In Buffalo, the union and the district are at an "impasse" over the teachers' insurance benefit options, which the district wants to consolidate. The president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Philip Rumore, is challenging this decision with a law suit. In response, the superintendent said this:
"If we don't do this, the school district will go bankrupt," Williams said of the consolidation. In a comment clearly aimed at Rumore, he added: "Do you care about children, do you care about teachers or do you care about yourself?"
In New York, the UFT and Bloomberg are apparently further from a contract than we thought they were. Addressing this impasse, Bloomy said:
We do need to have some changes in work rules that are inhibiting our ability to educate our kids, which is the fundamental purpose that the Department of Education exists for. It’s not a, the Department of Education isn’t there to create jobs. It’s there to educate our kids, and, so, we need to get some changes, which, I think, would not be onerous to teachers.
Got the pattern yet? Public officials use this kind of language all the time: teachers unions act in their own interest at the expense of kids. They create this false choice: that the unions can either side with the teachers, or they can side with the children. If teachers are gaining, children are losing.
But this is an inaccurate and silly way to look at the role of unions. The funding that goes to teachers in the form of higher salaries and benefits would not otherwise "go to the children." School funding goes toward bringing the best available resources and personnel into the classrooms. If you're not spending that money on health insurance, say, then you're repelling some teachers who are qualified enough to take a job somewhere that can afford to give them a great benefits package.
No other industry works like this. Not even Wal-Mart makes the argument that their employees somehow don't care about customers if they want union representation and benefits. Why does this exist? It goes back to teaching being historically a female occupation; its persistence is a barrier to real teacher professionalism.