That is, teachers and their unions are the primary drag on overall quality and a primary cause of inequality of educational opportunity. These two assertions form the basis of a recent spate of lawsuits which claim that teacher seniority protections and tenure laws – not funding levels or disparities or any other factor for that matter – are the primary cause of inequitable and inadequate schools for low income and minority children, in violation of education articles of state constitutions (in California, New Jersey and New York).[ii] And these claims are built on the assertion that competitive wages and equitable wages across schools and districts have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the teacher workforce or the distribution of quality teachers.
Again, it may seem that I’m exaggerating claims of teacher and union responsibility. But extreme examples are not difficult to find in relatively mainstream sources (like Newsweek). An article in the Economist proclaimed in October of 2012: