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The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from Northern Illinois University is College of Education is why teachers strike. Here's the moderator Dean Robert F. top. I suppose there are a few developments in education that have indicated such a reversal of philosophical position as the fact of striking by teachers. All of my professional life seemed to mean that teachers would do anything to avoid missing a day in the classroom. Now we discover not only are strikes possible they're happening they're even being approved by some of the professional organizations. Dean Fox How do you account for this change in the position of teachers with regard to strikes. I think that teachers have tried a number of other ways to get the changes in the schools have they wanted to and were unable to get these professional negotiations for example. And because he's failed they've moved toward strikes.
Of course it's true that teachers with their particular arrangement in some of our listeners may not know this whereby they are issued contracts for their year of service anticipated. And these contracts come out in March or April far in advance of the time when the contracts cover starting usually in the following September 1st. So teachers who would want to just refuse to accept a contract because they didn't like the conditions in a town had to make up their minds early. They had to find another job. They had to break a contract and they had to move from a town perhaps that they liked very much. I think there must be some more basic decisions that lead to strikes and those that you have mentioned. Why a hundred years ago the teacher who rode a horse back from community to community
like a circuit writer certainly was decide this fight was conditions yet he didn't strike and it 50 years ago when a teacher served as a janitor and started fires and swept her own classrooms. Certainly she was dissatisfied with those conditions yet she didn't strike so there must be something more basic than just satisfaction that is leading to strikes these days. Perhaps the strength of the teaching profession in terms of the Charedi age and the idea that there are strong professional organizations such as the National Education Association an EFP American Federation of Teachers has given. A certain sense of unity to teachers that they did not have in the past. Well I like to think that today's teacher is a more. Talented more able better trained
person and we had many years ago. They see more need for it's a better services in the schools as more of a need for better equipment better materials and a better set and better salaries for themselves. I mean I think that they're they're not as selfish as some people might think that they are but instead they're many of the teachers meaning they are meaning to improve all of these conditions not just their own. And of course teaching is a profession that's somewhat different than the medical profession or the law profession where essentially the individual can set his own fee. Teachers dependent upon a tax base and the amount of money that any group of citizens on the school board will see fit to pay. And isn't it also true that the people who comprise the teaching profession come from quite a different background and
teachers back in the period you are talking about Leo a circuit writing period. I think today that teachers are striking more in the large cities and a large city teacher tends to come from either the upper or lower socio economic class or the at least the working class. He has grown up in a union environment his parents have participated in strikes in many cases and he realizes that the strike is one way to accomplish his objectives. When they have gotten involved in organizations too haven't they. The union leaders have seen that here is a group of individuals a large group of individuals who have conditions that aren't very good. I think we have to agree that over the years teachers have been underpaid and perhaps there have been some other circumstances such as a
nine month salary that have been impositions on teachers and they haven't been able to take the action themselves. So with some help from outside organizations strikes have come to pass notably in the urban situation. I wonder Lloyd I noticed before you had some figures about what the average teacher is paid in terms of the actual the average unskilled worker what are those figures. Well first of all I'd like to say that although teachers salaries have increased greatly in the last 10 and 20 years and we all know that we know that the percentage of increase in mind teachers in the teaching profession has been much greater than in many and many other professions. However we have to consider where they started. When you when you talk about how the percent of increase you must consider the beginning and an answer to your question. I know that the figures that I have
here show that a year ago that the average teacher salary in the United States was six thousand eight hundred twenty one dollars for the year while the average construction worker draws seven thousand five hundred twenty five dollars. And he and the average salary for the draftsman was slightly more than the teachers average six thousand one hundred forty five dollars. And you know the teacher had to spend at least four years of timing Colleen's in order to even get the beginning. So our and those are averages you're quoting rather than beginning sourest yet Fridays are average. Average annual salaries. And of course someone might say well but the teacher only doesn't work as many hours of the day and the teacher doesn't work as many months of the year. For this hour. But that isn't. It's quite true. In other words the Teacher's Day is just as long as the next demands or perhaps longer with the correction of papers and the preparation for the next day's work.
And many of the teachers we all know that me the teachers spend their summer months spending more money to to improve themselves. I wonder if another very important factor accounting for the increase in strikes is the large number of men who have entered teaching profession since World War 2. I think great at the present time the majority of secondary school teachers are male. And when you combine secondary with elementary approximately one third of the teachers are male and since the man in most cases would be responsible for supporting a family throughout the 12 months he is the one who is has been moonlighting in the past and perhaps now has become more militant to the point of backing either sanctions or strikes.
A study by the National Education Association this opinion of yours Dr. Fox was borne out by this survey. The survey showed that 73 percent of the men and 52 percent of the women indicated that street teachers should strike when the old creation warranted the same percentage of men who believe that teachers should strike the same as other employees also exceeded that of women. And I know way I think it's being critical of the teaching profession do you indicate that. The strike is something new and that the strike in itself is bad. I think all the professional organizations including the Union look at the strike as a last resort and in some school
systems right here in L.A. and online the school boards have refused to negotiate with appointed teams from the teaching profession and as a result the teachers have felt that there has been no recourse for them except to threaten strike. And in those cases the strikes were supported by the national by the Illinois Education Association. Peoria for example is a fairly large city and the Illinois Education Association actually supported the sanctions. Young The Peoria school systems and the differences weren't settled until substantial changes had been made both in school administration and the school board. I think this is an important point because actually would take a lot to cause the typical teacher to strike because in spite of changing times
and the use of strike as a weapon teachers have always been sensitive to their responsibility to children and have disliked missing a day at school. And so I would agree conditions are such and that teachers have been pushed far enough to do this as witness an entire state. The state of Florida or the National Education Association supported the teachers and surely their conditions were poor. All that we know about the circumstances down there indicate that the. Unfortunate conditions that prevailed far too long and the teachers just couldn't accomplish a change by any other means. I think Florida is a good example of an entire state in which conditions that become so deep Laura ball and you up when other means of improving the conditions were tried and certainly the teaching profession tried everything possible including state
equalization of taxes in order to support the schools greater amounts of federal aid. Those attempts failed and the politicians used the strike or use the school conditions as a political means of furthering their own goals. And the teachers had no choice except to declare sanctions. I do think we have talked about sanctions and strikes almost synonymous way and it is important to point out that. There is a difference and that is that when sanctions for example the state of Florida were declared by the state as declaring through its professional organization is that teachers may continue to work in the schools and complete their contracts. However no teacher
who has not already been employed in the state is ethically within. His professional rights or where he's not conducting himself as an ethical person. If he accepts a position in that state and the subsequent year yes for that I mean here are some exceptions were even made in terms of that but the employer had to point out to the teacher that the state was under strike and that by accepting a position in a state the individual was violating the professional regulations that were determined by the professional associations. Later I think many of the Florida teachers who were accused of striking but actually the Florida teachers resigned. They did not strike. They turned in their resignations and that later was interpreted as not being a violation of the strike law or the anti strike law because they
had resigned. And of course they resign before they fulfill name terms of their contract. Well and then in their negotiations subsequently the state agreed to rehire these teachers and the individual school districts agreed to rehire these teachers in a few cases they tried not to or didn't I didn't hear how that came out. But at any rate the condition still is not settled down there. There still is a reluctance to support the teachers and education the way they should be supported in that particular state and there are other places like this. I suppose some people are wondering if the American Federation of Teachers is taking over the teaching profession arist I mean the chief role in teacher leadership. And actually they're not. For example today the National Education Association is still a strongly non
union organization and of course it has over I would say at least or probably over a million members today while the American Federation of Teachers has probably less than 200000 members and as the years go by and as the two organizations continue to grow the difference become between need to become greater and greater. And in terms of size and all of the. However although the NE is you might say a strongly non union. It is becoming more militant. It is big it is becoming in some respects more like a union. I think that's a very important point Dr. Leonard the fact even though the National Education Association has over a million members and far outnumbers the American Federation of Teachers in order to compete with the 50 the National Education Association
has become much more militant in its own platform. When Alfonso the new president of the National Education Association took office at Minneapolis and last July he made an appeal for the AAF of TV to combine with the NEA. Obviously he realized if the DA had no intention of combining with the NEA because they would lose the benefits of being affiliated with a union. But at the same time this permitted the former Congress a classroom teachers not called in the association of classroom teachers. In other words at Department of the NEA it is made up entirely of people who are classroom teachers to exert a powerful influence in the deliberations and resolutions of the National Education
Association. Both Lloyd and I attended that meeting and I don't know Lloyd's reaction but mine was that you could just as well have been attending a union meeting as a professional organization or a meeting of a professional organization. Militancy was certainly. Expressed over and over again from the delegates of the Congress the classroom teachers. I think it is a credit to these teacher groups that they are concerned not only with salary but they are concerned with other matters and made for the success of the school system. They are interested in having a reasonable class sizes so they know that they can do a good job they're interested in the length of the school day and they they realize that they are capable of performing capably for just a certain length of time
during the day. But all of these are elements that differentiate I believe a union from a professional organization such as the NEA because they do have concern for the broader things the more significant things in the education of children. You know at the same time I have to say that whether it's teachers striking or garbage collectors striking or telephone people striking strikes are deplorable. It does harm to the individuals to the company and to the country. And it seems to mean that what we're talking about as has been indicated earlier is the last. Resource that the group has to bring about change. I think we ought to talk about some of the other things that should precede this last choice. And there are some other things aren't there.
I think that the members of any professional organization have an obligation to try to negotiate with the superintendent and with the school board in the case of teaching profession prior to either sanctions or strike. And recently there has been a movement to appoint a collective bargaining unit that will represent the entire teaching profession within a school district and the representatives of that group either the NEA or their THE UNION will bargain directly with the school board prior to taking any such steps as sanctions or strikes. And I agree that certainly in a professional organization. A either a sanction or a strike has to be looked upon as a last resort. ARBOR I think
it's also important to point out that strikes have been outstandingly successful in terms of getting changes for teachers. That collective negotiations were unable to produce in the past so it's kind of a representation of failure isn't it. Dean Fox surely we should be able to sit down at the table and discuss these things reasonably and with some degree of knowledge. Yes but isn't it also true that when you sit down with a group to arbitrate you have certain views that must be represented. The school board member has to look at what these changes will cost his community. No one can deny that in most communities at the present time the property tax is much too high. And yet property tax is used for the schools by far the largest share of money in a
community from the property taxes spent on schools. Now in some school it was assessed and some school districts in which you have a great deal of industry there is very little burden upon a taxpayer and as a result little chance of sanctions or strikes. But the teacher comes to the same professional negotiation meeting looking at deplorable conditions in his classroom large sizes of classes in many cases he realizes that they have teachers who are not fully certified teaching in the district and people certainly who have not met the minimum standards for teachers materials may be very very short. Facilities may be poor so he looks at it from the standpoint that these must these changes must occur in order for us to benefit education. The school board official agrees with that statement but at the same time since
he is representing the people has to take a practical look at it and in many cases he may feel that by refusing to make the changes we may bring about tax reform in the state of Illinois and certainly tax reform is badly needed. Well in some states I think the strikes have precipitated a change in the tax base. Florida for example had to find the money elsewhere. I think too that the large majority of teachers in our country don't want anything to do with with strike. And I think the large majority of them are our right as they have been in the past there are dedicated people dedicated to their jobs into the community. There Leonard it's interesting to note that in this NEA survey I referred to previously that 65 percent of the secondary school teachers thought
that strikes should be permitted but only 53 percent of the elementary school teachers thought the strikes could be necessary. And of course and as you say that as far as someone has said earlier that's as a last resort of course. I think I think that many of these teachers. What would that say would indicate that this was something that they would approve. But still I don't think the lad in the final analysis that they would be what. Oh I think most teachers would avoid at almost any cost. Striking although they're less inclined to avoid this now than was formally true for the conditions are for the reasons that we have indicated. But I think Leo is pointing out that there is a difference between the number or percentage of people on the Alimentary who would support strikes in the number and secondary. And I wonder again if that when you go back to an earlier statement that women
make up the largest percentage of elementary school staffs while at the secondary level there are more men and in general men have taken the leadership in sanctions and strikes of course part of the problem is among teachers and school board members particularly. There is a great amateurism in negotiation. I haven't been at it long and I was talking to a personnel manager of a large corporation the other day and he said we are negotiating all the time. We negotiate throughout the year and he said the union people have now employed individuals who are knowledgeable they understand the the business the corporation's problems financially as well as the problems of the the employee. And I wonder if this isn't one of our reasons we
bumble and we stumble along because after all what do teachers know about negotiating these things and what do school board members know and with maturity perhaps strikes will be avoided in some instances at least through successful negotiation. Doesn't it go some direction to those of us in teacher education that we need to provide teachers with information about. Professional negotiations how do read a budget and interpret the budget properly. I think in many cases teachers are unrealistic because they have no understanding of what a school budget is. And if money doesn't exist certainly they can expect for money suddenly to appear on the picture. But at the same time it's quite disappointing to see superintendents indicate we have no funds and yet after strikes occur
superintendents seem to be able to get the money from the budget. But I agree very much with the Dean top I think we know in the teaching profession very little about professional negotiations we're learning rapidly but that we as teachers educators need to do much more provide information about perfect professional negotiations as part of our teacher education courses. And I think in the end the final analysis to teachers are many cases are merely seeking seeking their proper role in the school system. Because in the past they haven't had. They haven't been able to play their proper role. Well it seems that. If we are to make much progress with regard to teachers salaries and conditions that prevail to the end that we'll have good sound educational system with a minimum of interruption and that we must
provide the individuals with a skill that is necessary in this negotiation and I hope we haven't sounded today as though we were urging striking or urging E.M. it and see. I think that term is unfortunate. I think that what we're really saying is that neither group the school board or the teachers can afford to adamantly insist on what it is asking for. You can arrive at any reasonable agreement without compromise and in this case both sides need to have the information I think to do that. It not only. We should not only think that that. Certain people are victims of this present attitude but sometimes a reset being the good thing to happen. Well that's true.
Well this is another important human relationships operation and we can hope that there will be considerable improvement in the future as people gain skill in negotiating with each other behind the classroom door produced by WFIU Af-Am in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Raymond B Fox associate dean of the College of Education Dr. Robert H Nelson head of the department of secondary education. Dr. Leo Laughlin head of the Department of Administration Services and Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of the department of elementary education. Next week's topic will be the school and social development. This program is distributed by the national
educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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