I believe that teachers cling to their unions because the unions protect their jobs. I think conservatives made a big mistake attacking teachers’ job security and lamenting the way teachers cannot be fired, but not addressing the awful conditions in which many teachers have to teach, with undisciplined students, dysfunctional parents, and no backup from school administrators. I believe conservatives could make inroads with the rank and file if they showed an interest in discipline, which the unions largely ignore because of the fear of treading on the race issue.
I don’t know if the two always go together, but a teacher of my acquaintance who had a very successful and enjoyable run at a Core Knowledge school, that is, one of the number of schools that have officially adopted E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Curriculum, said that part of the package in attending that school was a contract that the students and parents had to sign regarding discipline. Everything is laid out in the contract, all the rules and procedures, what is expected of students, and what will be done if they violate the rules. By no means is it old-fashioned Victorian discipline, to be sure–the teachers do have to learn not to use negatives with students, for example–but according to this contented teacher, it worked. There was a method for addressing everything, discipline problems were quickly handled, and the day could be devoted to teaching. But when she married and had to move to another state, she couldn’t find another Core Knowledge school, and had to accept a job at an ordinary public school. She soon found that most of her day was spent in disciplining students. The Core Knowledge approach for curriculum, and teacher-parent-student contracts for discipline sounds like a good combination to me.