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The Evil Empire Strikes Back

Review & Outlook
Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2012

Education reformers had good news at the ballot box this month as voters in Washington and Georgia approved measures to create new charter schools. But as the reform movement gathers momentum, teachers unions are giving no quarter in their massive resistance against states trying to shake up failing public education.

In Georgia, 59% of voters approved a constitutional amendment that creates a new statewide commission to approve charter schools turned down by union-allied school boards. Instead of absorbing the message, charter opponents are planning to sue. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said last week it will join a lawsuit against Governor Nathan Deal to block the change. According to Caucus Chairman Emanuel Jones, because the ballot measure’s text didn’t discuss the details of how the schools were selected, “people didn’t know what they were voting for.”

This is the legal equivalent of sending back a hamburger because you didn’t know it came with meat. Georgia voters rallied around the charters because they want something better for their children than the dismal status quo. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that as of April only 67.4% of the state’s freshmen graduated from high school in four years. Last year a state investigation of Georgia schools found that dozens of public educators were falsifying test results to disguise student results.

A different battle is unfolding in Chicago, where the city’s teachers union is getting ready for its second showdown with Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In September, teachers went on strike and won a pay raise and limits on test scores in teacher evaluations. Now the union is fighting the city’s plan to close underused schools in an effort to consolidate resources.

Chicago Public Schools have some 600,000 seats but only 400,000 kids, while the district faces a $1 billion deficit

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Mike Antonucci: Defensive Victory for Teachers Unions

The unions did what they needed to do. They helped re-elect the President and they brought to a halt any momentum there may have been for more serious and wide-ranging threats to their power base. They defeated hostile ballot measures in California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota, and were even able to put a tax hike over the top in the Golden State. There will be no mass movement into voucher systems, merit pay, tenure reform and collective bargaining limits. Those are big wins. READ MORE

Georgia, Idaho, and Washington Initiatives

Before election day, we reminded people that while education is up for a vote in every state through the candidates they select, Georgia, Idaho, and Washington had initiatives on the ballot that could have major impacts education in each state.

Georgia’s students scored big on Tuesday with a 58% to 42% victory for Amendment One. The Peach State’s ballot initiative on charter schools allows local communities to create more of these important options by amending the state’s constitution to allow other state and local agencies, in addition to local school boards, approve charter schools.

Washington state’s ballot initiative on charter schools is still looking favorable for reformers with a slight lead of 51% for passage. While still not declared a victory, it looks like Initiative 1240 will open up new educational opportunities for families with the creation of 40 new charter schools over the next 5 years. A modest proposal, but it would make Washington the 42nd state to adopt a charter school law and finally bring them into the 21st century of education delivery.

Idaho’s ballot left the fate of three laws, known as the Students Come First laws, up to voters. Unfortunately, the $1.2 million in NEA funding to squash these measures paid off. Voters turned down that reforms that would have paid teachers based on performance, phased out tenure, limited collective-bargaining, and expanded online learning opportunities.

Suggestions to Obama for Refocusing Education Efforts

The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s leading voice for structural and substantive change in education, congratulates President Obama on his reelection. We praised the President in his first term for reminding the nation of our serious problems with K-12 education, and for working energetically to spread the word and seek change. We were concerned the Administration was too beholden to the national teachers unions, and that this support was an impediment to meaningful reforms that could lead to better schools and more educational choices.

We offer the following suggestions for the President in his second term:

Election Results with Implications for Education Reform

This election roundup is courtesy of a special edition of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network newsletter, “Special Election Issue: Results with implications for education reform .”

Early observations about election results that could have an impact on issues of interest to education reformers:

States with network member groups
ALABAMA: Proposition 4 – Defeated
Prop 4 would have removed antiquated language from the state’s constitution that allowed schools to be segregated. The state’s teachers union opposed the amendment, saying that it didn’t go far enough. 

ARIZONA: Proposition 204Defeated.
The Quality Education and Jobs Act would have provided at least an additional $625 million to K-12 education in the first year through a one-cent sales tax increase and also prevented state lawmakers from cutting school funding.
Proposition 118still too close to call 
The ballot measure meant to stabilize trust land payouts to K-12 education in Arizona remained too close to call at press time. Unofficial returns showed Proposition 118 trailing by about 1 percentage point.

CALIFORNIA: Proposition 30Passed
Prop 30 increases personal income taxes on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years. Governor Brown said rejection would cause huge midyear cuts to K-12 education.
Proposition 32Defeated
This “paycheck protection” measure would have eliminated unions’ primary fundraising tool and deductions from members’ paychecks for political campaigns. It would also have curtailed union and corporate contributions to political candidates.

COLORADO: Denver Ballot Measures 3A & 3B  – Passed
These two measures fund art, music, and physical education classes; more room in early childhood education programs and full-day kindergarten for all students; safer, improved school buildings and learning environments; and 21st century technology in classrooms.

FLORIDA: Amendment 8Defeated
The “Religious Freedom” amendment, if passed, would have removed language from the state’s constitution banning religious institutions (including schools) from receiving taxpayer money.

GEORGIA: Resolution 1162Passed
The constitutional amendment will allow the state to re-establish

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Experts’ views about Obama and Romney on Education

by Howard Blume
Los Angels Times
October 12, 2012

The following are edited excerpts from telephone interviews and email exchanges with leading education analysts, writers and researchers regarding the policies and positions of the presidential candidates.

Michelle Rhee

Chief executive, StudentsFirst; former chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Both support expanding educational options for families. President Obama did this, for example, by encouraging states to get rid of unnecessary caps on public charter schools through Race to the Top . At the same time, Gov. Romney supports dramatically expanding choices parents can make about where to send their kids to school. But he doesn’t tie that increased flexibility to strong rules ensuring any school — private or public — that takes the public funds will be held accountable for student learning.

Jonathan Kozol

Author whose books about education include “Death at an Early Age” (1967) and “Savage Inequalities” (1991). His new book is “Fire in the Ashes.”

As we saw in Wisconsin, there is a constituency out there that would like to do away with public-sector unions. The teachers are the loudest of those unions. Romney could not do away with teachers unions, but I think he will do his very best to move us in that direction.

President Obama simply wants to challenge the teachers unions to be more flexible in their demands but obviously recognizes they have a useful role in our society.

I regret the President’s apparent willingness to continue relying on standardized exams in evaluating teachers because I think it’s a simplistic way of judging what happens in the classroom and excludes so many aspects of a good education that are not reduceable to numbers.

The President recognizes that a demoralized teaching force is not going to bring passionate determination to the education of children — no matter how you measure them, castigate them or

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Union Wins All In Chicago

A summary of what the Chicago Teachers Union said it “won” and “wanted to win but didn’t,” published in the Chicago Tribune:

“Our brothers and sisters throughout the country have been told that corporate “school reform” was unstoppable, that merit pay had to be accepted and that the public would never support us if we decided to fight. Cities everywhere have been forced to adopt performance pay. Not here in Chicago! Months ago, CTU members won a strike authorization vote that our enemies thought would be impossible- now we have stopped the Board from imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on healthcare costs. We have tremendous victories in this contract; however, it is by no means perfect. While we did not win on every front and will need to continue our struggle into the future; we soundly defended our profession from an aggressive and dishonest attack. We owe our victories to each and every member of this rank and file union. Our power comes from the bottom up.”

” is a side by side comparison that demonstrates how far we’ve come in these tense, protracted negotiations with the Board.”

Candidate Views At Education Nation

“Romney, Obama Clash Over Education”
by Laura Meckler
Wall Street Journal
September 25, 2012

The presidential candidates offered clashing views on education, with Republican Mitt Romney delivering some of his harshest judgments on teacher unions and President Barack Obama defending them.

Mr. Obama attacked Mr. Romney for wanting to cut education spending, while Mr. Romney said it’s wrong to saddle young people with more federal debt. The conflicting views came in separate interviews for NBC’s Education Nation summit, which covered a range of education topics.

“The teachers union has a responsibility to care for the interests of the teachers. And the head of the national teachers’ union said at one point, ‘We don’t care about kids. We care about the teachers.’ That’s their right,” Mr. Romney said.

He was referring to a 2009 speech by the National Education Association’s former general counsel, Bob Chanin, who was making a different point. He wasn’t suggesting that the union doesn’t care about children, but arguing that the NEA is an effective advocate for its point of view “not because we care about children” but because of the union’s political power.

Mr. Obama, in his interview taped over the weekend, said, “I think Gov. Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher bashing.”

“When I meet teachers all across the country, they are so devoted, so dedicated to their kids,” he said.

The Obama administration has taken some heat from unions by pushing for more charter schools and seeking to tie compensation to student achievement. Mr. Obama described that as trying to “break through this left-right, conservative-liberal gridlock.”

Mr. Obama said that education reform isn’t enough, though, and must be accompanied by adequate public spending. On the campaign trail, he often mentions education as one of the areas where the nation should spend more

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Chicago schools strike incites teachers unions

by Ben Wolfgang
Washington Times
September 23, 2012

With Chicago’s ugly strike behind them, teachers unions are regrouping with a public relations blitz, meant to both repair a tarnished image and rally members who are under more fire than ever.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the parent organization of the Chicago Teachers Union, will hold town halls, workshops and other events in the coming weeks in New York, Philadelphia and nearly a dozen other major cities, the labor group announced Friday.

The move, analysts say, shows that unions aren’t backing down after the Chicago strike, which lasted more than a week and grew out of a bitter battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations, salaries and other issues.

Rather than unions’ Waterloo, the Chicago walkout likely was a precursor of things to come.

“Unless the balance of power changes, there will be another strike,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform and critic of teachers unions. “Just because to spark a revolution against this.”

The strike was first time in more than 25 years that Windy City teachers walked off the job. The standoff with Mr. Emanuel, a former chief of staff for President Obama, was resolved with concessions from both sides.

Teachers will get an average 17.6 percent pay raise, significantly less than the 30 percent hike initially sought, over the next four years. The union successfully fought off Mr. Emanuel’s efforts to have student test scores count for as much as 45 percent of teacher evaluations, negotiating the number down to no higher than 30 percent, according to terms of the deal.

Teachers also succeeded in resisting merit pay and

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Did the Chicago Teachers Union Win?

Choice Media
September 20, 2012

The great Chicago teacher strike of 2012 has ended, and it’s time for Ed Reformers to look back and decide what really happened.  We know kids didn’t go to school for 7 days.  We know the union extracted a 17.6% raise from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and succeeded in getting merit pay dropped from consideration.

The Chicago Sun-Times today said the Union President Karen Lewis won congratulatory messages from the likes of Gloria Steinem, as well as supporters in Australia, France, Italy & Canada.  It also says she basked yesterday in what some say is her new status as a union rock star.

With all this, how are prominent education reformers summing up the results of the Chicago strike?

Jeanne Allen is with the Center for Education Reform.

“Sure the Chicago unions won. They got even more that wasn’t on the table to begin with. They threw an additional time off for professional development days. There were some healthcare benefits they had. I mean they loaded this thing, and yet at the end of the day, Rahm Emanuel still declared victory. Strange how he can declare victory when 350,000 kids were out of school for more than a week and the unions won.”

“Yeah, I think one of the more interesting and quieter points that was covered in the media was when they reported that AFT President, Randi Weingarten, was on the phone with Secretary Duncan over the weekend, discussing how they could have an end to the strike, and yet at the same time she kept distancing herself and saying, ‘This is a local issue.’ So this was absolutely about politics. At the end of the day, just deal with it. Make it go away. ‘Make it go away Rahm,’ is I’m sure what happened. Plus, ‘Rahm, don’t you want

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