Educational Follies

The Baltimore Schools

Readers of the Baltimore newspapers have been regaled by a series of advertisements placed by the Baltimore Teachers’ Union, which has reached an impasse in contract negotiations with the school board. The school board proposes to slightly reduce the allowed weekly amount of what is quaintly called ‘preparation time’, in order to have additional time for compulsory annual workshops for teachers, which actually prepare them to teach classes. What is the ‘preparation time’ that the union defends? A former officer of the National Education Association, Myron Lieberman of the Education Policy Institute, explains that it is an important prerogative of the senior teachers whom the unions zealously represent at the expense of their juniors and of their students:”Teacher unions have accepted preparation periods or reductions in class size in lieu of salary increases. The benefits are not characterized as increases in compensation, but that is what they are, at least in part. The importance of seniority to teachers is often underestimated. Whose free period comes first in the morning, which means that it is likely to be pre-empted by the need to replace a suddenly absent teacher? When the free period is last, the teacher rarely loses a free period because the district has gotten a substitute by then. The union rationale for seniority asserts that allowing managerial discretion would lead to favoritism, bias and divisiveness, whereas seniority arguably places all teachers on an equal footing. Unfortunately, under union rules, fairness for teachers results in less than fairness for pupils in the inner cities, who are taught year after year by more than their fair share of new teachers, substitute teachers, and teachers not well prepared in the subjects they teach. Furthermore, less is spent per inner-city pupil than per upper middle class pupil; the higher salaries paid for teachers in the more affluent areas in the same school district constitute an inequity that is not eliminated by special appropriations for students from poor families or by increasing school district revenues. The teacher unions, which regard themselves as the leaders in the struggle for equity, are fierce defenders of the major inequity in school district expenditures.”M. Lieberman, The Educational Morass: Overcoming the Stalemate in American Education (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 132-33.
The union complaint about reduction in “preparation time

Posted in: Education