinks differently. The authors have a long list of conclusions:
- Education reform is a “systems problem” or simply an administrative problem that lacks communication within itself
- Formal structures need to be in place to share decision-making and to set targets for improvement
- Quality of students and teachers need to be improved
- Networks provide a social network and peer-to-peer system to improve teacher’s skills
- Create culture of collaboration
- Shared learning organizations are necessary for training and relationship-building
- Stability to keep leaders constant and hiring from within is useful
- Boards of Education need to collaborate with unions
- National and state unions provide support
- Community outreach is “critical to institutionalizing collaboration”
Though the authors note the influence of the unions in school board elections, they do not acknowledge that the power and influence of the unions means worse news for students and their parents, all while benefiting unions and their interests. The bottom line is that taxpayer funds for public education are used to conduct joint analyses for different sets of collected data and create committees staffed by teachers and union members. The terminology coined in this report to describe these union-driven efforts is “collaborative school reform,” which seems to be another way to solidify the union’s stranglehold on young American minds. It seems to this writer that most of the focus on union-management collaboration is on expanding and maintaining a bureaucratic organization and culture, but not measuring teacher’s improvements by actual examination results.
In the end, the CAP report applauds stronger teachers’ unions, focusing on the positives of one interest group retaining and enforcing its mindset and vision on the public education sector. It lauds unity within the public education sector and community outreach to parents. It doesn’t detail that parents have little or no say in the daily operations or curriculum of public schools, or any of the prevalent issues facing American public education. In conclusion, union-management collaboration only strengthens and expands a bureaucracy that is inadequately prepared to advance American ingenuity in the classroom and seeks its own self-preservation and self-interest.
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