We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There was a time when teacher unions were on the cutting edge of reform, and it would be a mistake now not to recognize those accomplishments, and not to understand the good reasons many people still have to support them. But the future of our schools isn’t more of the same: more big box, one-size-fits-all cookie cutter educational institutions in which everybody moves at the same pace through the machine. As the American economy changes, our schools must change too. Big box schools prepare people for big box jobs: in government bureaucracies, in bureaucratic stable corporations, on jobs for life assembly lines.
We are going to need schools that are focused on preparing kids both intellectually and socially for very different lives than their grandparents led. Among other things, this means that we don’t want the next generation to spend most of its formative years under the guidance of people who have been socialized into the jobs for life in behemoth institutions.
The teachers are captives of the union. Often they don't agree with the union and often they do not like the union leaders. But they have no choice. Having said that most teachers are quite willing captives it is a very lucrative relationship for both parties. But it is most definitely not in the best interest of the school children, the parents of the children or the tax payer. Public schools is a extremely expensive baby sitting service and and often a poor education environment.
What is needed is competition (charter schools, etc.) and school choice for students. And changes that allow school boards and principals to hire good teachers and fire poor teachers.
This is such a shame. Come from a teaching family, but they all had and have high standards and expectations for their students. Back in the day, Dad was VP of a high school in a relatively small town, but this was in a school district where the collective expectation was that the students would do REALLY REALLY well. As a big-city uncle explained, "we'd all eye our competition in the immediate school districts, and then the kids from ... would beat us". And this wasn't just for the academic kids; the local school board produced a program (vocational tech) for the boys who would be heading to apprenticeships at the nearby smelter. Standard speech to that group was to the effect of "I know you don't see the point of studying English and History/Geography, but you need those courses to qualify for the apprenticeship you DO want, so just do the courses and pass". It worked. For the non-academic girls, there was typing and shorthand (this WAS back in the day) and similar courses with an eye to their being hired by locals as office workers.
Teachers have a lot of challenges, agreed, but they also need to care enough about their students to push them to succeed. And administration has to be on side, refusing to let the disruptive students ruin the opportunities of other students. Sadly, I don't see the teachers you describe as being concerned about anything other than their salaries, benefits, and pensions.
It is necessary for the health of the country and our culture for there to be public funding of education.
Two things that does NOT mean:
1) That the funding (and thus the control over curricula, etc.) come either primarily or secondarily from the Federal government, rather than the States or the local governments, and
2) That the schools, while publicly funded, be publicly operated.