Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

24 November 2008

Washington Teachers Union Opposes School Reform

Of course, it is news to no one that the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) opposes the reform of the nation's lowest performing school district. The WTU is the principal reason why this school system which is spending as much or more money per student as any school district in the nation is so miserable in performing the only function that matters: educating students.

New Orleans put most of its 78 public schools into a special Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina. Now, about half of its schools are charter schools and the district has no union contract. The American Federation of Teachers, which strongly backed Obama, has vigorously opposed the reform efforts in New Orleans. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C., have become thoroughly fed-up with the WTU opposing school reforms and the elimination of awful teachers. They are considering restoring the school district's power to create nonunionized charter schools. They may declare the school system in a state of emergency in order to end the need to bargain with the WTU.

Obama has praised their efforts, but will be in the middle between them and the teacher's unions to whom he owes his election. It will be very interesting to see if he helps Fenty and Rhee or if he opposes their efforts behind closed doors. Union leaders regard the chances of the district getting a state of emergency ruling from the federal government to be very remote, given what Obama owes them. They do have some concern that the district might be able to regain its power to charter schools, however.

Rhee has proposed that teachers be more directly accountable for student performance and will offer them much higher salaries in exchange for weaker tenure rules. The 4,000 member WTU has refused to bring her contract offer to a vote. Rhee thinks the teachers will vote for it if they are allow to do so. Apparently the WTU also thinks the teachers might vote for the higher salary and more accountability contract also! It is delicious to see these Democrats fighting so much among themselves.

Fenty is the second D.C. mayor to seriously wrestle with school reform. It is good that D.C. voters have come to care about school reform. The District of Columbia is more heavily Democrat than any state. So this sets up conflict between Democrat politicians and the teachers unions. If the reform ever occurs and if D.C. students ever gain enough self-confidence to believe that they are capable of managing their own lives, it will be interesting to see if many of them start to fall away from the dependency offered them by the Democrats.

4 comments:

miss-breeziness said...

Hi Charles, I really don't know that much about how education is run in the US (state education that is), but I've heard another libertarian blogger who's lived in NZ say that schools are better here, even though they're also government-run, because parents have more of a say on how they're run. Do you agree?

Also, I wonder what you thought of the No Child Left Behind act. It's been supported and attacked by the left and right alike...and I admit I don't know about it! :D My liberal friend who knew something about it recommended that I read Shame of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol...who heaps liberal guilt on you like Orren Boyle heaping his plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Kozol is the guy who wants huge, well funded busing programmes!!!

(We don't have busing here in NZ. And I think it would be darned annoying for the kids.)

So, I'm wondering what you thought of No Child Left Behind. I think you'll be a better source than Kozol, ha ha.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Basically, No Child Left Behind has been a disaster.

The left says it is a disaster because the federal government has not given the local school systems enough money. The fact that there is little correlation between how much money a school system has and how good an education it provides does not bother the left in the least. They are only concerned with giving lots of loot to the teachers unions.

Really what No Child Left Behind has done is to produce a lowest common denominator education effort in which every student is held back so the slowest students can keep up. It has also produced much more federal government control over local school systems and transferred money from wealthier areas to poorer areas. The added government power is hurtful in most school systems, though it might occasionally do something useful in the very worst school systems, one would think. However, to date, there is almost no evidence of any good coming from it at all.

You are right in noticing that parent oversight of the local school system is very important. In the U. S., school systems used to be much smaller and a substantial part of the population served on school boards or had a neighbor or relative who did. The socialist education movement early began to encourage folding together many small school systems into larger school systems so they could shove the parents out of direct involvement and increase their own control. They have been very successful in doing this. In Montgomery county, the teachers union recommends who they want for school board members and their slate is always voted onto the school board. The parents who vote for them pay no attention to what they then do.

With a child in school, it is clear that the teachers and school administration evaluate parents as either being wholeheartedly in favor of their socialist program or opposed to it. If the parent favors it, they are welcomed to some degree as partners. If the parent is in opposition, the school makes it clear that your only role is to see to it that your child is well-fed, attends school every day, and arrives at school on-time. Other than that, they definitely do not want such an opposition parent to teach their child anything. They are not very shy in threatening to have social services take your child from you with a claim that you are an unfit parent. Most of the schools feel like prisons when I walk into them. The surly office managers, attendance clerks, and the chains on the doors are really effective in adding to the prison atmosphere. The fact that persons of European descent are treated like the oppressor race makes the scene still dingier. A white male parent is treated particularly coldly unless you make it very clear that you have a terrible case of white guilt. I always failed to do this!

miss breeziness said...

Thank you for your feedback. Sounds like the American system needs some really radical change...not that the New Zealand one doesn't.

I hope New Zealand doesn't get something like this soon, because National just passed this law -

http://miss-breeziness.livejournal.com/68851.html

Now I almost feel guilty for voting for them. Almost.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

We both live in democracies, Miss Breeziness. Most people actually take pride in not being people of principle. They are proud of being pragmatists. Unfortunately, it is not actually pragmatic to be without principles. Being pragmatic means that one is able to identify what works, but in our complex world and societies, it is hopeless to integrate all the necessary knowledge of what is and what works without the use of critically applied principles. Thus, the avowed pragmatist is actually naked without armor and sword when simple-minded nannies propose this or that tyrannical ruling, always for the general welfare. This ignores the fact that the general welfare is best served by allowing individuals the freedom of their own lives, liberty, and the pursuit of their happiness. The pragmatism of the majority will never concede that each and every individual has the right to manage his own life.