Generally speaking, I support teacher unions and advocate better salaries and working conditions for teachers [a.k.a., smaller student-to-teacher ratios, which actually benefits students more than teachers]. I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is and pay more in property taxes to help achieve those goals in my community.
But I need the NEA and teacher unions in general to take a step forward into the current century, too. They're stuck in the past, working with old contract models and fighting some of the wrong battles. For starters, unions need to:
- Stop saying that grading student work is a task that teachers are not compensated for.
- Change teacher contracts so that teachers get paid based on workload and merit, and not just on years of experience and post-college credits.
- Get rid of tenure so that useless teachers can be replaced with new, good ones.
- Acknowledge that teacher benefit packages are too expensive for communities to support going forward.
It Only Feels Like You're Not Being Paid
Teachers spend an average of 50 hours per week on instructional duties, including an average of 12 hours each week on non-compensated school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty, and club advising.
The NEA might have an argument about bus duty and club advising, but sorry, grading papers is not a non-compensated activity. It's part of a teacher's job, as are preparing lessons and giving students extra help. I taught writing courses, and I knew when I agreed to teach them that I'd be doing work at home. A teacher's job does not begin when the first bell rings and end when the last one does. Teachers have homework, too. They just do.
The NEA isn't identifying the real problem here, which the unions themselves have wrought: Teachers with the same years of experience and education level get paid the same salary no matter how demanding their jobs are or aren't. English teachers, for example, get the same basic pay as gym teachers, even though English teachers have a lot more work to do on a daily basis.