One of my main bases for hostility to teacher’s unions is that increasingly have nothing to do with their original goal, which was ensuring a living wage and decent working conditions for teachers. (Not that they were always that effective at serving their original union mandate. My father was a teacher and he did belong to a union. In terms of his needs, what it should have done was given him a living wage, which it did not. For most of my childhood, we were just above the poverty line on his salary.) In the old days, they mostly focused on wage and workplace issues, although they periodically slid into policy issues such as ebonics (which, unsurprisingly the unions supported despite, or maybe because of, the fact that ebonics education ensures that blacks never leave the ghetto).
These small forays in policy, which used to be a subset of the teachers unions’ function, have now become overriding goals. The perfect example of this is the NEA’s wholehearted, almost obsesssive commitment to same-sex marriage. Whether you support same-sex marriage or not, you have to task yourself — what in the world does this have to do with teachers’ salaries and workplace conditions?
I dislike strongly that my classroom teachers are being indoctrinated by an organization the purports to serve them in maintaining livable working conditions. I’d have exactly the same response if the NEA obsessively opposed same-sex marriage. This is not an issue that should be on the table for the teachers unions and, to the extent it is and to the extent it guides what goes on in classrooms, I bitterly resent it.