Al Shanker’s legacy

In writing about Tough Liberal, Richard Kahlenberg’s biography of Albert Shanker, Slate’s Sara Mosle extols Shanker as the “greatest union organizer of the latter half of the 20th century.”

. . . Shanker transformed American education. His efforts significantly boosted teacher salaries, equalized pay between men and women, assured minimal standards in schools (not least by capping class sizes), and forced the National Educational Association, the nation’s most powerful teachers’ union, to embrace collective bargaining. He also encouraged his sometimes reluctant membership to embrace necessary reform; the American Federation of Teachers, under Shanker’s leadership until his death in 1997, backed provisions for ousting incompetent teachers, public school choice, and the standards movement.

I met Shanker once. He was an incredibly dynamic and fearless man.

Update: Cecilia Le has more on Education Sector.

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  1. Shanker was controversial. There was the joke in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper, where it was said the US was destroyed because Albert Shanker got his hands on a nuclear bomb.



  2. I really only know Shanker from the paid advertisement/columns that used to run in The New Republic. Especially for a union guy, he seemed to understand what education reform would take and didn’t seem only to be interested in protecting the interest of union members. Or at least that’s what he was selling in The New Republic.