Teachers’ unions have lost media support, write Richard Whitmire and Andrew Rotherham in the Wall Street Journal.
Quick: Which newspaper in recent editorials called teachers unions “indefensible” and a barrier to reform? You’d be excused for guessing one of the conservative outlets, but it was that bastion of liberalism, the New York Times. A month ago, The New Yorker—yes, The New Yorker—published a scathing piece on the problems with New York City’s “rubber room,” a union-negotiated arrangement that lets incompetent teachers while away the day at full salary while doing nothing. The piece quoted a principal saying that union leader Randi Weingarten “would protect a dead body in the classroom.”
Things only got worse for the unions this past week. A Washington Post editorial about charter schools carried this sarcastic headline: “Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased.” And the Times weighed in again Monday, calling a national teachers union “aggressively hidebound.”
What happened? Public opinion shifted to favor accountability, “no excuses” charter schools showed poor urban kids can learn and President Barack Obama bucked the unions to push for charter schools, testing, performance pay and firing bad teachers.
Data collected under No Child Left Behind provisions has made it easier to figure out which teachers are succeeding, Whitmire and Rotherham write.
“Data and results are challenging an industry that was traditionally driven by hope, hype and good intentions,” says Jane Hannaway, the director of education policy at the Urban Institute. Ms. Hannaway argues that in the long run these emerging databases may be the most important dividend of today’s school accountability policies.
Inner-city students are doing so poorly that many blacks and other Democrats are willing to try just about anything to get change.