In the way of change

On Education Sector, Andrew Rotherham advises teachers’ unions to rethink knee-jerk obstructionism:

A Wisconsin court rejected a high-profile lawsuit by the state’s largest teachers’ union last month seeking to close a public charter school that offers all its courses online on the ground that it violated state law by depending on parents rather than on certified teachers to educate children. The case is part of a national trend that goes well beyond virtual schooling: teachers’ unions are turning to the courts to fight virtually any deviation from uniformity in public schools. Unfortunately, this stance not only hinders efforts to provide more customized schooling for needy students, it is also relegating teachers to the sidelines of the national debate about expanding choice in public education.

The unions’ power depends on public support for public schools, he points out. That means being responsive to parents’ needs.

Update: The San Diego Union-Trib rips the United Teachers of Los Angeles for opposing Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s education ideas.

This week, the UTLA plan – billed as a “radical rethinking of public education” – was unveiled. Instead of calling for more teacher accountability, it called for higher teacher pay and for giving teachers much more institutional power. Instead of supporting efforts to make sure student progress is measured, it essentially called for an end to No Child Left Behind-style monitoring of school performance. Instead of acknowledging that vast increases in spending in recent decades have yielded no improvement in student performance, the UTLA urged new state taxes to pay for education and far higher federal funding.

This is no “radical rethinking of public education.” It is a power-trip fantasy rooted in a denial of reality.

The Union-Trib is very hostile to teachers’ unions these days.

Update II: The LA Times lambastes the teachers’ union too.

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Comments

  1. Mr. Rotherham has some pretty odd ideas if he expects unions to do anything other then what’s in their memberships best interest. Maybe Mr. Rotherham is thinking of Al Shanker but Mr. Shanker is hardly representative of the American labor movement.

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    The following press release reports on the accounting problems of ECOT back in the 2002-03 timeframe:

    http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/WhatsNew/Press/Release64.aspx

    Audit: ECOT Owes State Money, Computers Missing
    September 2, 2003

    Columbus – An audit released today by Ohio Auditor of State Betty Montgomery reports that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) owes the Ohio Department of Education over $48,000 for enrolling age-ineligible students. The audit also reports that 28 computers with a combined value of over $30,000 are missing.
    —-

    However, the most recent audits seem to indicate that the problems from the previous years have been “worked”, or were not as bad as previously reported by the auditors:

    —-
    http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/news/14250573.htm

    Ohio to pay online school
    By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
    Beacon Journal staff writers

    COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Education has agreed to pay the state’s largest online charter school about $263,000 after three years of audits and an enrollment review revealed the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is owed the money.

    Paolo DeMaria, the department’s associate superintendent for finance, said last week the payment reflects a review of ECOT enrollment for 2004-05 and resolves some lingering issues from previous years.

    One of those issues resulted in the state owing ECOT about $863,000 for students enrolled, but not counted, in the 2002-03 school year.
    —-

    The following is a short article about the ECOT:

    http://www.fetc.org/fetcon/2005-Fall/pounds.cfm

    Investigating Technology™
    How do you get an entire school of online educators up to speed on basic technology skills quickly … and have them like it?
    By Kelly Pounds

    How do you get an entire school of online educators up to speed on basic technology skills quickly … and have them like it? That was the question I always had on my mind when I was a Technology Coordinator in Orange County Public Schools. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an online charter school in Ohio with over 5,000 students and 120 educators, needed to answer that question last year, too.
    —-

  3. Wayne Martin says:

    Here’s a report on the state of Charter Schools in Ohio:

    http://www.ohea.org/documents/Charter%20School%20Report%202005.pdf

  4. Wayne Martin says:

    Some interesting reading on the Ohio Teachers’ Union Site:
    http://oh.aft.org/index.cfm?action=cat&categoryID=559E3C78-738E-42A6-9DCD-C174522891BA

  5. It’s all economics. Mr. Rotheram limits his arguments to needy students, because it’s easy to argue. I would expand “needy” to include those students who need a decent math program, for example, other than the “standards-based” NSF-sponsored crap that passes for mathematics and is adopted by school board after school board despite parent protests. Parents who don’t like what schools offer then have the option of homeschooling their kids, which is in effect a boycott of the schools. Boycotts spell trouble if widespread. And in states that permit parents to homeschool their kids in one subject rather than all, (like, uh, say math), that sends a distinct message that schools and school boards don’t like hearing. I would elaborate on Mr. Rotheram’s definition of “parents’ needs” and suggest that when school boards actually have hearings (for those that condescend to actually do this) when adopting new textbooks, to actually engage in dialogues with the parents raising objections, to actually listen to the experts’ testimony, instead of dismissing on the grounds of “ideological arguments” and instead of ignoring the testimony and voting on what they decided to do ahead of time.

  6. Not as much of a problem as you might think since the tax base isn’t effected by the number of kids going to the schools. Turns out that as school enrollment drops the per student spending increases.

  7. “Mr. Rotherham has some pretty odd ideas if he expects unions to do anything other then what’s in their memberships best interest.” The problem is that this union pretends to be a professional organization giving disinterested advice on education to the public, school boards, and legislatures. If it was publicly understood that these teachers’ organizations talking about how to run the schools was the same as the UAW talking about how to run an automobile plant, I doubt the schools would have gotten into such a mess.

  8. markm wrote:

    The problem is that this union pretends to be a professional organization giving disinterested advice on education to the public, school boards, and legislatures.

    Naw, that’s just good politics. The unions would hardly be serving their purposes if they announced loudly that all they were interested in was securing the best deal for their members.

    If it was publicly understood that these teachers’ organizations talking about how to run the schools was the same as the UAW talking about how to run an automobile plant, I doubt the schools would have gotten into such a mess.

    Once again, naw although the comparison to the UAW is apt.

    The reason the car companies are in trouble now is because they had an effective monopoly back when. They could buy off the unions and jack up car prices and where were us poor consumers supposed to go? In fact, during the ’50s one of GMs problems was holding its market share down enough to avoid the wrath of the Anti-trust division of the Justice Department.

    The UAW couldn’t extract more money from the car companies then the car companies had but since the American car companies didn’t have to worry too much about competition the cost of a union settlement was passed on to the consumer without much worry that we wouldn’t swallow. So the power of the UAW came, ultimately, from the de facto monopoly of the U.S. car manufacturers.

    Look at the U.S. car manufacturers now. Competition’s made it impossible to hand out the lush benefits the companies were formerly able to fund while increasing the breadth and depth of the consumer auto market and increasing quality far above what it used to be.

    The power of the NEA, and many of the related problems of the public education system, comes from the monopoly, and political, nature of the public education system. The effective monopoly enjoyed by the public education system means that internal considerations, analogous to the unions activism in the auto industry, becomes more important then the customer’s desires.

    It’s the monopoly that’s the source of the problem. The unions are only taking advantage of the situation.

  9. Jack Tanner says:

    Why would the author think the unions would want to rethink their strategy in any way when they have constantly been successful doing what they do now?

  10. ragnarok says:

    What? The LATimes? A-turnin’ on the teachers’ union? Where does that leave Michael Hiltzik & Co?

  11. Wayne Martin says:

    Interesting reading about some possible changes headed for the Alaska Public Education system:

    http://www.campusreportonline.net/main/articles.php?id=889

    Aloha Teacher Unions?
    by: Malcolm A. Kline, April 24, 2006

    In their fight against school reform, organized teachers in the Aloha state are running into adversaries they probably did not anticipate—car salesmen. “The push for a rigorous, common-core curriculum did not come from the teachers’ union—who testified against the bill, nor the Board of Education, but rather from the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association (HADA),” according to Laura Brown of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

    “HADA President David Rolf testified that the reason for his organization’s push was initially the rejection of reimbursement claims for warranty work done on cars by the Detroit manufacturer, because the written claims submitted by the Hawaii dealership’s auto techs were ‘not clear.’”

    Like the rest of the nation, it seems, Hawaii’s schools embraced the education fads popular three decades back, with about the same results. “Now, 30 years later, parents and teachers are experiencing the fallout from progressive-education theorists’ failed assumptions,” Brown writes. “More than 80 percent of Hawaii’s public school children are not functioning at grade level and less than two-thirds of all public school students graduate from high school.”

    An education policy analyst for the Grassroot Institute, Brown is also the education reporter and researcher for HawaiiReporter.com. Brown reports that the state Board of Education mandated that “the development of student literacy in all content areas and in all grade levels is an educational and cultural imperative.”

    “Unfortunately, the Department of Education has failed to follow the board’s mandate,” Brown writes. “Instead, the state-level DOE devised elaborate ‘standards,’ and then collaborated with national vendors, such as Harcourt Inc. and American Institutes for Research (AIR), to foist progressive education theories—reeking with assumptions about ‘social justice’ and ‘diversity’ that favor process over content—on teachers and their students.”

    “Meanwhile, teachers are struggling to reach many of their students who have not even learned how to sound out words or organize those words into coherent sentences.”

    Union Mis-education Correction

    In a recent story on teachers’ unions, I incorrectly reported that Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers was “head of the UFT” and a “union boss.” Specifically, he is “special representative for high schools for New York City’s United Federation of teachers, a position he has held for six years,” according to the bio provided at the book launch of the collection, Collective Bargaining in Education, for which Casey wrote a chapter.

    Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.