Time for the Teachers Unions to Grow Up

Published July 15, 2016

The Philadelphia School District (PSD) announced it has filled 99 percent of its vacant teaching positions last week. The city’s school superintendent, William Hite, celebrated, but the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) teachers union criticized PSD for hiring new recruits over veteran teachers. According to NewsWorks.org’s Avi Wolfman-Arent, 78 veteran teachers remain jobless after not being hired back.

“Union officials say forced transfers have typically been guaranteed new positions through the district’s hiring process,” Wolfman-Arent wrote. “This year, they said, many have been passed over in favor of new hires.”

PFT Vice President Arlene Kempin says the district “totally violated” the hiring process that has historically reserved jobs for veteran teachers.

“It’s a simple issue of fundamental fairness and recognizing that those who have given service to the district deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said PFT President Jerry Jordan.

Hite said during a press conference this was the first time ever “the principals and the site selection committees were able to consider external candidates at the same time they considered all internal transfers.”

“We weren’t waiting to place all transfers first, but people could vet the external candidates and the internal transfer candidates at the same time,” Hite said.

The union denies simultaneous vetting is anything new. According to Wolfman-Arent, the union is claiming the only difference in this year’s hiring process “is that the district failed to cap the number of new hires in each subject area.”

Watchdog.org reporter Evan Grossman wrote the new hires, which reportedly includes a 20-year Army veteran, “will offer relief to teachers who were stretched thin and forced to cover for missing colleagues for months at a time.”

All these new hires, says Grossman, will provide students who had to deal with a series of substitute teachers during the 2015–16 school year with a stable classroom environment, while at the same time saving the district millions of dollars.

Never mind all that, the union selfishly says. To PFT, all teachers are equal, but some teachers are more equal than others.

How does hiring new teachers, as Jordan put it, show a lack of “dignity and respect” to veteran teachers? Yes, the veteran teachers have “given service to the district,” but service alone doesn’t make a candidate a better employee.

Of course experience is valuable, but how about we judge teachers on the quality of their performance in the classroom rather than on sheer time spent on the job? The Philadelphia School District appears to have done just that when it, as Hite said, “[vetted] the external candidates and the internal transfer candidates at the same time.”

Maybe there’s something about union teachers the district doesn’t like. Maybe they prefer not to lose millions of dollars every year to “ghost teachers” who get paid not to teach while they’re out of the classroom working full-time for the PFT. Or perhaps they want to avoid keeping ineffective—or in some cases, downright dangerous—teachers on the payroll. Or maybe being a veteran, unionized teacher was not a factor in the district’s hiring process. It’s likely their aggressive recruitment and hiring campaign attracted enthusiastic applicants eager to step up where veteran teachers have grown complacent.

Members of the teachers union, possessing an attitude of entitlement, believe because they pay their union dues they are empowered to bully everyone else into giving them a free pass from participating in the hiring process.

The union’s behavior in this instance, and in many cases, is juvenile. Like a spoiled child who has been given his or her way one too many times, PFT expects to be given what it wants, regardless of merit.

It’s time for teachers unions to grow up.