I’m not sure how Lynnell Mickelsen developed such a single-minded distaste for all things union-y (“Political rigidity? The left has it, too,” Oct. 25), but she argues her case with the same absolutist fervor she decries.

“Union leaders and their allies all … tend to” do all sorts of awful things, it seems.


Worse, many of her blanket statements are simply untrue.

New Orleans schools as a whole, taken over by various charter entities, including several for-profits, have not posted “remarkable gains,” at least not according to any honest apples-to-apples analysis of the data. It is an educational Wild West, bewildering to many struggling families.

Some charter schools do great things. Some do not. They simply are not accountable to the taxpaying public in the same way public school systems are. Public school systems are governed by elected boards that operate in the open. Charters are not. Public school systems must accept the responsibility to educate all students — including those with difficult and expensive physical or cognitive challenges. Charter schools do not. If they want to, they have all sorts of ways to avoid these children. This is called “skimming.” It is a ticking civil-rights time bomb.

Mickelsen makes a lot of noise about the power of the evil teachers’ unions. Let’s get real. My union gets all of its money from dues-paying members. “Reform” lobbyists, on the other hand, are funded by Bill Gates, Sam Walton and the like. Guess whose phone calls get answered.

These wealthy, self-appointed education “reformists” also have set up dozens of shadow nonprofits to advocate for policies that weaken public education by blaming and shaming, by pretending poverty doesn’t matter, and by de-professionalizing the teaching profession. These are not Mickelsen’s “vague corporatists.” These are real people with a real agenda.

I’m a teacher. I don’t agree with everything my union does. But at this moment, my union is the only entity that stands up for me and for my profession.

The “reformers” that Mickelsen carries water for? They are mostly people with little experience in the actual complicated work of teaching or running a school. They look at test scores and graduation rates, and they think they can do better. They ignore the real problems of poverty and racism, and think they can do better. They ignore the complicated needs of children with challenges and think they can do better.

The “reformers” focus on teachers as the problem. If we just replace those old, experienced, expensive teachers, things will improve. But please consider: My working conditions are your children’s learning conditions.

My union is still necessary.


Alan Husby is a teacher in Minneapolis.