As the debate over collective bargaining continues to rage in Wisconsin and Indiana, it is good to keep in mind that it takes place in a context where the public has yet to decide exactly what it thinks about the role of unions in American education.
According to the 2010 Education Next poll released last fall, 33 percent of the public thought that unions had a generally negative effect on schools in their community, while 28 percent thought they had a generally positive effect. 39 percent said they did not think they had either a positive or negative impact.* Those results remained essentially unchanged from the 2009 poll taken one year previously.
Nor do teachers themselves have a uniformly positive view of the unions that claim to represent them. No less than 25 percent of all teachers think unions have a generally negative effect on schools in their community, while only 51 percent think they had a positive impact. 23 percent said they had no impact one way or the other.
In other words, the public has yet to make up its mind. And judging by the survey results it looks as if about a quarter of the teachers might favor Governor Walker’s proposals to ask unions to collect their own dues rather than have the government take the money directly from the teacher’s paycheck.
– Paul E. Peterson
*The exact wording of the question is as follows:
Some people say that teacher unions are a stumbling block to school reform. Others say that unions fight for better schools and better teachers. What do you think? Do you think teacher unions have a generally positive effect on the schools in your community, or do you think they have a generally negative effect?
Completely positive effect
Somewhat positive effect
Neither positive nor negative effect
Somewhat negative effect
Completely negative effect