Non-union in Chicago

Chicago is closing 60 failing schools, opening 100 new schools and letting private managers run most of the new schools with no union contract. Chicago business leaders used the prospect of federal sanctions under No Child Left Behind “to pressure the city to put many schools into private hands, outside union jurisdiction,” reports the New York Times. The local teachers’ union is distracted by charges of fraud in the recent election for union president. With nobody in charge, the union hasn’t done much to fight the plan.

Since pioneering educators raised student achievement by creating small schools in Spanish Harlem in the 1980’s, smaller-is-better has become a national mantra of reform, with New York and other cities, like Baltimore, Boston, Sacramento and San Diego, dividing large schools into smaller, more personal learning communities. But Chicago’s plan breaks ground not only because it is huge but also because no other city has proposed to replace large numbers of failing, unionized schools by allowing the private sector to create new schools operating outside of the teachers union contract.

Philadelphia contracted with Edison Schools in 2002 to manage 20 public schools there. But Edison was required to work under the terms of the existing teacher contract, which limited the company’s educational options, said Paul T. Hill, a University of Washington professor who wrote a 1997 book, “Reinventing Public Education.”

“Chicago intends to give the private groups creating these schools full freedom of action and control over hiring and firing,” Dr. Hill said. “That hasn’t been done anywhere on this scale.”

About 60 of the new schools — 10 percent of the entire system — will operate outside the union contract.

In 1995, Mayor Richard Daley took control of the city’s school system. Despite reform efforts, one third of the city’s schools are in danger of federal sanctions under NCLB.

“Chicago has a long history of tinkering with failed schools,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed some $25 million since 2001 to school reform efforts in Chicago. “They’ve called it re-engineering, reconstitution, restructuring. They would change a few things, but not surprisingly, its never worked very well. What this new plan offers schools is a complete break with the past.”

Under the new plan, the 100 new schools would open by 2010, including 30 charter schools and 30 schools created by private groups under five-year contracts with the district.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Years ago I belonged to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We were a craft union, and we were proud of the fact that we sent only competent workers to a job. I recall a job where an incompetent foreman had misread the drawings and had laid out the hospital bed receptacles and lights wrong. Over a weekend, union electricians came in and made it right at no cost to the owner.
    If teachers were to have a craft union instead of an industrial union, with pride in accomplishments instead of just in their perks, I would think better of them.

  2. john lucia says:

    It is about time. Even staunch supporters of unions realize schools are set up for the teachers and not the students. Any changes that might turn the balance to the learners should be given a try.

  3. Maybe Chicago’s children will have a ghost of a chance at an education now. Bypassing the teacher’s unions may be the only hope.

    The education unions are so corrupt, and so in bed with the democratic party, that meaningful reform is impossible under union supervision.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Don’t blame all of us for the failings of a probably corrupt school system in Chicago. I bet there’s more to the story of failing schools in Chicago then corrupt and uncaring teachers.

    As I’ve previously stated, teaching is a harsh Darwinian process where the weak and incompetent are weeded out, usually with 3 – 5 years.

  5. I think most of the blame here was assigned to the unions, not the teachers. I doubt that individual teachers have much say over union positions, other than to occasionally vote on whether to strike.

    The two worst teachers I ever had were working well past retirement age (in my estimation). Things may be different now– this was in the 60’s and early 70’s, but I can still remember one of them interrogating the (2nd generation) Chinese-American girl who sat in front of me whether her parents “were Red Chinese or White Chinese.”

    Most of the younger teachers I had were among the best. Whether they survived beyond five years, I don’t know. From what I’ve seen, I doubt that fitness for survival has much to do with ability to teach. Ability to put up with red tape and lack of support from both administrators and unions, more likely. Hats off to anyone who can both survive and teach.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > Don’t blame all of us for the failings of a probably corrupt school system in Chicago.

    Right – it’s everyone but the teacher’s fault.

    > I bet there’s more to the story of failing schools in Chicago then corrupt and uncaring teachers.

    That’s nice, but irrelevant. No one has seriously argued that corruption[1] or lack of empathy are a significant part of the failings of public school teachers.

    The relevant questions are “do they teach?” and “how do they affect the school context?”. Caring and not stealing isn’t enough.

    Yes, I realize that not doing the job is a form of stealing, but I’m feeling generous.

  7. Tom West says:

    At the risk of starting a firestorm, I’d put the blame on teachers for the failures of the educational system in much the same way as I’d place blame on American soldiers for the security failures in Iraq.

    In both cases, the front-line workers are facing a problem a good deal larger than just themselves. In both cases the vast majority do an outstanding job in often difficult environments, and in both cases, people tend to dwell on the failures of rare individuals rather than the achievement of the majority.

    And finally, in both cases, there is a strong perception that the goals are not being reached (and in both cases, the government tends to make the case that it has supplied the workers with the tools needed to do the job).

  8. You’re right–it is the unions that are to blame, not the individual teachers. But more and more americans are growing aware of the corrupt relationship between the democratic party and the teacher’s unions. It is killing the future of the children.

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    RB, I agree with you about the unions. What they should be doing is fighting NCLB b/c it is bad for American’s children. However, since politicians control the goals, laws and funding for schools the unions have to become involved if they’re going to protect the interest of the people who pay their salaries.

    As far as Walter and Andy’s comments go, this will be the 2nd straight year I have made less in take home pay than the year before, thanks to the politicians. Am I supposed to be happy about this like Bob Knight’s proverbial rape victims?

    If you think I, and the overwhelming majority of teachers, do it for the money your perceptions of the world of education are seriously erroneous.

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Try voluntary membership, Mike.It makes a union remarkably more responsive to member’s needs.

  11. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter,

    Actually here in Texas it is voluntary and we have at least two choices. The only reason I am a member is for the liability insurance and the legal help in dealing with administration.

    I don’t know how it is in other states but I would be one unhappy camper if membership were mandatory.

  12. Andy Freeman says:

    > As far as Walter and Andy’s comments go, this will be the 2nd straight year I have made less in take home pay than the year before, thanks to the politicians.

    Huh? What is the intented conclusion from “we care, we don’t steal, and we got paid less than last year”?

    West – we blame teachers because they have a huge role in determining education policy. No, they don’t cast the final vote, but their policies are usually the ones being voted on, and the politicians are often elected with their support.

    For example, most school board members were/are supported by teacher unions. As long as that’s true, teachers are responsible for school board decisions.

  13. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy, the arguement I was making was about your “not stealing” not being enough.

    Let me try to enlighten you about teachers and education policies; we have no voice whatsoever. The politicians and educrats make the policy decisions, usually against the advice of and over the objections of teachers. While you may seem to think that’s a great idea, I bet the 8 year olds in Texas who have to play the high stakes testing game don’t. I KNOW for a fact the teachers involved in it don’t either.

  14. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy, the arguement I was making was about your “not stealing” not being enough.

    As can be seen above, all that Mike added was that he was making less after I pointed out that he claimed that teachers weren’t to blame because they cared and didn’t steal.

    > Let me try to enlighten you about teachers and education policies; we have no voice whatsoever.

    Falsehoods aren’t enlightening.

    As long as the NEA/AFT has a huge voice in national education policy, the state affiliates have a comparable voice in state-level policy, and the locals get their candidates on to school boards, Mike’s statement is wrong. (Some might wonder why Mike persistently makes this mistake.)

    Mike may not disagree with those policies or their consequences, but his disagreement doesn’t change the fact that teachers are largely to blame/credit for those policies and the consequences. They’re responsible because the NEA/AFT and the state and local affiliates only do what their members let them do. It’s Mike’s funding, name, and work that gives those organizations their power.

    If Mike meaningfully doesn’t like said policies or consequences, he’d do something about them.

  15. Andy Freeman says:

    > While you may seem to think that’s a great idea, I bet the 8 year olds in Texas who have to play the high stakes testing game don’t. I KNOW for a fact the teachers involved in it don’t either.

    We don’t pay for public education to make kids or teachers happy. We pay because we want educated kids.

    We tried not-testing and found that, just like in every other case, things that aren’t measured simply don’t happen.

  16. While flogging teachers is certainly entertaining – sorry Mike -, given teacher’s reliable response to anything other then gratitude and praise, it misses the point.

    The point is that the public education system is a socialist institution and shares the common qualities of all socialist institutions: poor performance accompanied by low efficiency.

    If it’s one thing the fall of international communism has demonstrated beyond argument it’s that the only way to “reform” socialist institutions is to get rid of them.

    I’d offer that that conclusion is what underpins the gradually increasing strength of the current wave of education reform typified by charter schools and vouchers. The public has come to understand that we aren’t ever going to get high-quality education from the current system no matter how many educational fads come and go and no matter how much money is thrown at the system. The solution lies in taking more and more power away from the public education hierarchy and putting it back in the hands of people who are most likely to have a passionate interest in the best possible education: parents.

    Charters put power in the hands of parents by reducing the size of the educational establishment a parent has to deal with. The parent becomes, economically and political “bigger” because the school is smaller, or at least smaller then an entire school district. It’s just easier to ignore one voice among a hundred thousand then it is to ignore one voice among a hundred.

    Vouchers similarly put more power in the hands of parents but vouchers are explicit “education dollars”. It’s almost like real money except that you can only spend it on junior’s education.

    I wonder how likely it is that a parent who’s felt the power to control their child’s education would ever again submit, and submit their child, to the rules that govern the life of an educational bureaucrat?

  17. Allen – well said! You have encapsulized exactly how I feel about education. I look at the Dallas school district (they have just lost yet another superintendent), and see that you are right – it is just one big socialist monster.

    And Mike – I teach in Texas, too. I refuse to join a union for the reasons cited in all of these responses. The unions here may not be hearing what you say, so why are you spending $100 a year to be a member? Legal representation is their little “gimme” to get people that don’t really like unions in the door. If you don’t like what they stand for and don’t feel that your voice is being heard, then LEAVE. People leaving unions en masse will make a stronger statement than the people staying in, putting up with what is being said.

  18. Tom West says:

    Vouchers similarly put more power in the hands of parents but vouchers are explicit “education dollars”. It’s almost like real money except that you can only spend it on junior’s education.

    The trouble is that vouchers are almost always a per capita expenditure, while the educational needs of children tend to be highest amongst the least performing students (to say nothing of special needs students with learning disabilities or behavioural problems). Now, some may argue that it makes a lot more sense to just give up on the 10-20% of the hardest to educate children (certainly in a market-based economy, any sane marketer would go for the low-hanging fruit of the easily educatable majority), but in general, society has made an agreement to at least *try* and educate everyone roughly equally, along with the tremendous expenditures that are required to meet that goal.

    The elimination of a public school system would, I suspect, be most welcomed by those elements of society that are in strong disagreement with the general principles of modern American society and who would like the opportunity to be able to educate their children in their specific beliefs using public money. I’m not sure, however, that this would benefit society’s cohesiveness as a whole.

    This effect is somewhat exaggerated by the effect that often such schools do perform somewhat better for a variety of reasons such as willingness of its educators to accept lower salaries, less need to accept diversity in its student population, and cross-subsidization from other areas (many such groups consider education of the young a priority).

  19. Tom Wrote:

    “The elimination of a public school system would, I suspect, be most welcomed by those elements of society that are in strong disagreement with the general principles of modern American society and who would like the opportunity to be able to educate their children in their specific beliefs using public money. I’m not sure, however, that this would benefit society’s cohesiveness as a whole.”

    Wow! Where did this come from?

    I am in favor of Charter Schools and/or full vouchers for everyone because I no longer believe that the public school system is able to to the job. They want to treat everyone the same, which can be done only by setting very low expectations. They mix the lowest ability kids with the highest, they use social promotion and they cannot or will not separate the kids who want to learn from those that don’t.

    How is individual educational choice for all “in strong disagreement with the general principles of modern American society”? Who put the public school systems in charge of deciding what is socially best for our country? What is so “cohesive” now about having choice available only for the affluent? Do you think that parents of inner city kids do not want to send their kids to private schools?

    What is more important, public schools, or the best educational opportunities for each individual child?

  20. Andy Freeman says:

    > The elimination of a public school system would, I suspect, be most welcomed by those elements of society that are in strong disagreement with the general principles of modern American society and who would like the opportunity to be able to educate their children in their specific beliefs using public money.

    Sail “public money” includes money taken from those folks. West’s insistence that they pay for their reeducation reminds me of the Chinese practice of charging folks for the bullet used to execute them.

    One way to reduce this diversion is to simply not provide enough money to pay for both it and essential education. West won’t like this solution because of his strong interest in indocrination.

    Which reminds me – isn’t West Canadian?

    As I’ve written before, I had a much more positive view of public education until I started paying attention to what its defenders were saying.

  21. Tom West says:

    Wow! Where did this come from?

    I was assuming that this was what was meant by:

    The point is that the public education system is a socialist institution ..clip.. it’s that the only way to “reform” socialist institutions is to get rid of them.

    which to me implies the elimination of such a government run system. i.e. education monies are provided by the government, but it does not run the service itself.

    I consider this *much* different than the offering of school choice, or allowing charter schools (both of which I am in favour of to a limited extent, and both of which do have some unintended consequences that I have expressed before).

    Which reminds me – isn’t West Canadian?

    Absolutely (as should be obvious by my e-mail address). I doubt that nationality makes the issues particularly different on either side of the border, although statistically our biases may lie in different directions if sorted by nationality. However, in deference to not being American, I try to avoid “we” and “us” in my posts.

  22. Tom West says:

    From Steve I am in favor of Charter Schools and/or full vouchers for everyone because I no longer believe that the public school system is able to to the job.

    In the absence of government-run schools, I suspect that schools for the easily taught would be replaced by a wide variety of private schools, as you envisage.

    My concerns is that students with academic challenges (and in socially-deprived areas) might well find that their *only* educational choice is a parochial school where indoctrination may well be the reason for the school’s existence. Certainly the experience in many countries that have few or no government run schools is that Madrassas and Missionary schools are often the only way to obtain an education. I don’t think such a situation is beneficial to society.

    From Andy Freeman … his strong interest in indocrination

    Just to make it clear, I’m using indoctrination to mean an implicit or explicit push towards behaviour or beliefs. It occurs in every human system, at the very least because failure to conform means withdrawal of the service. (Try getting service in a bank if you don’t believe in standing in lines…) Indoctrination is *always* occuring, the moment you start breathing.

    *Any* educational system is going to have indoctrination – any social system will. There are norms of behaviour that are expected/demanded. I strongly suspect that the government-run system has amongst the *least* amount of belief-specific indoctrination. But yes, it certainly does attempt to compel behaviour, and for the most part, the indoctrination tends towards instilling *tolerance*. And that, I think, is important for existing in a vast society of disparate beliefs.

    It’s odd, because I’m certain that Mr. Freeman would be on the side that would say that many inner-city youth are *not* being indoctrinated with the norms of conversation and behaviour that are expected in mainstream society. And that the failure to do so is a disservice to them.

    Do I have a strong interest in indoctrination? No, I have a strong belief in the fact that it *will* take place, and I’d rather see indoctrination of a mild nature that tends to bring us together rather than emphasizing separateness.

  23. Tom West says:

    we blame teachers because they have a huge role in determining education policy

    Mr. Freeman, if we obviously can’t trust those who want to teach (and have thus become teachers) to teach our children, just *who* should be teaching them?

    This begins to sound like the saying that we can’t trust any politician who wants to be a politician.

    And no, our educational policy, like most of the policy that occurs in any society, is an outgrowth of the society itself and a response to changes in that society. There is a constant cycle of feedback from society to policy to society again. It’s why simple solutions usually (but not always) fail.

    Adjusting our educational system (which may lead to further adjustments, and so on) is how things actually get done. It’s not terribly useful to continuously state the equivalent of “just burn the place down and start over again”. There are reasons the educational system has developed as it has, and it wasn’t created in isolation. Large organizations evolve in much the same manner as organisms. Unless the environment in which the organization is changed, the best you can hope for is small changes in how the organization ends up being expressed (which may change the environment, and go on from there…)

  24. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy,

    Just b/c you say it isn’t enlightening doesn’t make it so. At the risk of being offensive I don’t think there is anything I could say to enlighten you as you would refuse to listen. I say this not to insult you but to point out my belief you have your mind made up.

    However, I am “in the trenches” every school day and I can tell you for a fact the problems you speak of are not the fault of teachers but of politicians and educrats. The overwhelming majority of teachers are conscientious, hard-working and care deeply for their students and want them to succeed.

    Here in Texas the teachers’ unions sold their souls to GWBush several years ago for a $3000 pay raise for teachers. In exchange, the unions in Texas kept absolutely quiet about what was going on in Texas schools in order for Bush to claim he had recreated education in Texas. Also that year, test scores were “massaged” so that on the 5th grade Math test you had to get less than 50% correct to pass the test. In the meantime Texas students have been shortchanged in their preparation for higher education.

    I won’t argue with anyone that the teachers’ unions are not doing what they should, but raking teachers over the coals for a mess the politicians, educrats and society have created will not solve the problem. Also, I don’t believe surrending control to the federal govt., which just recently announced it will be $450 bilion short of money,is the answer.

  25. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen,

    The teachers you so joyously flog today are educating the people who will care for you in your old age. Wouldn’t it be in your best interest to ensure they are given every available means they need to do their job to their utmost?

  26. Certainly the experience in many countries that have few or no government run schools is that Madrassas and Missionary schools are often the only way to obtain an education.

    Brother. So we should oppose vouchers and charters because this may lead to poor kids being forced to attend Madrassas?

    The reason I support vouchers and charters is that I believe more options are needed, not fewer. Further, I believe that competition among the different approaches will tend toward better performance, at least among those that survive. I have no doubt that publicly-run schools will be one of the surviving approaches for the forseeable future.

  27. Tom West says:

    Crikey. Let me make this clear AGAIN. My post is not about *adding* choice in addition to the government schools, it’s about the *elimination* of government from providing anything but the money for schools as has been proposed by some (most notably by allen) in his post

    The point is that the public education system is a socialist institution ..clip.. it’s that the only way to “reform” socialist institutions is to get rid of them.

    I’m not certain how I can make this any clearer.

  28. All right then.

  29. Andy Freeman says:

    > At the risk of being offensive I don’t think there is anything I could say to enlighten you as you would refuse to listen.

    I’m perfectly willing to listen. I’m just unwilling to agree to falsehoods, no matter how important those falsehoods are to someone else’s argument.

    Mike needs to argue that teachers don’t have a huge effect on public school policy because that effect undercuts his “teachers aren’t responsible argument”. Then he posts the following.

    > Here in Texas the teachers’ unions sold their souls to GWBush several years ago for a $3000 pay raise for teachers.

    Mike doesn’t want to admit that Texas teachers are responsible for the consequences of a deal that they agreed to, a deal that he admits hurt kids.

    And why were teachers asked to be part of that deal, why did they have to be bought off? Because they had political power.

    I probably won’t see this year’s convention reports from the nationals or any state affiliates, but I’m confident that they’ll say that teachers wrote the education part of the Dem platform and had a big effect on the Repub platform.

    And, let’s not forget that a huge fraction of the delegates are teachers and/or union affiliates.

    When November comes along, the nationals will point to the large number of highly rated Congress critters. The state affiliates will point to large numbers of highly rated state elected officials and many locals will point to their dominance of school boards. (Many state affiliates will point to collective results for locals and the nationals will point to collective results at the state and local levels.)

    “Highly rated” means “usually does what teachers want”.

    Throughout the year, the nationals and state and local affiliates will point out their legislative efforts, both successes and failures.

    “success” means “teachers got their way”.

    Mike may want to argue that teachers aren’t responsible for what their unions do, but if he does, he’s wrong.

    Give that, it’s absurd to argue, as Mike does, that teachers don’t have a very significant role in education policy and politics.

    Teachers are responsible to the extent that they get their way, and they get their way a lot.

    Mike may have been better off arguing that the public schools aren’t a disaster.

    > The overwhelming majority of teachers are conscientious, hard-working and care deeply for their students and want them to succeed.

    Mike forgot “don’t steal”.

    And, for what it’s worth, I agree with his claim.

    Note, however, that he didn’t mention “effective”.

    While those things are nice, and can contribute to effective, we’re really only interested in effective.

    BTW – Would it be mean to ask if Mike thinks that those things imply effective, is being deceptive, or doesn’t think that effective is important?

  30. Tom wrote:

    “My concerns is that students with academic challenges (and in socially-deprived areas) might well find that their *only* educational choice is a parochial school where indoctrination may well be the reason for the school’s existence. Certainly the experience in many countries that have few or no government run schools is that Madrassas and Missionary schools are often the only way to obtain an education. I don’t think such a situation is beneficial to society.”

    This sounds better than your politically ominous-sounding previous comment. However, the current situation is not very “cohesive”. The rich get to choose and the poor do not. Outside of making sure that all kids are required by law to attend school, I’m not sure what is so “American” about it. Where is the equal opportunity?

    I also don’t buy your argument above. Many of the special-needs students are already educated in separate schools. There are extremely strong advocacy groups for these students. They won’t go away and our country won’t turn into a third-world nation. Also, you seem to be assuming that all public schools will go away and public education will only be about doling out money (which, by the way, is ours to begin with). Do you think that charter schools are not public schools. I think that most of the resistance to choice is about loss of control, not what is best for the individual child.

    After large changes in educational policy, it is reasonable to worry about kids who might be left behind. But what do we have now? An education system dominated by progressive philosophy and pedagogy where many kids are already left far behind and most of the rest don’t get too far ahead. To quote myself from before:

    (Public schools) want to treat everyone the same, which can be done only by setting very low expectations. They mix the lowest ability kids with the highest, they use social promotion and they cannot or will not separate the kids who want to learn from those that don’t.

    The public schools could separate kids by ability (or, rather, the willingness to work hard), but they won’t. The rich get to choose their educational philosophy and the poor do not. The public schools do not want to give up this control.

    Parents who grew up in public schools are now sending their (K-8) kids to private schools. The reason? Low expectations. Our public school teachers are quite wonderful and hard-working, but the expectations are very fuzzy and very low. It used to be that parents would wait until seventh, eighth, or ninth grades before looking into private schools. Now, they have to move their kids over in very early grades or else they will not be able to catch up. The ironic part is that many public high schools with their honors and AP courses compete very well with private schools. I see parents using private schools for K-8 and then switching back to the public high schools. For example, our public (K-8) schools do not prepare students properly for college prep or honors math courses in our public high school. This is a known issue that they can’t seem to solve. (They have to expect more from the kids!) Don’t high school teachers ever go back to the lower grades to see what they are doing – or not doing and offer advice?

    Individual choice is good, and quite American.

  31. Andy Freeman says:

    > Certainly the experience in many countries that have few or no government run schools is that Madrassas and Missionary schools are often the only way to obtain an education.

    In a country where any school is a luxury, that’s a potential problem, untill you realize that no school is the alternative.

    While that might be worth discussing, we’re talking about the US.

    > But yes, it certainly does attempt to compel behaviour, and for the most part, the indoctrination tends towards instilling *tolerance*.

    Yeah right.

    However, the important thing to notice is that I want to let kids out of failing schools while West is desparately looking for excuses to keep them there.

    Yes, the change won’t help some of them, but that just means that they’re no worse off. However, it will help others, and I find that more important than West does.

    Then again, I care about educated kids; West cares about publid education.

  32. Tom wrote:

    The teachers you so joyously flog today

    I didn’t flog any teachers. I was just commenting on the propensity of teachers, based on my experience, to take offense at anything other then adulation. If you aren’t praising teachers you’re bashing teachers.

    are educating the people who will care for you in your old age.

    I rest my case.

    I think that blaming teachers for the state of public education is roughly the equivalent of teasing the neighbor’s dog. You’ll certainly get a satisfyingly noisy response but you can’t characterize teasing the neighbors dog as solving any problem but boredom.

    While teacher’s are certainly beneficiaries of the public education system – the overt rejection by the public education system of responsibility for results is one benefit – teachers are also victims, albiet willing victims. But being near the bottom of the public education hierarchy – students are at the bottom – teachers are in a no position to effect change in the system. Foot soldiers don’t shape battle strategy and teachers don’t decide education policy.

    So if we can’t flog teachers for the sorry state of public education who can we flog?

    A really good school principal can make life unpleasent for the inevitable cadre of incompetent, inept and uncaring teachers. If the principal is willing to keep up the pressure for long enough, and willing to take the heat from the union and higher levels of the education hierarchy, then the bad teachers slouch off to easier schools and the better teachers don’t have their hard work dissipated. But it takes an exceptional principal.

    A similar scenario can occur with an exceptional school administrator: bad principals are driven out and good principals come to understand that they’ll get support for driving out bad teachers. But it takes an exceptional school administrator.

    At each level in the education hierarchy an exceptional individual can effect change in the area of the hierarchy under their control. But it does take someone exceptional. People without exceptional courage, political skill, motivation, are inevitably dragged down by the system and people with exceptional courage, political skill, motivation inevitably move on. Without those exceptional people the system always tends toward mediocrity.

    In common with all socialist institutions, the public education system has no reward for excellence.

    I don’t know about Canada but in the states Teacher of the Year is, to borrow a phrase, worth a bucket of warm spit.

    The wonder to me isn’t that the public is willing to accept substandard results from the public education system, I understand that, but that anyone would think that they could expect anything else.

  33. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy,

    While I can tell you are vehement in your beliefs, as an experienced teacher I can tell you you are wrong.

    Teachers have little to no effect on education policy and as I stated earlier, education policy is usually made against the wishes of and over the objections of teachers. If you don’t believe me then I invite you to do as an author by the name of Tracey Kiddor did and spend a year in a school and write a book about the experience.

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    > While I can tell you are vehement in your beliefs, as an experienced teacher I can tell you you are wrong.

    Notice that Mike doesn’t bother to provide any evidence for his position.

    He also doesn’t bother to refute my argument showing how teacher have a significant role in determining education policy through their unions and other political activity.

    Heck – he doesn’t even bother to refute the “Texas teachers sold out kids for $3k” evidence for my position that he provided.

    Since Mike is clearly wrong on things that we can easily check, how credible is he on other matters?

    As I’ve written before, I was a lot more supportive of public schools before I started paying attention to what their supporters say.

  35. Also, you seem to be assuming that all public schools will go away and public education will only be about doling out money

    Good heavens. My entire argument isn’t that public schools *will* go away, it’s that there is a not insignificant segment that think they *should* go away. That education should be like food stamps. The government provides the funds for food – it doesn’t provide the food.

    I’m not saying that school choice will lead to the elimination of public schools, I’m arguing against public policy that *demands* the elimination of the public school system for a variety of reasons (such as belief that the government has no business competing with private service providers, belief that the government-run school systems are inevitably a corruptive force, etc.)

    An impossible policy change? I don’t know. I’d have said as much a few years ago, but now I’d make it more like an *unlikely* policy change. The distrust of anything run by the government is so high that such things are a good deal more contemplatable than a few years ago.

    Just look the quite wide-spread belief that governments are *incapable* of providing any service without massive wastage and corruption (perhaps military excepted). Believe that, and certainly the best way to help our kids is to force parents to choose how to educate their kids.

  36. Andy Freeman says:

    Mike wants us to believe that teachers have no responsiblity for education policy, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    If Mike actually believes what he’s selling, he’ll will like the following proposal because it’s a something for nothing deal from his stated point of view.

    I propose eliminating the national teachers unions, the state affiliates, and restrict locals to negotiating time and money and representing members over contract violations. In other words, we eliminate the power that Mike claims doesn’t exist.

    Since Mike claims that they don’t have any power now, this proposal doesn’t reduce their power, at least from his point of view. Since those organizations do get money from Mike, he’ll have more money.

    How about it Mike? Are you willing to give up nothing and get more money?

  37. This is Tom’s original statement:

    “The elimination of a public school system would, I suspect, be most welcomed by those elements of society that are in strong disagreement with the general principles of modern American society and who would like the opportunity to be able to educate their children in their specific beliefs using public money. I’m not sure, however, that this would benefit society’s cohesiveness as a whole.”

    Then, he finally says:

    “Good heavens. My entire argument isn’t that public schools *will* go away, it’s that there is a not insignificant segment that think they *should* go away. That education should be like food stamps. The government provides the funds for food – it doesn’t provide the food.”

    First you talk about people that want … “to educate their children in their specific beliefs using public money”. Then, you argue that there are people (the same ones as before?) who don’t think that the government can do anything right and should just hand out the money.

    I really can’t follow your arguments. In the first argument, you are arguing against parental choice. As for your second argument, there are many people who believe that the public schools (governments?) are already doing a bad job and that something else should be done. One of the options is to eliminate public schools. Are you saying that people cannot or should not explore that possibility? On what grounds?

    Tom also wrote:

    …”I’m arguing against public policy that *demands* the elimination of the public school system for a variety of reasons…”

    “Demands”? Does this mean that you are not arguing against public policy that provides fewer hurdles for Charter Schools and asks for greater use of vouchers? Are you going to tell a group of inner-city parents that they cannot demand full vouchers from their government?

    You seem overly concerned about “public schools”. I am concerned about providing the best individual educational opportunities for all kids, not just for the affluent.

  38. Just look the quite wide-spread belief that governments are *incapable* of providing any service without massive wastage and corruption

    And I’m wondering why anyone would give a moments consideration to the opposite proposition.

    I’m no historian but from some of the things I’ve read government has never been seen as capable providing any service efficiently, military not excepted. The few cases in which efficiency seems to result stand out starkly.

    Andy writes:

    Mike wants us to believe that teachers have no responsiblity for education policy, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    What evidence?

  39. Mike in Tecas says:

    Andy,

    Absolutely!! If you will provide me with several million dollars in liability insurance, legal representation and represent my interest with the Texas govt in protecting me from abritrary administrative decisions meant to punish those who don’t toe the line despite their teaching abilities. You may find this hard to believe but teachers who stand up against administrative decisions and policies are not popular with school administrators. Our school district just got rid of a twenty year teacher for statements she made in faculty meetings and the teacher workroom, in clear violation of her first amendment rights. This particular teacher had absolutely no trouble finding another job and chose to do so instead of staying and fighting.
    I belong to a union that provides the services I have listed above, and at least on their web page they don’t claim ties to any national organizations, not to say they aren’t part of a larger group.

    http://www.atpe.org

    I noticed you dodged the question about spending some time with teachers and finding out what really goes on in education policy making.

  40. Mike in Texas says:

    Let me make a correction to my post above, ATPE is affliated with the NEA.

  41. Andy Freeman says:

    > If you will provide me with several million dollars in liability insurance, legal representation and represent my interest with the Texas govt in protecting me from abritrary administrative decisions meant to punish those who don’t toe the line despite their teaching abilities.

    I’ve only proposed eliminating the lobbying and political activity. Mike is free to continue to pay for the other things that he likes – it’s his money.

    BTW – What “liability” is covered? It isn’t malpractice or criminal activity.

    > for statements she made in faculty meetings and the teacher workroom, in clear violation of her first amendment rights.

    You don’t have first amendment rights at work. (McDonald’s can fire you for saying that Wendy’s is better or that the fries cause genital warts.)

    > You may find this hard to believe but teachers who stand up against administrative decisions and policies are not popular with school administrators.

    Why does Mike think that I’d find that hard to believe?

  42. Andy Freeman says:

    Mike claims that teachers have no influence on education policy. He also pointed to his union’s web site. On that site, you’ll find.

    http://www.atpe.org/LegisAdv/billsPassed.htm

    Does Mike want to argue that ATPE had NO effect on those laws?

    I see that Mike also admits that ATPE is an NEA affiliate. Does anyone want to argue that the NEA has no responsibility for national education policy? If so, what were all the NEA-affiliated delegates doing in Boston last week?

    > I noticed you dodged the question about spending some time with teachers and finding out what really goes on in education policy making.

    I ignored it because it’s yet another non sequitor – no one thinks that education policy is set in classrooms.

    I don’t write about the time I’ve spent “with teachers” because it isn’t evidence, even if such time is all Mike has.

    I’m still waiting for Mike to argue that the national, state, and local organizations that he supports have no effect on education policy or that teachers have no control over the policies pushed by those organizations.

    Heck – I’m still waiting for him to admit that the “sell-out” he discussed is an example of teachers being responsible for education policy.

    Mike may argue that he’s willing to put up with the policies pushed by his unions because he likes the insurance. While that sort of “sell out” (his term) is individual, it can’t be true of the majority.

    Teacher’s unions push what teachers want. Teachers unions have a huge effect on education policy at all levels of govt. So, if you think that the policies are bad (as Mike claims), teachers get a huge amount of the blame.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Mike in Texas says “If you will provide me with several million dollars in liability insurance, legal representation and represent my interest with the Texas govt in protecting me from abritrary administrative decisions meant to punish those who don’t toe the line despite their teaching abilities.”

    Mike, you have the same protections against arbitrary decisions as those anywhere who feel they are unfairly terminated. You don’t need a teacher’s union for that, but somehow they have managed to convince large numbers of teachers that they DO need the union to protect them. In fact, union contracts sometimes obscure or invalidate general protections that are routinely available to nonunion workers. But many people don’t believe they can manage their careers themselves.

    I’ve been both union and nonunion. I will never be a member of a union again under any circumstances, especially as I have found out more and more about how corrupt the top leadership in nearly all labor unions really is. They do a great song-and-dance by telling the rank-and-file what they want to hear, and then blaming the government when it doesn’t work out that way. But in reality, they’ve got a good racket going that they don’t want to disturb, that keeps the leadership in power and keeps the money rolling in. Yes, I’m talking about corruption and organized crime. It does reach down to local levels, only it’s damn hard to prove in a court of law.

  44. Mike in Texas says:

    Ahh Andy, once again you don’t see the point and you continue to argue teachers are responsible for education policy.

    You can look this up for yourself but I believe the latest survey of Texas teachers, 73%, feel the TEKS test, Texas’ version of high stakes testing, is detrimental to education, but yet somehow, despite the ENORMOUS influence you claim we have Texas politicians continue to uphold it as law and stake the claim it is revolutionizing education.

    As far as teachers’ unions go, of course I don’t agree with many or even most of the national unions’ actions but they are a neccessary evil. Otherwise educrats and politicians would run over teachers every time they stood up for their and the students’ rights.

    As for the anonymous post about teachers having the same protections from employers, that may be true but who would pay for the lawyers to defend my rights?

  45. Andy Freeman says:

    > I believe the latest survey of Texas teachers, 73%, feel the TEKS test, Texas’ version of high stakes testing, is detrimental to education, but yet somehow, despite the ENORMOUS influence you claim we have Texas politicians continue to uphold it as law and stake the claim it is revolutionizing education.

    Cool – a straw man. That’s a big improvement over non sequitors and no response.

    I never wrote that teachers were completely responsible. Does Mike think that I did or is he flailing for an argument? He still hasn’t acknowledged that his “sell out” admission refutes his “no responsibility” argument.

    Note that some things are going to happen over teacher objections. That’s should happen when teacher-driven education policy fails. (Yes, it can also happen at other times.)

    Perhaps Mike will tell us why the Texas legislature didn’t go for the teacher’s solution. (Surely they weren’t arguing that there was no problem or for more of the same.)

  46. Andy Freeman says:

    > As for the anonymous post about teachers having the same protections from employers, that may be true but who would pay for the lawyers to defend my rights?

    Probably the same folks that pay for other people’s lawyers. Does Mike really not know the answer?

  47. Andy Freeman says:

    > As far as teachers’ unions go, of course I don’t agree with many or even most of the national unions’ actions but they are a neccessary evil.

    Is Mike claiming that there’s nothing that can be changed to make them less evil? Or, just nothing that he’s willing to do.

    Perhaps Mike will tell us if any of the actions that he disagrees are education policy and whether that disagreeable education policy is “necessary”.

  48. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy,

    I made no such “sell out” admission, I acknowledge the education unions have the uses and their faults. Andy you are the one who continues to argue the current education situation is the result of education unions. Teachers have just as much right as any other professional group to band together to protect their rights. We also have the additional burder of advocating for the children we teach. You mistakingly argue over and over again we have such enormous influence but I haven’t ever heard you say you were an educator so it is pretentious on your part to think you know what is going on. Spend some time with teachers and maybe you can enlighten yourself as to how education policy is really made and who is really to blame when schools fail. I’ve never seen it argued the teachers were uncaring, incompetent or malicious in a school that failed but I’ve seen plenty of stories about incompetent and corrupt leadership. You claim it is the fault of teachers’ unions when in fact it is everyone’s fault for voting in the politicians who create the problems.

    My advice to you is to do a little research about Texas schools. Nearly half of them are approaching bankruptcy b/c of limitations imposed by politicians and unfunded mandates from the state and local govts. Currently there are several lawsuits against the state over the lack of equitable funding to Texas school districts. The politicians have tried and failed to fix this mess they have created and have succeeded only in lightening the pockets of teachers in the process (in my case over $500 this year) and robbing Texas schoolchildren of a meaningful education by measuring process through one day of high stakes testing, particularly hard on the 8 year olds I teach. In addition, while the expectations of higher achievement goes up (unless of course its an election year when scores are manipulated so the politicians in charge can brag about what a great job they’ve done forcing those lazy teachers to work), per student funding has descreased across the board. Currently the state of Texas is over 67 million dollars short in textbook money, Texas children will begin the school year w/o textbooks in several areas, including high schools students who will be required to pass a test to graduate in a subject they will not have textbooks for. THIS is the model GW is using and forcing upon the entire nation so if the education unions feel they must align with the Democrats to fight this idiocy then so be it.
    You continue to fail to supply the facts to go along with your assertations and that simply makes them opinions. You know what they say about opinions don’t you?

  49. Andy Freeman says:

    > I made no such “sell out” admission,

    Mike, meet Mike.

    > Here in Texas the teachers’ unions sold their souls to GWBush several years ago for a $3000 pay raise for teachers.

    Like I wrote – when someone is wrong on things that we can easily check….

    -andy

  50. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy you are the one who continues to argue the current education situation is the result of education unions.

    No – I argue that teacher unions have a lot to do with it. Does Mike not understand the difference or deny that teachers have any responsibility?

    > Teachers have just as much right as any other professional group to band together to protect their rights.

    No one said otherwise. I’m merely pointing out that when said banding together results in policy, teachers are responsible for the consequences of said policy.

    > We also have the additional burder of advocating for the children we teach.

    And yet Mike denies that they affect education policy.

    Does Mike want to argue that teachers have never pushed bad policy? (The other Mike cited an instance where he says that were bought off.)

    > I haven’t ever heard you say you were an educator

    Mike should read more carefully.

    However, It is true that I don’t argue from authority, as he does. Since “argument from authority” is a logical fallacy, it’s someone surprising that he brings up that difference.

    > I’ve never seen it argued the teachers were uncaring … or malicious

    Strawman

    > incompetent

    Then Mike hasn’t been paying attention.

    > You claim it is the fault of teachers’ unions when in fact it is everyone’s fault for voting in the politicians who create the problems.

    As long as a huge fraction of said pols are highly rated by teacher unions, teachers get at least that much blame.

    Teachers get their way much of the time; that makes them responsible for a large part of the outcome.

    > You continue to fail to supply the facts to go along with your assertations and that simply makes them opinions.

    I’ve cited some of the legislative influence that Mike denies. I’ve pointed to other documents and readily obtainable evidence for my position. Mike has even admitted to one instance of something that he denies.

    Meanwhile, Mike continues to claim that teachers don’t have any responsibility, without even trying to support that position.

  51. Mike in Texas says:

    What I’ve tried to argue is that while teachers may TRY to influence education policy, the educrats and politicians seldom listen.

    Ex. No elementary teacher in his/her right mind would think an 8 year olds entire school year should hinge on one day of testing but yet this is what we have in the state of Texas.

    >Teachers get their way much of the time; that makes them responsible for a large part of the outcome.

    Andy, we very seldom get our way. See the example above. You’re looking to blame teachers for the bad schools you see in some places (mainly the big cities where the media hangs out)but you are barking up the wrong tree.

  52. Andy Freeman wrote:

    Teachers get their way much of the time; that makes them responsible for a large part of the outcome.

    Makes you wonder then why teachers are approximately as wild with excitment at the approach of summer vacation as students, if they have such a degree of control. If the public education system is their oyster why are they so happy to be away from it?

    There’s another reason not to flog teachers with responsibility for the state of the public education system: you can’t expect teachers to upend the system they, and their responsbilities, i.e. kids, mortgages, depend on. People who depend on a system for their daily bread tend to make lousy revolutionaries. Whatever their feelings about the efficacy and justness of the system, they’ve still got that house note to make at the end of the month.

    Besides, unless you’ve got some personal beef with the profession and just like beating them over the head, why would you think anyone who you’d just accused of being responsible for terrible deeds want to listen to anything else you’ve got to say?

  53. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy, we very seldom get our way. See the example above.

    If Mike actually thinks that one example refutes “a lot”, he must think that two examples would prove “never”.

    Nevertheless, he’s wrong.

    Teachers don’t always get their way, but they get their way a huge fraction of the time. That’s demonstrated by the number of highly rated legislators, elected executives, and school board members. (“Highly rated” means “usually does what teachers unions want”.)

    I note that Mike didn’t bother to argue that the nationals wrote the education part of the Dems platform, or that teachers were one of the largest block of delegates, or that they’ll brag about their influence on the Repub platform. He still hasn’t bothered to explain why his “sold their souls” admission

  54. Andy Freeman says:

    > You’re looking to blame teachers for the bad schools you see in some places (mainly the big cities where the media hangs out)but you are barking up the wrong tree.

    If Mike actually thinks that the problems are limited to the “big cities”, he’s even more clueless than I thought.

    And, if he thinks that my comments are somehow limited to “big cities”, he’s invited to provide supporting evidence.

  55. Andy Freeman says:

    > why would you think anyone who you’d just accused of being responsible for terrible deeds want to listen to anything else you’ve got to say?

    I was unaware that teachers were the only audience.

    I’d like teachers to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. However, that can’t happen until they realize the need for change.

  56. Andy Freeman says:

    > (mainly the big cities where the media hangs out)

    Let’s suppose that that was true. Does it matter?

    What fraction of US kids is Mike talking about? Is it really acceptable to blow them off? Are measures that help them going to hurt other kids?

    Does Mike really think that “works hard, cares, doesn’t steal” is adequate, let alone something to be proud of?

  57. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy continues to spout his opinions without offering any facts.

    I guess I should just accept your word that you’re right and I’m wrong and be done with it.

    I noticed in the absence of facts Andy is now resorting to name calling, labeling me as clueless. However, my 14 years of education tell me otherwise.

    And now for some opinions of my own:

    Andy states: “I’d like teachers to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. However, that can’t happen until they realize the need for change.”

    Teachers are a much more likely bet to solve the challenges facing American schools than a bunch of politicians in Washington, a bunch of non-educators who “THINK” they have the solutions and would like to gut the American education system to try their experiment and educrats who don’t care if our kids are actually learning anything as long as the big bonus money and consulting fees roll in.

    State some facts occasionally Andy and maybe I’ll occasionally listen to your arguements. I can provide you with countless examples to refute your belief teachers control education policy, more than I can possibly list here.

    As for your statement that I think we should blow off the kids in the corrupt big city school systems I never stated anything close to that. By all means, fire the educrats who have run these school systems into the ground, get rid of the career educrats who care only for their paychecks and fire the incompetent teachers. But don’t enforce that punishment on schools that aren’t failing just because a few schools are not doing their jobs.

    Me? Clueless? Shame, shame Andy. Resorting to name calling just shows a weakness in your arguements.