Do Gooder Liberalism and The Strike

Untitled-1 “I support SEATTLE educators” reflects a kind of do gooder liberalism that ends up hurting the people most in need .. the kids. To be blunt, kids are being screwed by both sides .. the Republicans who do not want to pay taxes and the union that must act to protect its members jobs. I assume the SEA will win .. but, under state law, the money for their salaries is going to come out of badly needed funds for school supplies.  No one stands for the kids.

Let me make five points:


The SEA activists often begin by claiming that there is a cabal that
“hates the teachers.” Perhaps that is true but not here in Seattle. No one I know blames “the teachers.” The SEA is doing what any labor union should do .. striking to get as much pay as it can for its members.


The discussion about teacher pay ignores the fact that the SEA is a trade union. The union has opposed merit pay in return for relatively high pay for entry level teachers followed by sizable increases and a tnure system depending only on seniority. At 44.000 for 10 months, entry level teacher are paid more than generally better qualified entry level or adjunct faculty at community colleges or our state universities and colleges. Moreover, 44k is not the actual salary because SEA members can earna lot more than this by participating in training and planning sessions or supervising activities like recess. Similar faculty roles in higher ed are not recompensed.


Finally, while teacher pay is modest, it is quite a bit better than the pay more highly qualified people can get as adjunct faculty at our community colleges or the UW. I say “more highly qualified” because the competition for these low paid, non tenured jobs, is fierce.

As another example look at base salaries for retail mangers.  Like teachers these are usually college grads.  Like teachers they are trained in the psychology of managing people. Unlike teachers they expect to work 50 weeks a year and have little job security. 


Tenure is also an issue. Earning tenure in higher ed is VERY difficult. In the SEA world, tenure is earned again by seniority. Tenure is also a money issue. The value of having a guaranteed job in this part time economy is huge! Teachers in private schools and most faculty in community colleges can not even earn tenure.


The Republicans opposed integration, the liberals pushed forced integration, parents who could do so (including middle class AA) fled the integrated schools. Support for public schools became a liberal do gooder cause.

The teachers suffered. Wages fell, Teacher prestige disappeared. Well educated people, even English majors who could not find jobs, avoided teaching., Teaching became an assembly line job and .. the unions did what you would expect them to do  .. created hiring halls and struck to control standards for hiring and firing as well as promotion. 

The SEA strike illustrates this issue. The District does not comtrol the sate funds it gets. These are earmarked. As a result, the schools have a certain pot of money to pay for teachers’ salaries. That same pot pays for school supplies, textbooks, computers, outings and pay for non SEA workers including people who serve food, support the buildings, drive buses, etc.

Any money going to the Teachers (and Admins also supported by the SEA) has to come from this pot.

How do we fix this?

My guess is that the SEA will “win” at the expense of the students. The result will by more union strength, mor efforts by the union to push parents and the community so the SEA can protect jobs. We have already seen this in the successful effort by thge SEA to block charter schools.

A huge part of the problem is that teacher today are trained in ed schools ..they learn about psychology and teaching methods but not usually much about content. When I was a school kid, It was safe to assume that all my teachers were literate, reasonably well grounded in what might be called the common core, and very well educated .. even expert .. in the content they were expected to teach. Yep, my Latin teachers spoke Latin (both Church and Vernacular) and my English teachers were passionately well educated in science fiction and Dickens. I had math teachers with PhDs and chemistry teachers who had chosen pubic schools because they wanted an opportunist to be creative that industrial grunt work could not offer

Nothing will change unless the teachers reform their profession. Teachers need to act like professionals and trade high entry level salaries for greater competition to get jobs and make tenure MUCH harder to earn. The jobs ought also to be for 12 months. Teachers hould be paid for their work as teachers for a full year. That extra time might be spent in advancement in content .. e.g. by apprenticeships in the work place, or teaching n other settings such a community run summer schools.

Before I would vote for an increase, I would like to see the teachers buy into more support for their kids … more competition for entry level jobs, better pay as teachers progress in knowledge other than (just) education courses, accepting other experiences as qualification (e.g teaching in the military or industry), requiring teachers to be able to pass tests at the level of the students they teach (e.g. I have been told that few high school teachers can pass the GED!), and a bigger role for parents in determining curriculum.

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