The University of California system is out of money, so officials are looking for ways to do more with less. Online education is an obvious avenue to explore. Naturally, the unions representing non-tenured lecturers freaked out and demanded concessions from the state:
"We believe that if courses are moved online, they will most likely be the classes currently taught by lecturers," reads a brief declaration against online education on the website of UC-AFT, the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, "and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members."
Now the California lecturers, who make up nearly half of the system's undergraduate teaching teachers, believe they have used that bargaining power to score a rare coup. The University of California last week tentatively agreed to a deal with UC-AFT that included a new provision barring the system and its campuses from creating online courses or programs that would result in "a change to a term or condition of employment" of any lecturer without first dealing with the union.
The unions think they have a veto, but the university system says otherwise:
"They do not have the power to block the university from implementing new online programs," says Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the Office of the President.
This battle is likely to get even more contentious as the possiblity of using out-of-state teachers supplied by a for-profit education firm comes into play. Get ready for fireworks.
Read "Teachers Unions vs. Online Education" lots more on how this faceoff is playing out at the K-12 level.