Given their place as the most powerful public-employee alliance, teachers’
unions are front and center in the debate that is going on in Wisconsin. But
beyond the high-decibel clashes between Tea Partyers and public-employees’ unions are contentious education-policy issues that reformers, teachers’ unions and analysts have debated for years.
Although teachers’ contracts are often singled out, in practice the rules
and regulations most commonly cited as problems by superintendents, school reformers and not infrequently teachers themselves are often found in state law as well. That’s why schools in states without teachers’ unions tend to operate pretty much like schools in places with powerful unions. In Virginia, for instance, where I served on the state board of education, it would be difficult to tell the difference between most of our schools and schools in heavily unionized Maryland. It’s also why teachers’ unions are not the only culprit here. They did not unilaterally create these rules and regulations someone signed those contracts or passed those laws.