Democrats vs. Obama's ed plan

The House vote to cut funding for Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund and charter schools  is a direct attack on President Obama’s education reform agenda, which he considers one of his “proudest achievements,” writes Jonathan Alter in Newsweek.  The headline: How Congress Keeps Screwing Up Education.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, is carrying water for the teachers’ union, which has rejected the reforms, Alter writes.

Last year, Congress funded $95 billion to prevent layoffs and only $5 billion for reforms. Now House Democrats want to take money already allocated to reform and transfer it to another effort to protect the status quo. In a Wednesday phone interview with Alter, Obey called Race to the Top a “slush fund,” the union’s phrase.

Obey said his edujobs amendment has little chance to pass in the Senate because it will get no Republican support. Edujobs would have a chance if the money for teachers was tied to reform of the seniority system, Alter writes. But Obama isn’t willing to make that fight.

Rigid “last hired, first fired” rules are a disaster for schoolchildren. They mean that across the country, teachers of the year will be pink-slipped simply because they are young. Yep—some of our very best teachers will be driven out of the profession. Meanwhile, older, incompetent teachers will be kept on. That’s unconscionable. We now know that having a bad teacher two or three years in a row in the early grades all but dooms disadvantaged children.

With a little imagination, there’s a grand compromise available: money to prevent layoffs in exchange for a requirement that seniority no longer be the only factor in determining layoffs (it could continue to be one of four or five factors).

. . . The stranglehold of the teachers’ unions on the Democratic Party, loosened a bit with Race to the Top, is back in place, asphyxiating the careers of the terrific young teachers who the country needs most.

Obey’s mini-coup shows why reform is so hard, writes Eric Hanushek on Ed Next.

In the provinces, seniority layoffs are under attack and some Democrats are leading the charge.

In California, a bill that modifies seniority layoffs passed an education committee on a 6-2 vote, despite strong opposition from the California Teachers Association.

“It’s about civil rights,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat,  said. Under the bill, lay-offs at low-performing schools couldn’t exceed the district average for layoffs. It’s a response to a civil-rights lawsuit charging that laying off less-experienced teachers disrupts low-performing, high-poverty and high-minority schools, which tend to have young teaching staffs.

Chicago has decided to lay off the lowest-performing teachers, regardless of seniority.

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