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United they stand and to hell with the kids

The Denver Public School system does a lot of things that make me wonder about the intelligence of the people in charge. This, in turn, makes me worry about what’s happening to the education of our kids.

Case in point: A recent DPS decision to start schools late on five days this year so that teachers can get in some planning time. Keep in mind that schools already let out early on Wednesdays so teachers can have planning time.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most working people plan their days on their own time? When I was working, I was expected to work — and got paid for working — during work hours (hence the name). My “planning time” consisted of mental multi-tasking on my own time in the evenings, running errands, cooking, cleaning up the house, while also thinking “tomorrow at work I need to be sure to get this done, so that by Friday I can have that done,” etc.

What are working parents supposed to do on those mornings when little Johnnie doesn’t have school? They’ve already had to schedule around the fact that on Wednesdays, little Johnnie gets out of school earlier than usual. Who is supposed to have the flexibility to pick the kids up and drop them off at two different start times during the year and two different dismissal times every week? Then there are all those pesky holidays that turn schedules into hash. You know the ones, the ones that start or end in the middle of the week, or both, and often aren’t coordinated with the school in adjoining districts (too bad for you if your kids happen to attend different schools). Don’t teachers have kids too? Don’t they understand these things? Or is paid daycare and kiddie chauffeur service part of their union package?

Yes, union! This newest scheduling anomaly is the result of a new teachers’ union contract. Tada! It’s just one more example of why I really hate unions. Sorry, union members. I know it all depends on which side your bread is buttered on. It just so happens that mine has never been buttered on the union side. Unions served a purpose once, back in the days of child labor and virtual indentured servitude in factories with unsafe working conditions, sweatshops, etc.

Today, however, workers don’t need protection from such things. There are laws to deal with them. Unions now persist for purposes of greed, power, and control. They can push employers into financially untenable corners, demanding and getting far more in pay and benefits than they could get in the open job market where the rest of us work. They can even deny jobs to others in the market. Screw the employers. It’s the unions who say who works and who doesn’t.

Here’s how it should work, people. If you don’t like the pay package offered you, you go work someplace else. Simple. You don’t take the job and then join with others to blackmail the employer into giving you more than you are worth, or keeping you on the payroll even if you’re worthless; you don’t strike, or threaten to strike, or literally destroy the organization you work for to get what you want. Where’s the logic in destroying the company that employs you? Where you gonna work then, smart ass? In cases like the DPS, and probably most companies, what the union wrests from management comes out of the cash pool available for everything — including, say, salaries for non-union employees, maintenance of the building where you work, the parking lot where you park, etc.

The head of the Denver school system mentioned they were trying to be fair to both parents and teachers. Excuse me? The teachers work for and are paid by the parents, ultimately. The employees don’t get to dictate to the employers. That’s why we have “employers” and “employees,” if I’m not mistaken.

Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to the kids in these equations? Aren’t they the reason these entities exist in the first place? Isn’t this education thing supposed to be all about them?

5 Comments »

  1. I’m not a Denver citizen but these “planning days,” I think, benefit the children as much as they benefit their teachers. It sets aside some time for folks to get their classrooms in order before 20-30-40 kids come storming in the doors.

    Sure, teachers do work over the summer to get their classrooms ready. But in my experience, a lot of these city school system educators are hired last minute. Then you’ve got 20-something teachers scrambling to get something together a few days before their kids arrive. Tack onto that the fact that younger teachers spend inordinate amounts of after-hours time planning curriculum, individual lessons, grading, etc. Maybe if teachers were compensated for the amount of hours they actually work, it’d be a more attractive position…

    Even if these “planning days” were established to cater more to the younger teachers, why not give them that opportunity? It does benefit the kids and, by extension, the community after all, right?
    ____________
    The teachers already had the designated time blocks on Wednesday afternoons to do this (not to mention all the holidays, breaks, and summers that most working people don’t get). As a practical matter for the kids and working parents, and to encourage and facilitate regular school attendance (rather than disrupt it), the schools need to adhere to some sort of regular schedule, just like the working parents, their employers, the day care centers, and the bus services do.

    I have the utmost respect for dedicated teachers and the great responsibility they have for educating the next generation of Americans. What I cannot abide is a union that thinks its priorities and demands take precedent over all other considerations. I don’t like unions, period, but this particular one even threatened a strike during the Democratic National Convention in order to put more pressure on a school board they know is already having serious financial problems (partly because it already gives teachers such generous salary and retirement benefit packages).

  2. There is NO way I could ever work days and have this different start/stop time with the kids. Employers are NOT always understanding of working parents. This is crazy. I’ve never heard of such a thing. If they keep up at this rate, the teachers will only have to teach one day a week by 2010. Ridiculous.

    As far as unions go, I have never been in one, neither were my parents. The huz has never either so I don’t know much about how that works. From your account, it does sound outdated. You are 100% correct, there are LAWS- laws that protect employees. It’s extremely apparent where I work because in order to do a thing to an employee, even a reprimand, they have to jump through the proper hoops- even if the employee sucks. Now, they get a verbal warning, are allowed 2-3 written, and still it’s hard for my company just to fire them. When did things start going haywire like this?
    _______________
    Fortunately, my son and his family live outside the actual city of Denver, in the burbs, where the public schools are run by whatever counties they happen to be in. He commutes to work in Denver, she works at home, and the two kids (ages 6 and 3) have to be different places on different days at different times. Frankly, I don’t know how they keep everything coordinated. And I’m sure it would be ten times worse if she didn’t work from home.

    Labor laws are ridiculously complex, for both sides. I don’t pretend to understand them. I just know that over the years I’ve seen unions do all kinds of truly greedy, selfish, unwarranted crap like this. And some of it has been a lot more detrimental to the public interest than this.

  3. The right to a free education is often confused with the right to free child care. It is obvious that many parents feel that their child’s education is no more than a perk to the free child-care that they are afforded in this country through the public schools. The teaching profession is not a baby-sitting service. Teachers are professionals and must be given every opportunity to provide the best educational services to students. It is crazy to think that teachers do not deserve time to plan for little Johnny. I am sure that you wouldn’t expect your attorney to plan his strategy for your defense in his “spare” time, as you wouldn’t expect your medical physician to take care of your medical treatment plan during her spare time. That being said…stick to your profession and what you do best which is obviously not educating individuals. Why do you people that apparently do not appreciate quality education continue to demean educational professional?
    ____________
    But I do appreciate quality education! That’s my whole point.

    I am not demeaning the teaching profession. I am demeaning unions and their tactics. I am demeaning a further fragmenting and shortening of class time for the kids.

    It’s been decades since I’ve been in school or had a child in school, but doesn’t a regular 3 pm class dismissal leave two hours of a normal work day available for planning, paperwork, etc.? And doesn’t an early Wednesday dismissal leave even more time? Why don’t the teachers come in earlier or stay later if they need more planning time? Millions of other working Americans do that all the time. There are a lot of things wrong with today’s public education system, but while adults work to fix it, the kids (including my grandkids) should still be in class, learning.

    Yes, I’m sure there are irresponsible parents who think of public schools as nothing more than a babysitting service, with the education being just a nice fringe benefit. Shame on those irresponsible parents! (Frankly, I think if kids aren’t serious about getting an education, they should be kicked out of school.) But the existence of parents like that — and there will always be some — is not in any way a valid reason for providing less class time for the majority of students who are there to get an education. If the school day is made even more irregular, it will become even more difficult for responsible parents to see to it that their kids are in school all day, every day.

  4. Pied Type:

    Using the word “teacher” in the same sentence as a phrase like “generous salary and retirement benefit packages” seems a little ridiculous to me. But maybe that’s just me.

    To address your Wednesday afternoon designated time blocks, have you ever helped a friend, spouse or family member grade a week’s worth of papers for 30 kids (multiply this if they’re a teacher in middle or high school)? If you have, you may understand why setting aside a couple hours on Wednesday is extremely deficient.

    As far as teachers working holidays, breaks and summers… That is a very fair assumption that every teacher I know IS ALREADY taking advantage of. Have you ever come across a teacher who doesn’t say that they had to work through most weekends, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, etc. just to catch up? In my experience, working through the breaks and weekends is not an anamoly but a rule.

    Piggybacking off “Me’s” response, I was actually very surprised to note that professionals in the education system work just as much as medical clinicians. Yet, clinicians don’t have to bring EKGs or patient files home with them.

    I’m not trying to be offensive here but is it that you’re trying to shove “laziness” into this equation too quickly? Could it be that this “union-backed” initiative is actually grounded in reality?
    ___________
    I was in no way trying to say or imply that teachers are lazy. Every teacher I’ve ever known, including several members of my family, has been totally dedicated to “their kids” and worked tirelessly for them.

    “Generous” may have been an overstatement to some, but an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, plus benefits and a very secure retirement, would be considered a good job by many. Teachers, like any other employees, are individuals who can go work elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied with their current situation.

    What I was saying, or trying to say, is I don’t like unions and their greedy, strong-arm tactics. In this particular case, the union keeps going back to the well for more, and the well is running dry. Just because the union wants more doesn’t mean there is more to give. There’s a limit to how much money the school system has. There’s a limit to how much you can shorten a school day and still confer an education. I don’t know how union reps can keep a straight face when they go into negotiations demanding both higher pay and shorter hours in the same breath. Taken to its logical conclusion, I guess the union will only be happy when every teacher makes $100,000 for not working at all.

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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