One of my general beliefs is that markets – for good or for evil, and there is plenty of both – are enormously powerful and should never be underestimated. Trying to act against an established and growing market is akin to trying to put a genie back in a bottle. Witness this remarkably insightful quote from Washington DC Union President George Parker in the NCTQ News Bulletin:
The union has now had to take on a dual role. Previously our main concern was bread and butter issues–to make sure teachers have good benefits and working conditions. We didn’t have to be that concerned about keeping children in [D.C. schools]. But now around 21,000 of our students are in charters and around 45,000 in public schools. We lost 6,000 students last year. The charter schools have created a competition where the very survival of the union and the job security of our teachers is not dependent on the language in our contract. It is dependent on our ability to recruit and maintain students because we are funded pretty much by the number of students we have enrolled in the public system.
The job security of teachers depends less on the bargaining agreement and more on if kids and their families want to attend the schools in which they teach. And note that it is not that DC has fewer teachers (quite possibly more as most charters have lower student/teacher ratios) just fewer union teachers.
Debate good, bad, or indifferent, but that is a pretty fundamental change.