March 10, 2005

Teachers and Unionization IV

Carroll Andrew Morse

This is thinking-out-loud. Marc and Don have more detailed knowledge in this area, so they may poke this full of holes. But here is what I mean by a teaching guild instead of a teacher’s union…

Let’s be libertarians for a moment. Postulate a system where students are free to pick from any school they want within traveling distance. And let the funding for any school be tied to the number of students that choose to go there. BUT let’s take an additional step. Let’s give teachers maximum choice too. Here are a few simple rules to start with…

0. Collective bargaining determines minimum salaries based on service time.
1. Service time is time-in-the-guild, not time in any particular school system. If you move to Beetown after 5 years teaching in Aaytown, you still have 5 years service time (as long as both towns are covered by the same guild)
2. The minimum contract includes two teacher-option years. In other words, before a teacher begins the next-to-last or last year of a contract, he or she can walk away, no strings attached.
3. Any time another school in the guild offers a teacher a 5% salary increase, the teacher is free to break his or her current contract and leave for the new position.

There are advantages in both tails. Say principal Mortimer Skinflint says “I only offer minimum salary contracts for the minimum time allowed”. Well, if his school’s test scores are low, and student are not choosing his school, it is pretty clear that the administration needs to improve.

On the flip side, say principal George Washington XII wants to build up his school’s social studies program, and make it the premiere program in the state. There is now a natural mechanism for recruiting and retaining social studies teachers.

Might a system like this work out best for everyone involved?

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Andrew, good ideas, I've always liked the guild idea myself, perhaps because of my romanticizing of the History of the Middle Ages, which I have a minor in. Unfortunately, while your idealism is commendable, in the area of teachers, unions, education, etc. realism reigns. As Don's inside-the-school-committee posts have shown, reality is in short supply in these matters. Again, I like the ideas, especially as they are centered around the value of "choice" for both students and teachers. Good stuff.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at March 11, 2005 9:05 AM