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The Cutting Edge of Teacher Quality

The State of Michigan is currently considering a bill that would limit collective bargaining rights among teachers. Under the proposal, paying dues would be optional. This legislation, like other so-called “right to work” laws, represents an attempt to defund and create divisions within labor unions, which severely weakens teachers’ ability to bargain fair contracts, as well as the capacity of their unions to advocate on behalf of of public schools and workers in general.

Last month, Michigan State Senate Majority Floor Leader Arlan Meekoff (R- West Olive) was asked whether he thought the bill would pass. He responded in the affirmative, and added:

It’s an opportunity to let teachers get farther away from union goons. That should give them a better chance to break away from the mediocrity. That should make things better for our schools and our children.

Well, there you have it, folks. We’ve been wasting our time by designing rigorous standards and overhauling teacher evaluations. The key to improving teacher quality is not training, compensation or professional development.

It’s goon proximity.

Look, I’m not going to waste time picking apart the statement – that the “goons” are just teachers, or that the presence of other teachers, union reps or not, does not hinder child development. The quote speaks for itself.

I would just like to point out that the person who said this is not some mid-20’s blogger or amateur political hack. People voted for this guy. He is an elected representative of the people of Michigan, a state, by the way, in which roughly one in six workers is a union member. And he’s in a position of leadership to boot.

Furthermore, he didn’t make this comment to his staff or in an off-the-record conversation that was overheard. He said this to a reporter, on the record. It’s even possible that he thought up this statement beforehand.

I don’t want to make too much of one comment, but it’s a little disturbing to think that this is the mindset of some people making hugely consequential decisions about state-level education policy in our country.

- Matt Di Carlo

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Matthew Di Carlo

Matthew Di Carlo is a senior research fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute in Washington, D.C. His current research focuses mostly on education polic...