HALIFAX – Teachers’ unions influence educational policy too much, a Maritimes think tank claims.

The Atlantic Institute ror Market Studies issued a paper called Getting the Fox Out of the Schoolhouse that claims teachers’ unions have “opposed many attempts to increase transparency and accountability in Canada’s school system.” It says unions oppose standardized testing and performance-based pay for teachers.

Michael Zwaagstra, a high school teacher in Manitoba; Rodney Clifton, an education professor at the University of Manitoba; and John Long, a professor of educational administration at the University of Manitoba, wrote the report.

Sourcewatch.org, a U.S. media database, compares AIMS to the western-based Fraser Institute, both conservative and favouring free markets.

Among the report’s recommendations are that teacher compensation be tied to performance and that strikes and lockouts no longer be allowed.

Charles Cirtwill, the institute’s acting president, says the simple, focused mandate of unions is to represent the interests of their members, which may or may not match that of the public. Cirtwill said the report is meant to show a way to balance the unions’ power with that of the public interest.

Jane Gaskell, the dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, said that the American states with the highest educational achievement levels also have the strongest unions.

She rejected the idea of linking teacher’s pay with performance and said it would create dissension within the teaching community.

Frank Bruseker, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said proposed standardized tests simplistic and said they only offer a one-day snapshot of how a child is performing in school. Bruseker also “flat-out” disagreed with the report’s recommendations about strikes and lockouts. He said if unions want to preserve the teachers’ right to strike, then they have to grant school boards the matching right to lock teachers out.