Larry Landwehr, president of United Teachers of Wichita, the union for Wichita public school teachers, recently addressed the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, regarding teacher morale and working conditions.
Now that the district and the teachers union have reached an agreement on a contract, Landwehr said it’s time to look at other issues, those not part of the contract negotiations.
Employee morale, he said, is a major concern today. Specific factors he cited were “current economic conditions that teachers face, the long negotiations, the increased paperwork and workload placed upon educators over the past few years, the decline in academic freedom and professional judgment of the teachers, and the added pressure of meeting AYP.”
(AYP, or adequate yearly progress, refers to the standards set by the No Child Left Behind legislation.)
He hopes for “serious discussion,” working to create an environment that is best for all stakeholders.
Landwehr’s concerns over teacher morale and working conditions are not unique to the Wichita school district. Earlier this year the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice published a study titled Free To Teach: What teachers say about teaching in public and private schools. This study revealed sharp differences in attitudes towards working conditions between public and private school teachers. Some of Landwher’s expressed concerns are mentioned in this document.
In my coverage of the report I wondered this: Since nearly all public school teachers belong to a union and practically no private school teachers belong, what are the teachers unions doing? Don’t the unions care about the working conditions of their members?
Landwehr’s message to the board is that working conditions are a concern to Wichita teachers. I’ll be surprised, however, if the union model of labor relations is able to provide a solution to this problem.