New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was recently interviewed on CNN. He was in prime form. Christie said that the best way to treat a bully was to give him a punch in the face. The interviewer asked what national organizations deserved a punch in the face. Without hesitation Christie said the national teachers' unions. He said they were only interested in increasing membership and benefits and had no interest in improving the education of children. He went on to declare the unions the "most destructive force in education". He said that this was not a new position on his part, he has felt this way for nine years and had the scars to prove it.
So how much of this is political hype and how much is true. Is this comment a hail Mary pass in a crowded presidential field or a Pickett's charge against a strong political enemy. Probably a bit of both.
At the time of this writing there are 17 Republicans running for President. That is the most crowded field in memory. So clearly there is a strong need to distinguish oneself from the look-a-like field of people not in the least bit shy about making fools of themselves with their comments. However, there is some truth to what Christie says. While the unions are currently raging against the annual testing requirements, that is a new rant. They must have been on a very long lunch break when NCLB with its boatload of testing was being debated in Congress. Now they are embarrassing themselves by being the only national education organizations that is against the continued special examination of test performance by at risk groups such as kids with special needs, minority groups and those for whom English is a second language. Makes them seem a bit callous with regard to the less fortunate. It has been quite some time since a union has argued for something that will benefit kids rather than put gold in their own pockets.
It could be easy to argue that attacking these strong unions is a lot like Pickett's charge as well. These are among the strongest unions in the nation. And their members are white collar teachers who work with our kids every day so how bad can these people be. On the other hand, the Supreme Court is going to be hearing a case in the fall regarding the legality of continuing the mandatory service fee that closed shop states such as Maryland and California require of those teachers who do not want to belong to the union. If the plaintiffs win that case, the strength of the unions will be severely impacted because lots of people will drop out since they will have the option of saving a considerable amount of dues money. Given the economies of states since the recession, unions have not been able to negotiate for much in pay raises and a lot of what they have done is try to hold onto the benefits they already have.
All in all, my view is more inline with Christie than not. I personally think the unions have ruined the profession I love. They did this when they went from being a professional organization like the Bar Association or the AMA and decided to go with the trade union model. Then they like to insist they want to be treated as professionals. Act like a professional and just maybe you will be treated as one.