Dagen McDowell interviews Terry Moe on a lawsuit by New Jersey teachers’ unions.
This has been a horrible year for teachers unions. The latest stunner came in Michigan, where Republicans enacted sweeping reforms last month that require performance-based evaluations of teachers, make it easier to dismiss those who are ineffective, and dramatically limit the scope of collective bargaining. Similar reforms have been adopted in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana, Tennessee, Idaho and Florida.
But the unions’ hegemony is not going to end soon. All of their big political losses have come at the hands of oversized Republican majorities. Eventually Democrats will regain control, and many of the recent reforms may be undone. The financial crisis will pass, too, taking pressure off states and giving Republicans less political cover.
The unions, meantime, are launching recall campaigns to remove offending Republicans, initiative campaigns to reverse legislation, court cases to have the bills annulled, and other efforts to reinstall the status quo ante—some of which are likely to succeed. As of today, they remain the pre-eminent power in American education.
Over the long haul, however, the unions are in grave trouble—for reasons that have little to do with the tribulations of this year.
(photo credit: House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats)
You’d think that California, the home of Silicon Valley, would be at the forefront of the movement to harness technology in boosting K-12 education. But nothing could be further from the truth. California remains in the dark ages. And under the bold leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, it seems intent on staying there.
Brown was heavily backed in the 2010 election by the powerful California Teachers Association, and, soon after his election, he tipped his hand by appointing a CTA lobbyist to the state school board. His most recent gift to the CTA: as the new state budget takes shape, he is refusing to approve funding for the state’s educational data system, which links data on students and teachers, generates a ton of information on performance and its possible determinants—and (gasp) makes it possible to evaluate how much learning is actually going on in each teacher’s classroom. Just what the CTA doesn’t want.
The CTA has long fought against this data system: first by opposing any linkage between student and teacher data, and then (when it eventually lost that battle) by opposing the use of such data, even as just one factor, in evaluating, paying, or possibly dismissing teachers.
(photo credit: tropical.pete)
In our commentary this week, Paul Hill and I propose that the nation move toward a “mixed model” of American education–a blended institutional system that is somewhere in-between the extremes of an all-government system and a free market system, and is designed to take advantage of what both government and markets have to offer.
You needn’t be a free-market fanatic to recognize that choice and competition, when properly designed and regulated, have much to contribute–more options for families, stronger incentives for schools, greater potential for dynamism and innovation. Yet the current education system, which is roughly a hundred years old, is an extreme institutional form–an all-government system–that fails to take any serious advantage of these contributions.
Such a system may have made sense a century ago, as the Progressives struggled to eliminate spoils and corruption by installing a more professional set of arrangements. But today, the all-government system they bequeathed us is a relic of the past. And by embracing it as somehow normal and natural, we allow ourselves to be prisoners of that past.
(photo credit: Judy Baxter)