When reform touches teachers

When reform touches teachers features a civil discussion — no talk of crypto-fascists clubbing baby harp seals — between Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Frederick M. Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute. Fordham’s Michael Petrilli moderates.

Yesterday’s discussion was earth-shaking, writes Hess in Ed Week.

We agreed on the failure of principals to do their job when it comes to teacher evaluation, the need to overhaul today’s industrial era model of schooling, the limits of trying to drive evaluation primarily off of today’s crude value-added scores on state reading and math assessments, and the value of engaging teachers in decisions regarding instruction and content (though Randi thinks it’d be a good idea to do that via collective bargaining and I couldn’t disagree more).

Randi argued teachers feel like they’re under attack. As I argued in the New York Times this spring, it’s perfectly reasonable for teachers to feel angry that policymakers are looking to dial back their pensions and health care entitlements. But that doesn’t amount to disrespect or an “attack.”

GOP leaders who’ve “pushed to dial back benefits and collective bargaining” have used “respectful language,” Hess writes. Union advocates “have compared them to Nazis.” Gov. Scott Walker was equated with Hitler and Mubarak.

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  1. I watched this yesterday and was surprised in a way to see how hard everyone was working to emphasize common ground. Even the seating arrangements were conducive to that end.

  2. Teachers are definitely under attack, with a rigged system (NCLB) designed to make failures out of all of us.

    Hess’s comments just go to show the disrespect the “reform” crowd has for teachers.

  3. I wouldn’t say it was teachers under attack, but the whole educational system. Spending has tripled in the last 50 years, with little to no improvement in results. When society is spending a LOT more for something, but getting no result, it’s only natural to conclude that the system isn’t working and needs major shakeup.

  4. Being in WI, here’s some more background on issues raised in the video – mostly by Randi W., AFT Pres.:

    Read the text of the fake interview call Walker gets. Note the over-the-top rhetoric of Murphy trying to bait Walker into saying something nasty. Walker politely redirects time and again: http://host.madison.com/wsj/article_531276b6-3f6a-11e0-b288-001cc4c002e0.html

    Walker received little to nothing from fire/police unions; “he is concerned that his budget bill may lead to walkouts by some public employees. He didn’t recommend changing the rules for cops and firefighters because he said Wisconsin can’t afford for them to leave those positions vacant for even a short period…’To me, that’s not an area to mess around with,’ Walker told the Journal Sentinel.” http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/noquarter/116139104.html

    It is about budgets: e.g., “…Kaukauna’s switch from WEA Trust to WCA Group Health Trust will be part of an overhaul that is projected to turn a $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. …Part of these savings hinge on higher deductibles for eligible members.” http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20110810/APC0101/108100488/Kaukauna-schools-change-insurance-carriers?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|APC-News

    Other good stuff re district ability to “shop” for benefits/participation “e.g., collective bargaining prohibited school districts from seeking insurance coverage from any company other than WEA Trust”: http://americasmrsright.blogspot.com/2011/08/good-stuff-happening-in-wisconsin.html

    Taxpayers are captives: Previously – A) PUBLIC-sector unions provide $$ to politicians (95% Dem), B) mandatory union dues are taken directly out of paychecks, which then fund union admin and political contributions (go back to A).

    GE is a crony capitalist in bed with government officials – not a free market business. “Fairness” is in the eye of the beholder. The top 1% of taxpayers pay 39% of all taxes (and taxing them their ENTIRE wealth would pay down a miniscule fraction of debt and leave nothing else).

    Randi’s assumptions include that there are “modest salaries in the private sector” and that the Union resolution to retirement is “modest wages and deferred compensation in terms of pensions.” Whereas in WI, “Teachers’ average salaries are increasing next year, from $56,500 to $59,500 in 2011-’12. When wages and benefits are combined, an average teacher will make $101,091 next year, said Budget Manager Deborah Wegner,” which is more than the average taxpayer.

    Randi complains that high-minded policies (from Fed/state regs) are hard to implement and to ensure they happen – IMHO that’s the relationship one engages in when taxpayer money is taken and redirected to Educators/Education department.

    Education spending has tripled since 1970s. Randi is troubled by looking at spending numbers, because there’s been a 50% increase in high-cost, special needs children. I have to question how that increase occurred – follow the money and the expansion of the definition and identification of those who have special needs (and Ritalin). She also says that the countries that “out-compete” us who spend less don’t have the pensions we have (umm…doesn’t help her case). She also says high school teachers have 150-200 kids/day (doesn’t jibe with my experience with 125/day – so it makes me wonder where that number comes from). I was curious what her arguments would be in this interview…