Missouri’s Teachers Union Makes School Choice Stance?
Recently, a Hazelwood preschool teacher had her teacher’s license suspended due to her abrupt resignation, (on September 2nd a month into the school year) which would have left a classroom teacherless. Quitting without sufficient notice often violates the contract teachers sign with a district, and teachers in Missouri are facing increasingly severe punishments for contract violations. What was most interesting in this case was the defense of the teacher by Mark Jones of Missouri National Education Association (MNEA). Jones said:
This [policy] does not incentivize (teachers) to try and find a new school or situation that is a better fit for them when they can basically lose their livelihood because months after signing a contract, they realize maybe they need to make a different decision to work in a different setting.
That point sounds vaguely familiar.
Jones is arguing that teachers should be able to break their teaching contract in order to find a school “that is a better fit for them.” Show-Me Institute analysts have been arguing for years that students should be able to find a school “that is a better fit for them” via school choice programs.
I understand the union’s goal is to protect teachers’ rights, but this is an interesting stance to take. In Jones’s view, teachers—grown adults who have made a contractual agreement to teach students for a school year—should be allowed to break their contract and leave their school and students in a lurch. Meanwhile, the MNEA thinks that students who want better educational opportunities should be forced to stay in the schools they are assigned to for up to 12 years.
Teachers should seek to find the best situation for them. Teachers who are not satisfied with their job will not be as effective. However, the Hazelwood teacher had obligations to meet, children to teach, and a contract to fulfill. Breaching your contract and leaving your students and school in the lurch is not an appropriate response to being unhappy with the school.
Teachers are adults who can apply to teach at any school they choose. The vast majority of Missouri children are forced to attend their neighborhood public school with no alternative choices at all. Groups like the MNEA that want as much flexibility as possible for teachers but oppose any flexibility at all for students ought to reflect on the incoherence of that position.