December 12, 2012

Another View: Union 'bar exam' for teachers may not be in students' interest

By Dennis T. Caron, who lives in Cumberland Center

The Press Herald supports the American Federation of Teachers' proposal to create a "bar exam" for teachers ("Our View: 'Bar exam' for teachers deserves a good look," Dec. 5)

Professional certification can be good, but it can also be used to control and choke off the supply of talent entering a profession. Given the history of the teachers' unions' efforts, this could be just an attempt to gain near-absolute control over who can teach.

Let's be clear that the AFT is a teachers' union, a business that is paid by its members to represent their interests and not student, parent or taxpayer interests. They have demonstrated little concern for the quality of education.

They have advocated against merit pay for exceptional teachers, instead favoring paying the best and worst equally. They created rules that require districts to spend years trying to terminate bad teachers, while those teachers draw full pay but do not teach. They oppose school choice, performance assessment, any form of competition to their monopoly, but advocate for higher wages and pay structures that have no relevance to results or quality. With union influence on public education, the cost has increased beyond the rate of inflation (even when student population is decreasing) and the quality of education is either stagnant or in decline. The biggest impediment commonly cited to meaningful education reform in this country is the teachers' unions.

The unions could now structure the "teachers' bar exam" in a way that favors their membership, does nothing to improve results and adds even more cost to public education. It could also exacerbate the shortage of teachers with expertise in math, science and technology.

The teachers' union has no track record of lobbying or advocating for the interests of students, parents or taxpayers, so we need to consider that a teachers' bar exam (like the Trojan horse) may look impressive on the outside, but the details inside could produce severe consequences.

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