GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

Thanks to Maureen Downey for posting this blog about GA’s teacher’s associations and their power in GA last year. Quite a few things to note.

The Fordham Institute & Education Reform Now collaborated on a study called How Strong Are U.S. Teacher’s Unions? A State-by-State Comparison from October 2012.

Interesting notes from the report:

Here are a few highlights:

• Teacher strikes, like the one recently concluded in Chicago, are legal in fourteen states and illegal in thirty-seven.

• Thirty-two states require local school boards to bargain collectively with their teachers, fourteen states permit local boards to do this, and five states prohibit collective bargaining altogether (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).

• Twenty-three states are “right to work” states, which prohibit unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers.* Twenty-eight jurisdictions allow agency fees.

My guess is that the states that allow teacher strikes also are the ones that require collective bargaining. Just to be clear, by “require” it means that someone got the legislature to make it law that districts collectively bargain. You can actually run a district without such requirement. This is where the impression of self preservation is deeply ingrained for me. The unions have helped make it required that LEA’s collectively bargain – and that they will be paid by every employee on their union rolls and and the 28 states that allow for agency fees.

Georgia is one of the few hold outs in allowing unions to form. I’m actually surprised that AL, MS, and LA next door aren’t also in that camp.

GA union power in chart

This study also clarifies for me “right to work.” I thought it meant that there couldn’t be any unions there, but it apparently means that you don’t have to pay agency fees if you are not part of the union. The agency fee is the 60-70% of the union dues that unions collect simply for you benefiting from the bargaining process even if you are not a member. I have spoken at length about these issues, see here. 

As you can see GA teacher associations are listed 45 of 50 in terms of influence in power. Their best rating is of state policies that align with union policies, which seems odd for a state that has seemingly little power. Or it just means that in GA we really don’t need unions to reach policies we can all agree with.

Love this graphic!

teacher union power across US

Taken from Downey’s summary here are the notes on GA:

“Georgia’s teacher associations are weak across the board, not surprising in a state in which collective bargaining is prohibited — and whose politics are fairly conservative. They have few resources and a weak reputation. While teacher employment policies are somewhat union-favorable, charter laws are not, and the associations stayed out of the way when lawmakers enacted reforms en route to receiving Race to the Top award.

Georgia’s two state-level teacher associations (one affiliated with the NEA, the other with the AFT) have limited financial and membership resources. Collective bargaining is prohibited in the state, and just 54.8 percent of its teachers belong to teacher associations (41st of 51 jurisdictions). They bring in $87 per Georgia teacher annually (49th, ahead of just Texas and South Carolina).

On the other hand, Georgia spends a relatively large portion of its state budget on K-12 education (24.4 percent, placing it 9th). Total per-pupil spending is on the low side of the middle ($9,827 per year; 38th), but a relatively high proportion of those dollars goes to teacher salaries and benefits (57.5 percent; 7th)

Compared to teacher unions in other states, Georgia’s associations are not particularly involved in state politics. In the past decade, just 0.33 percent of contributions to candidates for state office came from them (34th); these donations made up only 2.9 percent of the funds contributed by the ten highest-giving sectors in the state (37th). In addition, the associations gave only 0.34 percent of the contributions to state political parties (42nd). Finally, 13.4 percent of Georgia’s delegates to the Democratic and Republication national conventions identified as teacher union members (25th).

Georgia is one of only five states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining. Although teachers can opt to join local and/or state professional associations those entities may not automatically collect agency fees from non-members who work in districts they represent (a limitation that contributes to the low association revenues.) The state also prohibits teacher strikes.

We’re for high quality, effective teachers

The last segment of Diane Ravitch’s comments from the Tennessean:

And she said public school teachers today are seen as “public enemies,” pointing to evaluation systems, like the one in Tennessee, that measure teachers in part by test scores.

“Reformers say their plans will elevate teaching as a profession, but their plans are destroying teaching as a profession,” she said.

First of all, society as a whole has created an environment in which we have created ineffective teachers. You can read a more thorough post here on this topic. I admit, we have all contributed to the lack of support for teachers, lack of resources, poorly planned and executed professional development, lack of a comprehensive evaluation to help teachers know where to improve their skills. Yet, all of this has occurred under the watchful eye of the teacher’s unions. I still can’t quite figure out what it is that they have accomplished for teachers all this time.

Oh yes…its about union dues….as I wrote about here. Not about teacher quality or students. Maybe working conditions for teachers (which does contribute) but not enough about making sure that teachers grow into and remain quality teachers.

But now we realize we’ve made some errors and are beginning to correct them. Every single person on every side of the the isle wants our students to have an effective teacher. We just seem to differ on what that effective teacher looks like and to which students it matters that they have a quality teacher. The union position is to save any and all teacher jobs and the ed reform movement wants to make sure every student has an effective teacher.

I’ll admit we, as a society made mistakes with our teachers for far too long. It’s not necessarily the teacher’s fault. They have been doing the best they can in the 150 yr old school system they have been given. But if current teachers can’t take this new opportunity to teach students new universal standards, be given evaluations that will help them improve their skills and allow for targeted professional development and participate in some of the activities that our kids in poverty need like staying later hours, improving communication with parents, differentiated instruction, and project -based hands on learning where appropriate – then I don’t want you teaching in my kid’s classroom.

Interestingly, when Michelle Rhee offered to a union supporter in DC to give that parent’s kids the ineffective teachers that she fired, so she could save their job….the parent declined.

Here are a couple of ways we can improve teaching conditions. The education reform movement is not the public enemy of teachers, we’re just pro high quality, effective teachers.

There goes Diane again with her rhetoric, instead of adding to the conversation in a productive way, she’s just spewing more of her own self-made facts.