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Education Dilemma

Recently, there has been a discussion on a local website, exploring the various reasons for the inadequacy of our system of public education in America. Numerous reasons were cited, and perhaps some were even right, but what the discussion led me to, but couldn't answer, was the following question:

Why do teachers pay for insurance?

I'm not talking about conventional, everyday insurance, like that which protects one's automobile, home, health, or wallet from injury expenses. I refer to some kind of insurance for which classroom teachers are liable, presumably for the safety of the children in their classes. Is that what the insurance is for?

What seems obvious to me is that the safety of children in school is the responsibility of the body that governs the school- the school district, the diocese, the committee, whatever -and to push the financial responsibility upon those who can least afford it, and for whom the responsibility hardly applies, in my opinion, is a backwards way of thinking. It's prohibitively expensive, and leads hapless teachers into joining unions that don't seem to do a whole lot, in the way of improving the lives of their members.

This leads me to another question:

What else do teachers' unions do for their members, besides pay their insurance?

The primary responsibility of a labor union is to represent and promote the interests of its members, in the form of better pay, working conditions, health arrangements, and to enforce the benefits already acquired. The reality, however, is that teachers are still some of the worst-paid people in America, and only through long tenure in a major suburban school district, can they seem to make any money.

Could someone tell me what the teachers' unions are doing that helps their members? They don't seem to be of any use, from what I've seen, and seem to maintain membership by blackmailing people with this odd insurance situation. At the same time, I'm not in the education industry, and I don't have a finger on the pulse of these things. That's why I'm asking anyone who reads this site to fill me in on the subject.

Any input would be appreciated.

9:01 AM, Sep 15, 2004

14 comments

Brian interrupted with:

Looks like California's doing their best to screw teachers over more:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/09/16/school.supplies.ap/index.html

2:10 PM, Sep 16, 2004

Renae blurted:

I will say that our teacher's union "fights" for our number of sick days, personal days, vacation (Christmas and Spring Break), our number of after school obligations to the district, and of course our lawyer if need be. Do you need to be a member of the union to recieve such benefits? Of course not (with the exclusion of counsel). You simply need an active union at your school. As a result, teachers who choose not to be in the union are often resented by their co-workers. This for the fact that union dues would be much cheaper if all were in and the fact that the teacher who pays the dues really gets no more than the one who rides the coat tails. I am not sure that this answers any questions. Some teachers think of it as "malpractice insurance" and I guess that is what the world is coming to.

8:05 PM, Sep 17, 2004

bahua thinks:

Still sounds like blackmail to me.

Bear in mind, also, that the situation you described only exists in Right to work states, like Iowa and Kansas. In Illinois, for example, if you want to work at a place that has a union, you absolutely have to join the union, or you don't get the job. Such practices by the unions are illegal right to work states.

2:05 PM, Sep 18, 2004

alarico took the time to say:

renae has good points. in the past unions also provided additional pension benefits if the teacher survived the classroom long enough to retire. don't know if this is still the case.

9:27 PM, Sep 18, 2004

bahua offered:

That brings up another interesting question:

How many teachers paying into the system stay teachers for long enough to come into their pension benefits?

10:23 AM, Sep 19, 2004

Prof._Hoffa cut in with:

You'll never learn in this town again!

9:04 AM, Sep 20, 2004

Rachel cut in with:

It seems like the entire focus of [i]schools[/i] has been lost. Ay, education, anyone? It just feels like job security and good retirement plans are all anyone cares about. I'm not sure what it's called, but everything having to do with when a teacher has been at a school for x amount time (7 years? 10 years?), it becomes almost impossible to lay them off, unless there is some extenuating circumstance like sexual harassment or something. Emphasis on security, [i]not[/i] on education.

Talk to Uncle Pat sometime to see what he thinks about public education and teacher's unions. Pretty interesting, pretty good, but you probably knew that already, anyway, John.

5:57 AM, Sep 21, 2004

Rachel replied:

Whoops. somebody fix my html.

5:58 AM, Sep 21, 2004

Renae wants you to know:

Please bear in mind that my comments on the Union (though true to my knowledge) were simply trying to answer the questions posed. I am a member of the Union and would love to talk with anyone who would say that I have "lost sight of education and/or schools" because of that. I have taught in both private schools and public schools. They both have pros and cons. More importantly they both have teachers within them that care much more about the kids than they do the money and retirement. They also both have teachers who could care less about kids, but care about the vacation time they get. It was easy for me to jump on the bandwagon about how horrible public schools are when I worked in a private school. The fact is there are public schools out there that are excellent at educating students, that care about small class sizes, and addressing individual needs: things I didn't see in the private school I was at.

7:33 PM, Sep 21, 2004

Renae took the time to say:

My apologies John! I ended a sentence with a preposition.

10:25 PM, Sep 21, 2004

JMan took the time to say:

you spelled individual wrong as well.

12:17 AM, Sep 22, 2004

bahua brooked no delay in saying:

It happens.

8:59 AM, Sep 22, 2004

Renae chimed in with:

Are you sure about that Justin?

5:16 PM, Sep 22, 2004

bahua chimed in with:

Hehehe.

7:45 PM, Sep 22, 2004

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