Allan J. Mucerino
DOES COLLABORATION BETWEEN UNION & DISTRICT LEADERSHIP AFFECT HOW TEACHERS DO THEIR DAILY WORK?
If we can agree that building an inclusive culture focused on improving the learning experience of all students is not only a shared mutual interest, but a primary goal of the teachers' union, classified employees' union, and district, we should be able to work out the little things (relative to that big thing). The learning experience of students has been (and always should have been) the big thing since the late 1980’s when many policy makers and education researchers began calling for structural changes in educational systems that affected not only the curriculum, but also the way in which the multiple stakeholders within districts related to each other. Linda Daring Hammond, among other well respected researchers, have long argued that school districts are in need of a new structure based on shared decision-making, collaboration and decentralization. I’ve always been on board.
I am of the belief that teacher union members, pre- and post-Janus, are more concerned that union leadership impact educational practices and policies in their districts than they are with salary and working conditions, but they have been boxed into a corner. Janus is the latest example of how misunderstood and under appreciated teachers and others who choose to serve have become in our society. I also believe that teachers expect their organization to represent them in their professional lives as well as with salary, benefits, working conditions, etc... now more than ever.
While we are being agreeable, let’s also agree that Federal and state mandates have not been sufficient strategies to improve education (abject failures actually). When structural changes came about in the late 1980’s and into the early 1990's in response to mandated and other reform efforts, including the charter school movement, curriculum (standards, assessment, accountability) transformation got the most attention. However, equally critical to the transformation was stakeholder interaction. It has become the key element in the effort to transform education as an institution.
The two largest teachers' unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) were involved in that first wave of school reform in the 1980's and 1990's and initiated experimental programs in receptive districts nationwide during that time. These initiatives emphasized collaboration and identified it as a critical component in the era of accountability. We have since transitioned from the accountability era to the choice era. Collaboration is even more critical now.
Choice has grown out of the accountability movement. Parents are consumers of education. In the state of California, the choice movement has thrust itself on all of us, ready or not, as evidenced by the District of Choice law, which after sunsetting on July 1, 2018, was overwhelmingly reinstated for an even longer period of time than the original law this past month. Stakeholders unite or face extinction.
Make no mistake. We live in an era of choice. Only the strong will survive. And why shouldn’t education be subjected to this Darwinian philosophy? The students we are charged with preparing are subjected to it in this global workplace that they are inheriting. Seems fair and right to me.