YORK – A few years ago, this comment would be made only by people who hated everything and everyone. Today, this is not true.

Over the past few months, teachers have been fired from a Rhode Island district and there are some systems in Philadelphia that turned over their schools to a private charter company, which cleaned out all administrators and teachers in order to run the schools like a business.

I believe this trend will continue until people realize the price they pay for their child’s education will not decrease from the changes but will evolve upward like our present- day health insurance costs. Let’s first discuss how the firing of all teachers and administrators in a district will change the way the system is run.

Getting my information from Time magazine’s article on the Philadelphia schools, it seems the changes they made were good for the schools. A private charter company was hired to control the worst of the Philadelphia schools. They immediately fired all teachers and administrators, blaming them for the way the school was run

These schools had more than 50 percent of their students fail to graduate and there was no control in the schools. The students ran rampant in the halls and even the principal’s office had bars in the door.

After the school was taken over, all students were required to wear uniforms, the average class size was substantially increased, the students had to hand in all of their homework at the beginning of the day, and the length of the day and the year were also increased.

I assume there were no unions involved in the schools because all teachers and administrators became employees of the private charter schools. The schools’ state test scores increased to the point they became closer to the NCLB guidelines.

In fact, the early results of this change seemed to be positive, but are their teachers now teaching to the test? Are they eliminating the concept of free expression in order to show success in a test that literally means nothing to our student? If you simply teach to the test, this would eliminate the concept of new ideas.

This trend in firing all existing administrators and teachers will probably diffuse into other school systems across the country. Our nation is looking for a quick fix to a very complicated social program.

As for the Rhode Island school that fired its teachers and administrators, they blamed their low test scores on the employees of the school and not on the fact that more than 50 percent of the students spoke English as a second language. Actually, the firing was a means of busting the union.

The teachers were told they would work a longer day and a longer year. They were also offered a small stipend for this increased work. When they refused, they were fired. To date I know of some of the teachers agreeing to the longer work day and year. I just wonder if this will have anything to do with how the school performs.

To say I am a union person would be an understatement. In my career I have been president of two different locals. Many people blame the union for the demise of our public education system. I find this foolish for many reasons.

My first contract was for $5,700 a year. The only way I could accept the offer was I had summer businesses that could make up for the low salary. Over the years, unions have fought for a higher wage for teachers so they would be able to work longer days and years.

The union also fought for better equipment, better supplies for their students and smaller classes. They worked for consistency in the schools through a system of tenure.

If it had not been for tenure, every new administration would release teachers they did not like and add teachers they liked. The school boards and administrators worked to allow old dinosaurs like me to concentrate on teaching being my primary job.

We are all going through change. Some say we should fire today’s teachers and administrators so we could bring in the new. The problem with this concept is there are not enough teachers ready to take our place.

 

– Special to the Press Herald