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3 Must-Watch (or Read!) Pieces About Education in Washington 

Fox & Friends  Leading Teachers Unions Discredit DeVos
Setting the record straight on union efforts to discredit Betsy Devos and parent power. Watch here


Wall Street Journal Who Is Betsy DeVos? 
Dispelling myths about Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. Watch here.


ABC — How Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary May Reignite the Education Wars
Education opportunity advocates welcome DeVos to lead the fight for opening up more options in education. Read more.


BONUS READ!  DeVos can set a bold path for an education revolution at the federal level
The hour has come for a revolution that’s been needed for many years. Let’s get on with it. Read more.


Posing as Reform in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) is not an honest broker. With more than $50,000 in contributions each year from the city’s teachers unions, the public should know that the reform bill he is backing for charter schools is about destroying, not reforming; about raising up the status quo, not real reform of our schools.

His reports and allegations, of widespread problems in charter schools across the state, are misleading and plain wrong. For example, he alleges that most charter boards have conflicts of interest with those with whom they work or depend for services. But that would also suggest that the largest employer in the school system is riddled with conflicts. Who isn’t related to a teacher or a child or a board member or a vendor in any district? Everyone with a pulse has overlapping interests. The only time it’s a conflict is when their views and their work is at odds with what’s good for kids.

Conflict of interest is code for keep charter schools small and insignificant. Demands from opponents for accountability is code for shut them down.

The charters are efficient, effective, albeit underfunded public schools that are oversubscribed and, in most cases, achieving above and beyond the traditional public schools.

Why would you try to save money on schools that are already underfunded and over subscribed? Why not save money on schools that are failing on a system that has a larger administrator/adult -student ratio than most comparable districts?

Philadelphia District:
15-to-1 teachers to students
655 administrators making over $100,000/dollars a year! (100 of who are teachers)
2980 in total all education administrators — Average salary is $104K

There are about 150,000 students in district public schools – 50 students for every administrator! A charter school survives with half as many administrators – an average of 100 kids for every administrator!

Read More …

When the Unions “Embrace” Weak Reforms and Try to Look Like Real Reformers

(CER President Jeanne Allen shared her thoughts with reporters in an email earlier this week. We thought everyone has a right to know what’s happening.)

The teacher evaluation piece in the Chicago contract negotiation is so weak to start that it’s almost unfathomable that the union would waste political capital on this piece. Have you looked at what the evaluation language of the new law and the Mayor’s demands actually say? It is not, as some have reported, about finite test scores. The 25% now and 40% later of evaluations that are said to be determined based on test scores are not based on one formula, yet. It’s fuzzy, as it has been in most laws recently passed and most contracts. Evaluations can include test scores, but how and who decides is still up in the air. This is not unusual in any case today, but it is underreported.

Take DC, for example. Teachers are evaluated against an average composite of predicted scores for certain kids. The extent to which their kids, over time, meet or exceed the predicted scores for similar kids is PART of their overall evaluation. “Performance” in IMPACT also includes peer, principal and some district observations, as well as factors relating to the school as a whole. And that’s only part of it. The comparisons are done by the research organization, Mathematica – externally evaluated – not a principal reviewing individual test scores.

These factors – who evaluates, how, based on what, over what time, and what the 25% of evaluation actually means (!!) has yet to be determined.

The union is not striking against evaluations, but they are using it to incite their members without informing them it has yet to be determined. They are striking against the notion that ANY evaluation is on the

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Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!

Despite all the rhetoric that the unions are finally ready to embrace reform, AFT union prez Randi Weingarten took to the podium Friday at her group’s national convention in Detroit to lambast those who would dare challenge the status quo and to instill fear in her dwindling membership that there is a “new normal” that threatens their very existence with efforts to shift the old power structure from unions to individuals most affected by the system. This “new” regime (actually, Randi, it’s hardly new — we’ve been at work for more than 20 years!) wants testing, standards, choices and performance pay (Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!)

Rather than ponder the atrocities outside the doors in Detroit where fewer than 9 percent of African-American kids graduate in 4 years, where reading scores are below 15% on a good day, and where families and school officials both are exiting for better learning environments (like the new schools starting there), Randi believes it’s not the system, but some bogeymen that are to blame.

“Sure, we can blame ALEC, or the Koch Brothers, or Eli Broad, or the Walton Foundation, or Mitt Romney—and we’d be right to do so.”

Never mind that with the exception of Walton, the aforementioned have had little to do with real education reform progress. If there’s blame to be had, put in on the hundreds of thousands of teachers and parents who have elected officials willing to buck the status quo, and who then create their own alliances, their own schools, their own choices, rather than wait for the AFT, NEA or other ed groups to fix the problems — again.

With a brighter option available to more people than every before, it’s that reform revolution that

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A Paige In History

Coverage of Candidate Romney’s education plan received varying reviews. His agenda aside, newspapers also reported that Romney appointed an advisory team which included former Education Secretary Rod Paige. Yet rather than tell the readers something about Paige’s past accomplishments, the only thing numerous newspapers felt worthy to use as a descriptor is that Paige once called the NEA a “terrorist organization.”

Let’s start with the fact that he did so because during his tenure iN Washington, the NEA held hostage any legislator who didn’t agree with their viewpoints. This is not new for the leading labor union in the country, which politicians fear as they run for office. But those facts aside, the Post reported that “Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Committee includes several prominent opponents of teacher’s unions, including Paige, who as secretary of education in 2004 labeled the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.” No context. Zip. The AP story from which the Post clearly drew had the same.

Paige’s career as Houston TX superintendent is well regarded to this day, as is his tenure as the leader of a dramatic, bi-partisan reform plan that took shape amidst a 9/11 world. He’s an author, a contributor to numerous education efforts and a man worthy of much more than one phrase to describe his tenure.

All corners of the political spectrum should call on the press, bloggers included, to save the drama for the Style section and focus on the big ideas espoused by both candidates that will shape the outcomes in every classroom for every school-age student nationwide.

–Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform


Looking forward to 2011

champagneWasn’t 2010 supposed to be the Year of Education Reform? ‘Race to the Top’ was going to transform the education landscape, ‘No Child Left Behind’ was to get a facelift, school turnaround options were going to transform our lowest achieving public schools…

How’d all that work out for everyone?

– Maryland and Hawaii winning ‘Race to the Top’ money? For what, exactly? They’ll be battling their unions until 2015 just to move the dial slightly on any of their promises.

– ESEA reauthorization during an election year? Good luck.

– At least we learned a few things about turnarounds, namely that they aren’t going to work unless the culture of a failing school is turned on its head.

Before we get accused of ending a year on a sour note, though, allow us to throw ourselves into the group of hopefuls looking to 2011 as a year that gets things done for our kids and for our schools.

Why the positive change of heart, you ask?


Beginning next Monday, a new Congress just might leave substantive education policy decisions in the hands of those who have been getting the job done all along – Governors and state legislators.

And so, we end 2010 as many began, hopeful that substantive changes will come to our schools in the form of greater choice for parents, real rewards for our best teachers and accountability for those who steer the ship.

To help this process along, we offer up these 10 Education Reform New Year’s Resolutions for state lawmakers:

1. Increase the ability of higher education, mayors and other independent entities to authorize charter schools so more children have access to quality public school options.

2. Eliminate arbitrary and unnecessary caps on the number of charter schools that

Read More …


All in the family

duncannea(originally posted on Politico‘s The Arena blog)

Unpopular positions? Tough love? The teachers unions want you to believe they are being punished by the president’s policies. It makes for great copy and provides cover for both the unions and the Education Department as they manipulate Capitol Hill for a second multi-billion dollar bailout. But the truth is, it’s all in the family.

The administration’s education policy, including the “Race to the Top” initiative, has been easy on unions and their members. States have received money for saying they are going to factor performance into evaluations, when in reality to make meaningful performance pay work, you must either require performance to trump local union contract provisions or change the contract itself. Additionally, districts have been paid money for saying they will turn around failing schools. No one in the status quo is hurting or being forced to change very much because of what the president is saying. The talk is good and strengthens reformers’ hands, but the teachers unions won’t feel any discomfort until someone or something cuts into the lock they have on how schools operate and how policy is crafted.

Read the entire post over at The Arena


The sky is falling

dontchangeIf you’ve picked up a newspaper or turned on the evening news lately, it’s been all doom and gloom for schools, teachers and the future of American education.

First, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) tag teamed behind Education Stimulus 2.0 in a hearing on the ED budget, claiming that another $23 billion is “absolutely necessary” to save up to 300,000 teacher jobs, proving that everyday is Christmas for the unions (I guess last year’s $100 billion just wasn’t enough).

Then the NEA asked us to remember the children.

Tons of federal money + jobs + children + tears + zero historical context = Media Tsunami

Former CER colleague Neal McCluskey, however, actually grabs the data and puts it all into perspective:

For one thing, in 2007-08 public schools employed more than 6.2 million people; even the 300,000 figure is tiny compared to that huge number.

More importantly, preceding our schools’ few recent years of financial woe were decades of decadent plenty. According to inflation-adjusted federal data, in 1970-71 Americans spent $5,593 per public-school student. By 2006-07 we were spending $12,463 – a whopping 123 percent increase that bought lots of teachers, administrators, and other shiny things!

And, he points out, it hasn’t bought the student achievement demanded or intended.


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