We have all heard about the dramatic changes in the American electorate and how, because he spoke to the concerns of the growing numbers of Hispanic, black, female and younger voters, President Obama was reelected despite adverse economic conditions.
Another critical demographic shift is occurring. This one is taking place, quietly, in teachers unions: Over the past several years, teachers who have spent 10 years or fewer in the classroom have become the dues-paying majority. The impact of this new majority is as important to the role of unions as the changing electorate is to presidential elections. These newer teachers, along with many longtime teachers, are looking for their unions to elevate the profession — not to sacrifice teaching quality for job security.
But the word is definitely not out. I’m a teacher and a union member — and a member of the new majority. Not long after the Chicago teachers strike ended, I had dinner with lifelong Democrats. Instead of support for a revitalized union movement or sympathy for the plight of teachers, the conversation included such comments as: “The last thing teachers unions think about are students,” “Teachers unions haven’t addressed teacher-quality issues, especially with the weakest teachers” and “Teachers unions have to start focusing on something other than pay and tenure.”