Sweat Shops

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SWEAT SHOPS….For some reason the blogosphere is alive today with talk of teachers unions and tenure. I don’t really have much of a dog in this fight, but here’s an email a teacher sent to Andrew Sullivan:

I cannot stress enough that the success of our school is in large rooted in the fact that there is no teachers’ union presence here.

Teachers at my public charter school, including myself, routinely put in 12 hour days. We spend the time perfecting lessons, tutoring students, grading work, and working with families. We do it because we are dedicated to our jobs and want to close the achievement gap.

I hear this kind of thing a lot, but look: this isn’t a weakness of unions, it’s what they’re for. Whatever faults teachers unions may have — protecting incompetents, fighting accountability, and resisting merit pay among them — insisting on an 8-hour day isn’t one of them. What’s more, punishing hours aren’t a broad-based answer to our educational problems anyway. There are some teachers, at certain stages of their careers, who may be willing to put in 12-hour days in service of the greater good, but there aren’t 3 million of them. And there’s no reason there should be. This isn’t charity work, after all. It’s a job. Maybe there are other union demands that are objectionable in one way or another, but demanding a 40-hour work week for a position that pays roughly a median salary is hardly some kind of thuggish big labor cramdown.

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