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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Defend the status quo or go kid-centric?

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Teachers’ unions should adopt a kid-centric policy in response to the Janus decision, writes Paul Reville in Ed Week. Leaders will need to project a future vision for the work of the union.”

One vision could be rear-guard: combative, defensive, and reactionary. Organize to resist the forces that have brought the nation Janus, President Donald Trump, and all manner of assaults on unionism. A corollary of this approach, one already much in evidence in some unions, would be to resist any attempts at education reform, to call for a rollback of standards and accountability, to push potential allies like business and philanthropy out of the sector, to quash any form of competition, and to demand more money while insisting on getting sole authority to run the sector in whatever way unions see fit.

This would be a “disaster,” writes Reville. Instead, union leaders should reopen the “opportunity to learn” debate, mounting a “children’s campaign” for access to “health, mental health, and dental care, stable housing, safe neighborhoods and various other essentials for well-being.”

What if unions campaigned for all children, irrespective of wealth, to have access to early-childhood education, after-school and summer learning, athletics, the arts, tutoring, access to tools of technology, internships—in short, all the enrichment opportunities that those of us who have privilege routinely provide for our children?

“Presenting a solution-oriented, constructive vision for education would be far better for teachers than mounting a negative, reactionary campaign,” Reville argues. A professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he directs its Education Redesign Lab, and is a former Massachusetts secretary of education.

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