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Teachers Unions Demonstrate Real Agenda

Chicago Strike One More Indication That Rhetoric Rings Hollow

CER News Alert
Washington, D.C.
September 10, 2012

The teacher’s union leaders have, for the last few years, worked hard to correct the impression that their focus is on job protection, and that they, too, like the rest of the nation, are frustrated with the slow pace of school improvement. The alleged willingness of the unions to engage in conversations about teacher quality and to call for an end to failing schools has all been interpreted as a sign that they have turned the corner. Some of us have remained unconvinced, recognizing that many often confuse action with rhetoric. The Chicago teacher’s strike of 2012 settles the issue once and for all. Parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Taxpayers in general are beholden to union demands that are focused on rights and protections, not on kids. Chicago remains among the worst performing school districts in the nation, yet instead of embracing the mayor’s rational, modest proposals to begin instituting limited performance evaluations, union leaders begin acting more like the Chicago thugs of old than the leaders they want to be considered today.

At a time when everyone in this nation is tightening belts, and with education the key to economic solvency, educators should be encouraged to stand up for accountability not ordered to strike over it.

This move by the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union proves the point that has been written about often: the fancy public relations ploys and rhetoric about quality is no substitute for action. The unions are thwarting even the most modest efforts to measure teacher quality. We said last year that New York’s much praised performance agreement with unions was unlikely to result in any substantive change and we were right. Just today it was reported that districts in New York still have not created the “required” evaluations and that little progress is being made. The same will likely happen in New Jersey where a new law is intended to ensure quality teaching gets rewarded but leaves the method and substance to districts and unions to develop.

Parents are powerless in the educational development of their children when adult rules are permitted to thwart the learning process. Rather than continue to let unions drive the education agenda, it’s time for policymakers to protect parents by enacting serious, substantive laws that remove tenure protections, abolish seniority as a condition for working and pay teachers more for doing well. At the same time, states must adopt school choice programs that provide high quantities of high quality schools so that parents have the power to make their own decisions about the education their children need.

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