School board members must take an oath that requires them to carry out the obligations of their offices in the best interest of the public.61 However, the collective bargaining process frequently puts them at odds with their statutory and ethical responsibilities.
Ronald Booth sums up the slings and arrows that board members must face when combining labor relations, human relations, and politics:
[I]f unions do not get what they want at the bargaining table, board members and superintendents can find themselves in jeopardy. If the politics of impasse or strike doesn't get the superintendent fired, then sometimes it's the loss of school spirit that often follows the strike or the teachers' refusal to maintain acceptable relationships with students and parents.
Even without the rigors of bargaining, superintendents can seal their own doom through neglect of faculty attitudes. . . . Today's teachers not only talk about their problems out of school, they organize campaigns to unseat board members and to remove the superintendent.
That leaves school boards and superintendents on the horns of this dilemma: How do they protect the public from the unions without making themselves the sacrificial lambs?
Some boards have said, let's forget the public and give the unions what they want. Other boards have stood fast against the union's demands and been ousted at the next election, soon followed to the sidelines by their superintendents.
Clearly, what is called 'collective bargaining' in the private sector is not necessarily the same thing in the public sector.62
Unions routinely recruit pro-union candidates to run for public office. They then use their considerable resources to get these candidates-who often do not reveal their union support while campaigning-elected to school boards. Former AFT member and 1993 National Teacher of the Year Tracey Bailey is a frequent critic of the unions and their political nature, calling them "special interests protecting the status quo" and pillars of "a system that too often rewards mediocrity and incompetence."63