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Posted at 11:18 AM ET, 02/21/2011

The irony of Obama’s ‘help’ for Wisconsin teachers

By Valerie Strauss

For two years, President Obama has been pushing school reform that has demonized public school teachers. Now he has injected himself on the side of teachers into the confrontation in Wisconsin, where the new Republican governor is trying to pass emergency legislation that would drastically cut collective bargaining rights.

Obama’s support is ironic, given that teachers’ collective bargaining rights have already been undermined by his education reform policies.

Obama, a few days ago, threw his political machine onto the side of teachers who are helping to lead a protest movement in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to cut benefits and take away collective bargaining rights from labor. Madison public schools have been closed for several days because teachers called in sick, and the state Capitol building has been filled with protesters.

The public rationale for the assault on collective bargaining rights -- which is moving to other states as well -- is based on the premise that unions are at least partly responsible for the fiscal problems states find themselves in. My Post colleague Ezra Klein shows how untrue this is in this post: “Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don’t blame the unions. Not for this recession.”

The thing is that it has become all too easy to blame public school teachers. They and their unions have become the chief villain in the “what went wrong with public education” narrative under the Obama administration. It matters not that the problems in public education found in union states are identical to the problems found in non-union states (which you can read about here in a post that looks in depth at this).

In a number of ways, Obama’s education policies have gone a long way toward undermining the position of public school teachers and, separately, their unions.

The Obama administration, through its Race to the Top competition, dangled federal money to encourage the expansion of charter schools, which are largely non-union. It has provided verbal and cash support for teacher training programs that have as their distinguishing feature not the fact that they are anti-union (which they are) but that they believe a young person with little training is “highly qualified” to teach the neediest students.

And it has made standardized tests the main measurement of students, schools and, now, teachers. This obsession has bastardized the entire learning process, narrowing curriculum, fostering cheating scandals, harming real student achievement and putting teachers in a position of being blamed for things for which they are not responsible.

The administration has squeezed unions into accepting assessment schemes that link student standardized test scores to a varying but significant percentage of a teacher’s pay -- even though research shows that outside influences play at least as much a role in how a student does on a test as a teacher. Also ignored: Research showing the unreliability of systems that use scores to evaluate how much “value” a teacher has brought to a student.

What Obama’s policies have not done to any serious degree is provide support so that teachers are properly trained and developed, and so that teacher assessments fairly evaluate whether a teacher belongs in a classroom.

The popular perception of unions is that they have flat-out fought the administration at every turn. Not true. Local unions have in fact worked with management around the country to experiment with such “value-added” systems in an effort to cooperate with management and to avoid being seen as opposing modern reform.

Such cooperation was praised by Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a conference he convened in Denver to showcase cooperation between teachers unions and management in districts around the country.
Why anyone thinks it is a positive for local unions to cooperate on an assessment model shown to have serious flaws is a mystery to me.

If Obama can help teachers unions keep their collective bargaining rights from disappearing under Republican assault, good for him and them. That doesn’t eliminate the harm his policies have done already to teachers and their profession.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly said that the two main teachers unions did not invite President Obama to their 2010 conventions. Obama did not attend the conventions.

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 21, 2011; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Race to the Top, Standardized Tests, Teacher assessment, Teachers  | Tags:  collective bargaining, gov. scott walker, labor, labor movement, madison schools, madison schools closed, madison teachers, wisconsin, wisconsin governor, wisconsin protests, wisconsin teachers  
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Next: Ravitch: Why should teachers have unions?

Comments

Amen. He can show his support by getting rid of Arnie Duncan.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 21, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Great article!

Posted by: educationlover54 | February 21, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Thank you. Obama could do all educators a favor for once and show up in Madison and join the protesters for an hour. He owes us that....many of us worked so hard for his election. Obama is partly responsible for Walker winning in Wisconsin as well. Progressives are so demoralized and beaten down by Obama they feel betrayed by Democrats.

Posted by: WorkingT | February 21, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Indeed Obama's message to teachers has recently been filled with contradiction. His State of the Union stressed innovation and creativity, and yet his education reform all but squelches those out in public education. I wrote more on that here:

http://supportpubliceducation.blogspot.com/2011/01/state-of-union-under-attack.html

Posted by: SupportPublicEd | February 21, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the best weapon of the GOP now that Pelosi is gone

Posted by: Aldol | February 21, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the best weapon of the GOP now that Pelosi is gone

Posted by: Aldol | February 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the best weapon of the GOP now that Pelosi is gone

Posted by: Aldol | February 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the best weapon of the GOP now that Pelosi is gone

Posted by: Aldol | February 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Of course, our failing education system that Obama hopes to push up closer to #10 or #5 in the World was all created by Obama's policy alone in 2 years......RIGHT! At this point, experimentation is desirable. We can't continue to fail children the way this country does. The Republicans just defunded Headstart.......

Posted by: carolerae48 | February 21, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course, our failing education system that Obama hopes to push up closer to #10 or #5 in the World was all created by Obama's policy alone in 2 years......RIGHT! At this point, experimentation is desirable. We can't continue to fail children the way this country does. The Republicans just defunded Headstart.......Maybe you'll get lucky & they'll defund the horrible Obama plan! Lot of selfpity dripping from this column.

Posted by: carolerae48 | February 21, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to get his nose out of State's politics. What he's doing has nothing to do with our kids education and has everything to do with Union support for his re-election.
Bargaining rights are reasonably questionable, huge retirements and benefits on the backs taxpayers is highly questionable.
The free ride needs to end, pay into your healthcare and retirement like everyone else or find a new profession.
State governments are in the same predicament all over the country, how to fund public employees benefit packages.
For such a sad state of students our public schools produce it should make every taxpayer question footing the entire bill for teachers benefits.
They don't produce yet we are expected to keep shelling out the money like it's the answer to the problem.
Typical Democratic response to a problem "throw more money at it and it will be okay".

Posted by: jhnjdy | February 21, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Amen. He can show his support by getting rid of Arnie Duncan. (Oops, someone already said that!)

Posted by: MisterRog | February 21, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The Wisconsin teachers are standing up for kids. Walker is attacking education at all levels. He is getting huge concessions from middle class Americans. The Democrats are going to be the winners in Wisconsin by default. The state Democrats here are very brave. Nationally, the reaction has been tepid.

The media coverage has been absurdly trying to show a lot of Walker supporters.

What no one has mentioned is that unions may make donations or fundraise for candidates, but they don't usually get big turnouts at rallies.

Also, Saturday's crowd were Wisconsinites from all over the state. Not just teachers, but families of people showed up.

Day 1 3000
Day 2 10,000
Day 3 25,000
Day 4 45,000
Day 5 70,000 (and maybe 1000 Tea Party)
Day 6 5,000 (major snow/ice storm)
Day 7 ? (another major ice storm)

While some of the people show up everyday, many new people are protesting. It takes a lot to get someone out protesting. People will not forget this, no matter what the outcome is.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 21, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, my Day 6 figures were off. Only 500 protesters. As I said there was an ice storm.

I guess the other thing is, this state only has 5.2 million people. So if you have 100,000 protesting, that is quite a bit.

Many people here feel that Walker is not interested in helping Wisconsin, but is trying to get himself some sort of national standing with corporate interests, maybe Republicans.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 21, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

As an Ivy League graduate at both the undergrad and graduate level (Cornell and Harvard) who attended union-free public schools, I am aghast at the current state of America's K-12 public schools. Yes, there are many contributing factors responsible for this sorry state of affairs but teachers' unions which protect the incompetent and promote inefficiencies are key amongst these reasons.

Further, I would note that Walker is doing exactly what he was elected to do by a majority of voters -- no more, no less.

Fixing this country will require sacrifice by all and establishing accountability for all. This includes the fat cats who ruin their companies but personally profit handsomely and the financial "professionals" who prostitute themselves on Wall Street by being paid big bucks for taking bets with other peoples' monies.

But it also includes fixing the corrupt system by which many incompetent government workers, such as many teachers, are rewarded in spite of poor performance. The fact of the matter is that the provision of many services by government employees is done by monopolistic or semi-monopolistic organizations that lack real world private-sector-type accountability. Unionizing these organizations only further strengthens their power over taxpayers who must pay up with no choice to take their business elsewhere (you can take your kid out of public school but you still have to pay the school taxes).

Enough is enough. All this fighting about taking a bigger slice of the pie has resulted in a stagnant pie to the extent that we are now borrowing some of China's pie to satisfy our greedy appetites. You want a bigger slice? Then you must earn it by doing your part to create a bigger pie. This applies to all of us including public sector workers.

Posted by: independentincc | February 21, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Last Friday, I attended a conference hosted by the Education Writers Association and the Carnegie Corporation. As one panelist noted, right-to-work states have not outperformed those with strong unions. The issues confronting educators are larger than that.

President Obama's approach to public education is fueled, in part, by a system continually described as failing. While his and Duncan's strategy might be lacking, no one can ignore the need for improvement.

As a DCPS teacher, I am enduring the first of four announced furlough days. Spending decisions and other policy intrusions outside my immediate reach mean I will not be paid for today.

The protections unions provide are not the bogeyman here. We need to stop walking a strict line on either "side" and figure out how to improve instruction, motivate students, measure outcomes, involve parents, stimulate communities, and engage teachers who seem to get all the blame and none of the credit for the gains we have made and are making.

For my impressions on Friday's conference, you might want to read "That Man Behind the Curtain" at my teachermandc.com blog.

Posted by: dcproud1 | February 21, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

This link is worth a read ( a recent post by Diane Ravitch on the recent events in Wisconsin):

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/20/ravitch.teachers.blamed/index.html?hpt=C1

Posted by: teachermd | February 21, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Val, there is indeed tremendous irony in it but the nation's first African-American president's education policy is the most profoundly racist, anti-union and reactionary one ever suggested in the United States of America. It is a testament to how completely the oligarchs (Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Wal-Mart Family) have captured the Obama Administration and how far they have pushed us into the realm of absurdity in so far as our public schools.

America's public schools are admittedly failing the children of working people. But that is because the schools are woven into the fabric of a failing economy where teachers and children are accountable for rote test taking skills but bankers and oil companies destroy with impunity.

The economy of the United States is now fully devoted to the pursuit of corporate profits through war and no longer has the capacity to maintain a functioning public school system. Every state in the Union faces a deepening hole in their budgets. Unemployed people stop paying income taxes you see. Foreclosed upon people stop paying property taxes you see. Alchemists are all that's left on Wall Street and no real wealth is created in this country today so there's nothing to tax. Nothing of value is made in the United States anymore!

Nothing that is except weapons of war. War making is the only "healthy" sector of the US economy left, which is why were staying in Iraq, escalating in Afghanistan (no matter how many war crimes might be exposed by Wikileaks), and expanding the fight to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But an ability to deliver bombs from drone aircraft on people around the world will not rescue a broken economy.

The steadily accelerating destruction of public education in the United States is the result. Obama's men can rearrange the educational deck chairs on the Titanic anyway he pleases. The iceberg is still dead ahead. The Race to Oblivion is on!

Only resistance lies ahead for teachers. Today Wisconsin, tomorrow 50 Wisconsins.

In closing I would just like to say to independentincc that it strains credulity that this drivel is the product of an Ivy League education, "Enough is enough. All this fighting about taking a bigger slice of the pie has resulted in a stagnant pie to the extent that we are now borrowing some of China's pie to satisfy our greedy appetites. You want a bigger slice? Then you must earn it by doing your part to create a bigger pie. This applies to all of us including public sector workers."

What the hell is a "stagnant pie"? A unionized public school teacher wants to know.

Posted by: natturner | February 21, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

We need Brandenberg to Vet Arnie Duncan for Rhee Like BS. Then
He can show his support by getting rid of Arnie Duncan. (Oops, someone already said that!)

Posted by: mamoore1 | February 21, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Look - I strongly support the right of public employees to collective bargin but also totally support Obama's innovative race to the top and Duncan.
There is a big difference from allowing workers to bargin for wages and benefits and allowing failing workers to remain in place. No one can blame all our education problmes on teachers and I don't see that Obama or Dunkin are doing that. But saying that we have to be open to trying new innovative ways and getting rid of those who aren't doing a good job is what we have to do. It is not fair to the kids to do less. I'm a big supporter of unions but the fight to get rid of bad teachers and bad schools is a fight the unions should be leading themselves.

Posted by: SueB4 | February 21, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I still can't believe the brilliant Barack Obama came up with this incredibly dumb Race to the Top. (Surely he knows that education is a journey; not a race.) My guess is that his friend Arne came up with it while the Boss was busy with the economy and other things and Obama felt obliged to back it. Now that the President probably realizes he will lose the next election if he continues to alienate the labor base, he could begin to change things by (first) firing Arne Duncan and hiring someone with teaching experience.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | February 21, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the pie that independentincc mentions is not people wanting a bigger slice of it, it is that an unregulated Wall Street created too many non-existent slices that led to this financial mess in the first place. Receiving a living wage and the security of benefits should not be pie-in-the-sky!

Posted by: SupportPublicEd | February 21, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

To the ignorant teacher who doesn't understand the concept of an economic pie that is no longer growing (i.e., in real terms at a greater rate than population growth) but is, instead, stagnant: Well first of all, I appreciate that your attempt to insult (reference to my posting as "drivel") reflects your inability to engage intellectually. Pity that you are a teacher -- but you do provide an example of the problems we face in the K-12 educational system so I'm glad you chimed in here for all to see. Now as to my educational credentials which you have questioned, not only am I a product of a union-free public school system and Ivy League undergrad and graduate institutions, as mentioned before, but I also graduated Phi Beta Kappa (in this case, in the top 5% of my Ivy League class I might add). So that about sums it up, I'm a member of PBK, a society that recognizes academic performance of the highest order, and you are a member of a union known to protect the inept and poor performers at the expense of the single most important investment this country can make in its children -- their proper education.

Posted by: independentincc | February 21, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I teach in Missouri and I pay into my retirement like everyone else! I pay
13 1/2 of my pay and it will go up again next year. The one differnce between myself and private workers is that I will not be collecting Social Security when I retire. I would start another retirement account but my husband and I don't make enough to support three children and save extra money. So, am I a drain?

Posted by: jmcpartl | February 21, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Didn't he throw his own Nana under the bus?

Posted by: fregameeate | February 21, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

it's interesting to see how many of those who criticize you, Valerie, are not themselves teachers. It is also interesting how many refuse to look at data that contradicts their assertions about the Obama plans. To date there are NO peer-reviewed studies that support any of the 4 school-restructuring programs Duncan included in Race to the Top.

One more thing, language matters. As abusive as the programs were, the Bush education proposal said there would be No Child Left Behind. In a race, there are inevitably losers as well as winners. The very paradigm of a Race, to the Top (hah, a race to higher test scores is often a race to narrow education) or anywhere else, is the wrong metaphor for what our education should be.

But then, apparently this administration is not so smart about language. In the President's State of the Union, the repeated phrase was Win the Future. That is abbreviated as WTF. To my adolescent students, there is another meaning attached to that combination of letters. Perhaps that is an appropriate reaction to this administration's education policy?

Peace.

Posted by: teacherken | February 21, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Robert Reich has written a very poignant and insightful piece. Please connect to the link below:

http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/5003-the-republican-strategy

Reich leaves us to ponder the fact that the Republican agenda seems quite scary albeit clear and definable while we are left to wonder... just what are the democratic leadership strategies of recent? Having Obama suddenly claim to support the teacher's in Wisconsin seems a bit like a leader whose sail is without a rudder. His RTTT policy has been completely eroding teachers' ability to have bargaining rights so shouldn't he been "cheering on the Republican governor's unfortunate tactics to undermine unions? But... election season is coming up... so suddenly Obama is supporting teachers? Seems a bit disingenuous. The public school teachers of this nation as well as their unions will be voting in the next election. Perhaps Obama should open his "education policy" to those in the field who actually know what they are talking about! There is never a better time than now and those in the know like Diane Ravitch are ready to help.

Posted by: teachermd | February 21, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I really work the internet on issues of public education and have come to realize that Valerie Strauss is one of the few who really get it. I fear what might and could happen if we lose her connection. Godspeed to you Valerie Strauss.

Posted by: MiddleClassValues | February 21, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

independentincc,


You are so tall, that when I look up from the pavement, all I see is a well-titled arse hole. In my own ignorant, un-ivy league state, I guess I will continue to curse the bread and go without meat because I and others here will not be able to have an intellectual conversation with someone who glitters when he walks.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 21, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Teachers unions for more than a decade have fought common sense, reasonable reforms to the bitter end. And now, in places like WI, NJ, OH, MI & CA you're surprised that the bitter end is finally here?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 21, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Well young gifted and highly credentialed independentincc, your explanation of the economics of the "stagnant pie" was garbled, incoherent really. But I am heartened to know that at Harvard they taught you to recognize insult.

On one count I'm especially curious about you. You say you came out of a union free public school system. Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Their ranking on ACT/SAT scores:

South Carolina - 50th
North Carolina - 49th
Georgia - 48th
Texas - 47th
Virginia - 44th

Which of these five states did you come out of on your way to the Ivy League?

Posted by: natturner | February 21, 2011 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Too little, too late I think, for Obama. His teacher bashing attitude (i.e. Rhode Island firings, RTTT) and lame Ed. Sec. Duncan, have made this teacher look for greener pastures in the next election.
Great article, Valerie. My sentiments exactly.

Posted by: chicogal | February 22, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

God bless Valerie.

Posted by: taunar | February 22, 2011 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Is there a statistics person out there who can give blog readers some figures on what percentage of the vote was likely represented by union support of Obama in his historic election to the presidency? I suspect it is pretty high but would love actual numbers as I suspect this should be the wake-up call for him with his own first term nearing its end soon enough.

Posted by: teachermd | February 22, 2011 5:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm immediately suspicious of a column whose intellectual arguments are based on something from Ezra Klein. Ezra's never met a government program he didn't love, and he's always able to find some chart published by some left wing think tank to base his advocacy on.

I don't think anyone has said "unions" or "teacher's unions" caused the recession. That is a strawman. The problem is that there is NO MONEY to pay for union benefits. States are facing bankruptcy. Heck, the United States is facing bankruptcy.

And some of the benefits, when examined under the scrutiny that comes with budget crises look excessive when compared to comparable benefits in other employmnet sectors. AND, there does seem to be a built in conflict of interest when unions contribute campaign money to politicians who then oversee the terms of the union contracts. Just sayin'.

Now you can write literally reams and reams of copy discussing and examining peripheral issues and why teachers shouldn't be "scapegoated," or "cut," or whatever. But until union proponents counter and/or deal with the fundamental facts; i.e., those laid out above, they are going to continue to lose the arguments, and they are going to see union influence reined in, curtailed, or in some cases eliminated for federal, state, and local employees.

One other thing: this discussion about unions is much like the one about illegal immigration. While most of the public focuses on ILLEGAL immigration, the press treats the subject as if it is about ALL immigration, legal or otherwise. The current dustup about union representation is only about unions representing public sector employees. Nothing has been said or proposed about private sector unions.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | February 22, 2011 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Obama's appointment of an totally unqualified Arne Duncan after first flirting with the idea of appointing Michelle Rhee as U.S. Secretary of Education did it for me. Who on earth is Obama listening to?

When a candidate, Obama spoke about expanding unions as safe guards to promoting and creating a middle class but, one elected, he demonized unions, especially teachers' unions. What a huge disappointment. I have lost all respect for the Obama Administration and know that the is not the change I voted for.

Posted by: lacy41 | February 22, 2011 6:08 AM | Report abuse

Why is pointing out the fact that education funding policies are unsustainable "demonizing teachers"?

Why is suggesting that teachers shouldn't be getting 5% raises during the worst economic downturn in sixty years "demonization"?

Why is supporting school choice and charter schools "demonizing teachers"?

Why are you such a hater?

Posted by: asdf2 | February 22, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

(Part 1)

The model of "reform" adopted by Obama is not so different from NCLB. As other point out, there is simply no good research evidence to support the essentials of Race to the Top, and quite a bit that flat-out contradicts them. We generally know what doesn't work well in education (and we generally know what does), and NCLB and RTTT are prime examples of the former.

One of the most serious problems facing public school educators is that they keep getting fed a steady diet of what doesn't work along with more requirements and pressure to make it work. If it weren't so egregiously illogical and harmful, it'd be funny.

Too many "reformers" employ the top-down, business-model approach. Think Michelle Rhee. It is authoritarian, it is prescriptive, and because it's based on misinformation, distortions and lies, if offers the very worst remedy. Indeed, there are those who employ it to direct attention away from the real reasons for economic dislocation and failure, income stratification, and poverty. You hear them site the buzzwords of "accountability" and "competitiveness."

What’s missing is the acknowledgement that education in a democratic society has a special place and purpose. Aristotle grasped this more than two thousand years ago in arguing for a system of public education in Athens, saying that "education should be one and the same for all...public, and not private." 

Aristotle perceived the importance of public schooling to democratic citizenship, noting that "each government has a peculiar character...the character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarch creates oligarchy, and always the better the character, the better the government."

The current education “reform” agenda is dominated by those who favor an “oligarchic” approach when a more democratic approach offers better learning opportunities and outcomes. It really is a no-brainer...

Posted by: DrDemocracy | February 22, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

(Part 2)

In America after the Revolution early state constitutions, like those of Massachusetts (1780) and New Hampshire (1784) set up and stressed the importance of a system of public education. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided for public school financing in new territories. In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson sought a publicly-funded system of schools, believing that an educated citizenry was critical to the well-being of a democratic society. In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1794), Jefferson wrote “The influence over government must be shared among all men.”

There’ve long been squabbles over how best to educate the “democratic citizen,” one who understood and was committed to the core values and principles of democratic governance; one who was embued with the “character of democracy.” And, over time, there are indeed certain people and groups and special interests who’ve felt threatened by education for “the masses.” After all, knowledge can be power.

The current reform mania, focused on content and testing is characteristic of what’s called the “citizenship transmission,” or “tell-‘em-and-test-‘em” model. It assumes, incorrectly, that public education is in “crisis” and that teachers and schools are the most critical elements in “achievement.” It promotes the private (charters, vouchers) over the public.

And like the conservative ideology from which it originated, it has a very long track record of failure.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | February 22, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

The situation in Wisconsin falls squarely on the shoulders of Wisconsin voters. They voted against their own best interests when they put Republicans in office. President Obama's increased funding for education and his challenges to the status quo in the last 2 years have not been in conflict with his belief in collective bargaining. Perhaps the author needs to learn the facts about what COLLECTIVE bargaining constitutes.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | February 22, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

independentincc wrote:

"As an Ivy League graduate at both the undergrad and graduate level (Cornell and Harvard) who attended union-free public schools, I am aghast at the current state of America's K-12 public schools. Yes, there are many contributing factors responsible for this sorry state of affairs but teachers' unions which protect the incompetent and promote inefficiencies are key amongst these reasons.

"... Pity that you are a teacher -- but you do provide an example of the problems we face in the K-12 educational system so I'm glad you chimed in here for all to see. Now as to my educational credentials which you have questioned, not only am I a product of a union-free public school system and Ivy League undergrad and graduate institutions, as mentioned before, but I also graduated Phi Beta Kappa (in this case, in the top 5% of my Ivy League class I might add). So that about sums it up, I'm a member of PBK, a society that recognizes academic performance of the highest order, and you are a member of a union known to protect the inept and poor performers at the expense of the single most important investment this country can make in its children -- their proper education."

---------------

Like you, former Chancellor Michelle Rhee's curriculum vitae also include her having attended Cornell (B.S. Government) and Harvard (Master of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government). You also seem to share Ms. Rhee's view that the paramount reasons for the failure of public schools are bad teachers and the unions that protect them at the expense of children.

Most would agree that the wisdom and dedication of well-educated and benevolent adults who care deeply about the growth and success of our children is a critical element to any school environment. But there is certainly less agreement about who these people are.

There certainly are bad educators, but they are not a prevalent as suggested, they are not unique to public schools, and they are not the primary reason that our schools are failing.

Michelle Rhee also states that all children, no matter what challenges they face at home, in their neighborhood, any other environmental conditions outside the school, can achieve at the highest levels. The examples of a handful of exceptional children who manage to overcome such long odds do not change the aggregate affects of poverty. The correlation between poverty and other socioeconomic factors on the achievement to children is by far the most predictive factor of student achievement. Therefore, the most basic evidence strongly argues that Rhee’s core philosophy of education reform is bankrupt.

------------ continued next post -------------

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 22, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

------------ continued from previous post -------------

A good school administrator or teacher needs to be much more than smart or have an impressive résumé. Educators are leaders who inspire others through their personal conduct, which encourages respectful and honest relationships with both peers and students alike. But, even that is not enough, as without an understanding of the pedagogy appropriate to the specific needs of the children in their charge the teacher will fail. The same superstar teacher in one classroom setting may also be a completely ineffective teacher in another classroom where conditions are beyond their control.

Finally, back to Rhee’s résumé, there are many other boastful elements that are not based on verifiable fact or data. Furthermore, she has manipulated data and the media with equal disregard for the truth; while she dismisses her critics as failed educators whose sole purpose is to protect their non-productive high-paid jobs. Contrary to her claims of being a selfless crusader for children, Michelle Rhee’s need for personal validation, celebrity and power seems to be more important.

Having the opportunity to pursue education at prestigious institutions is no excuse for the elitism and arrogance Rhee has consistently displayed towards many dedicated people who possess far more expertise and insight. Michelle Rhee is the Sarah Palin of education and the Ivy League.

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 22, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Nearly everybody here seems to be missing the point. The situation in Wisconsin is not about teachers' salaries or even about levels of funding for public education. It is about free benefits. All of you government employees out there, you need to get real. Hardly anybody else gets a free pension and free health care. Its the free benefits, large number of paid leave days, etc., not the salaries, that put the average cost of a government employee so far above that of a private sector employee. Its time for you folks to join the mainstream and share the pain.

Posted by: WODRR | February 22, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

DrDemocracy Wrote:

"We generally know what doesn't work well in education (and we generally know what does)..."

Okay, I'll bite.
What does work well in education? (Public education especially.)

Posted by: AJJJ | February 22, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

WODRR,

You've missed the point in the article and with updated news. The unionized groups have already conceded that they need to pay into pensions and health care. What's the point now?

Posted by: DHume1 | February 22, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Most private sector employees are startled to find out how much their employer contributes to their benefits. Usually they don't find out the real cost, until they need to buy their own Cobra coverage.

Also, take a look at the Wisconsin teacher salary database. Short of some outliers, the fifty or so salaries+benefit packages I checked are drastically lower than what one might earn in the private sector.

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/99999999/APC0110/80221166/DataMine-Search-Wisconsin-teacher-salaries

Getting back on subject, Race to the bottom is a disaster. I'm glad Obama stepped up on this... but if he really wants to make a difference, the removal of the vast majority of standardized tests would be a good start. Its absolute foolishness.

Posted by: ronamundson | February 22, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Val,

Is it really necessary to use, in my view, inflaming words like "assault", "fought", "undermine", "basterdized", "squeezed", ... in your article?
What kind of lesson does that teach our kids, that people who disagree with us (or cut our pay) are "assaulting" us?
If any anger should be allowed, it should be on kids' EDUCATING only.

Posted by: AJJJ | February 22, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

WODRR, you seem to miss the point. State employees have accepted the changes to the benefits package. They are protesting the changes to the collective bargaining rules.

From NYT reporting,
Mr. Walker’s plan would require government workers to put 5.8 percent of their pay into their pensions (most pay less than 1 percent now), and would require them to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now). Union leaders said they would go along with those plans, but they wanted to remove provisions that would prohibit collective bargaining for issues beyond wages, limit pay raises to a certain level without special approval by public referendum and require unions to hold annual votes on whether they should remain in existence.

“We have been clear — and I will restate this again today — money issues are off the table,” Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said on Sunday. “Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker’s pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/us/21wisconsin.html?_r=1&hpw

Posted by: limnetic792 | February 22, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Ahhh elitism, what a wonderful tool to try to bring into an debate. Schools have been working to establish curriculum and maintain a level of expectations. Societal distractions and parenting or lack thereof also figure into the formula of a child's education. Please do not take your ivy league credentials and hang your hat on them. There are many ivy leaguers who got us in the financial mess we are in now.

Posted by: benathornton1 | February 22, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Here is a lengthy comparison of public sector workers to private sector.

http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary

Posted by: limnetic792 | February 22, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

We are not looking out for the PEOPLE, we are open for Big Business! We, ALL Americans, should be ashamed that one out of five children live in poverty. Among the 21 most affluent nations, the United States has the highest percentage of poor children.
We do need to improve our schools. So ask yourself how would you do this? How do you get the best and the brightest into that profession? How is that profession trained? How do you motivate that profession?
I was a Wisconsin teacher who did not negotiate my benefits or my salary collectively as the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer) was enforced. The school district offered 3.8% increase and that was it. If your benefits increased more than 3.8% you paid more. Your salary hardly ever increased.
I came from the business world where I had a budget. There was not classroom budget unless you consider the money out of your own pocket your budget! The best professional development I received was Reading Recovery and Math Recovery far superior to my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I was responsible for 23-29 children with no secretary or other help. In order to make a difference you had to know where ALL students reading levels where at, there writing abilities, spelling competence, level of math concept, science competences, and social studies concepts. This all achieved with one person. Needless to say I no longer am a teacher.

Posted by: cgrandt | February 22, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The "Artist Formerly Known as Obama" once again attempts to change horses mid-stream without even dampening his toes. This we are told is part of the "Shared Sacrifice" Tour that will "win the future."
Encores are assured.

Posted by: dplainview | February 22, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Let me make this clear for all you teachers and other public workers out there: It's all about accountability or, more accurately, a lack thereof. Accountability is a simple concept. It means you get rewarded for performing or rewarded less or bounced out if you don't measure up. Competition demands and promotes accountability and proper accountability is consistent with equitable reward systems. But whether it's public school system unions that protect the incompetent and lazy, or corporate boards which fail to oversee management properly, or regulators who get cozy with those whom they regulate, a fundamental problem facing our society is a chronic and substantial lack of accountability. We have, in large measure, become a corrupt society composed of individuals (and their unions) who are accustomed to demanding more and producing less in return. This corrosive problem is clearly evident in the public sector which is inherently immune from the benefits of competition but is especially pernicious in the public school system where the consequences of such behaviors have long-term damaging effects upon our nation's youth and the economic health of our country.

Posted by: independentincc | February 22, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The state of education together is a sad when those that are not 'in the fire' continue to attempt to extinguish the blaze. Many reasons but significant is the lack of conversations with practicing TOP educators. An educator with several degrees and over 20 years, I have learned some things. Nobody is listening! Also, it continues to be frustrating to read comments from 'outsiders' that went to school once and fail to understand the dynamics of educating children (as well as having to deal with those folk that make 'all' the decisions for education; which are not educators!

Schools are manipulated by every power source. There is research that suggests some criteria that needs to be adhered to for best results as well as some programs that yeild higher achievement. Leadership is one of the keys. However, much leadership doesn't work to lead or motivate; it dominates. The culture and climate of school is, therefore, negatively impacted.

So where does that fit with 'just throw more money at it'?

Posted by: dharrisivery | February 22, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

independentincc,

That hole is getting bigger and bigger every time I look up. I'm afraid that a load of something might just fall on my head. Perhaps if we had a calm summer night . . .

Posted by: DHume1 | February 22, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

independentincc said: "Let me make this clear for all you teachers and other public workers out there: It's all about accountability or, more accurately, a lack thereof. Accountability is a simple concept. It means you get rewarded for performing or rewarded less or bounced out if you don't measure up. Competition demands and promotes accountability and proper accountability is consistent with equitable reward systems."

I'm guessing that by your phrasing "all *you* teachers and other public workers out there" (emphasis added) that you are safely out of the fray - congrats! So safely out of the fray (and apparently not a close acquaintance of any teachers, or a regular reader of this column, for that matter) that you think that teachers (among others) don't understand accountability? Oh dear.

Let me personally invite you to bring your Ivy League wisdom and insight into my classroom in a not-too-terrible urban public school and see how well you compete and produce. It's all terribly simple and straightforward, right?

What? You need basic school supplies? Parent contact info and administrative support to address chronic behavior issues? More time in your day to plan, grade, generate data and write up another Donors Choose proposal for that material that you're told simply isn't in the budget? More guidance and resources and time to discover how to teach, reach and understand 151 flavors of troubled, unmotivated, defiant, disrespectful and underserved kids? You thought you'd get some sort of level playing field in this "competition"?

So needy and entitled.

Posted by: BmoreBio | February 22, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The state of education does appear to be sad; those that are not 'in the fire' continue to attempt to extinguish the blaze. There are many reasons but significant is the lack of conversations with practicing TOP educators. An educator with several degrees and over 20 years, I have learned some things. Nobody is listening!

It, also, continues to be frustrating to read comments from 'outsiders' that went to school once and fail to understand the dynamics of educating children (as well as having to deal with those folk that make 'all' the decisions for education; which are not educators).

Schools are manipulated by every power source. There is research that suggests some criteria that needs to be adhered to for best results as well as some programs that yield higher achievement. Leadership is one of the keys. However, much leadership doesn't work to lead or motivate; it dominates. There are also many good ideas and they don't always originate at the top. All of these practitioners are educated and should have a partnership for making decisions to best educate students. When it is not, the culture and climate of school is negatively impacted.

This is just one aspect of the dilemma that schools (staff) face in education.

So where does that fit with 'just throw more money at it'?

Posted by: dharrisivery | February 22, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

In the private sector bosses who demand results, especially those bosses who themselves have a strong record of solid achievement, don't want to hear excuses for non-performance from underlings. So to all you public school teachers who have a million reasons (exogenous factors, of course) to explain away your failures, I say don't tell me about all the storms, just get the ship safely into port or else you'll be demoted from Captain to deck hand. For Pete's sake, you are supposed to be professionals, notwithstanding your union memberships, so start acting the part.

Posted by: independentincc | February 22, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

In the bad old days, parents were more or less in charge of neighborhood schools, and children learned enough to be productive in society. Now we have the 'educational establishment' in charge of schools and everyone agrees they are NOT performing their function.

Unions have been a big part of this debacle. They have focused on their own welfare rather than that of the students. If the teachers' unions want any credibility, FIRST educate our children, THEN you can talk about your rights.

Posted by: AlibiFarmer | February 22, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Why do we blame EVERYTHING on President Obama? Why are we making him the savior of the world??? He didn't recreate this mess but many want him to whip out his "magic wand" and save the day. It is the OTHER elected members in YOUR state who is creating this mess. Ask your state members to do their job before you move on to the President.
I live in Texas and we are about to lose almost 4,000 teachers and staff in our district along. I don't blame Obama for this! I blame those who thought Rick Perry was going to do the right thing. He stated when running that he would not raise taxes nor take any government money. That is a recipe for job losses. IT is our fault for letting him back in office. American people take the blame for believing in the republican party. They don't know what they are doing. Get them ALL out.

Posted by: karen0454 | February 22, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama is using the unions for his own re-election.

Posted by: farmsnorton | February 22, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Great comment dharrisivery @ 1:36 PM.

independentincc writes:

"Let me make this clear for all you teachers and other public workers out there: It's all about accountability or, more accurately, a lack thereof. Accountability is a simple concept..."

-------------

Accountability may be simple conceptually, but complexities arise when we seek to accurately define complex systems, and THESE ARE complex systems.

Even with competent professionals designing standards and evaluation tools, still others must trusted to fairly implement any system of accountability. For instance, there are school districts such as Montgomery County, where the qualitative measurements of performance for teachers and administrators is generally trusted, but still the system is under constant review by committees that include representatives from unions. MC School’s Superintendant Dr. Jerry Weast is greatly respected by the community, and he has led by example.

However, when we have inexperienced and politically motivated school leaders such as Michelle Rhee in charge, the validity of some evaluation systems such as IMPACT becomes are real problem. The people who are setting the standards and many of those who evaluate educators are not qualified; and there is far too little constructive and collaborative efforts to include teachers and administrators in the process.

With an angry and fear driven electorate, our political leaders (which includes School’s Chancellors and Superintendants) have often abdicated their responsibility to make school leaders accountable in a meaningful way. Instead of informing the public, they feed people scapegoats like teachers and their unions because the real problems are very expensive and politically difficult to solve.

And this leads to comments like yours, “So to all you public school teachers who have a million reasons (exogenous factors, of course) to explain away your failures, I say don't tell me about all the storms, just get the ship safely into port or else you'll be demoted from Captain to deck hand.” Wow; that certainly shows an understanding of how to fix our schools. You don’t have the slightest idea what it would take, and you point your finger at entire class of people who almost certainly care more about their children’s success than you do.

So … let me make this clear to all you elitist and patronizing Ivy Leaguers out there: it’s about accountability. And this begins with a civic responsibility to become informed before you start throwing stones. It is not in the public service to make cheap and sweeping generalizations that fail to grasp some pretty basic facts that might lead a more curious person to some semblance of truth, which must be the prerequisite for determining accountability.

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 22, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

And, to all Cornellians … I know that the preponderance of you are great people, as I served many of you a ‘PMP’ or a ‘Triple Sui’ from Johnny’s Hot Truck on cold and rainy evenings when the sun came up before the paper was done or the party was over.

We should not forget that Cornell has been a major force promoting positive changes in our culture, including recognition of organized labor movements and social justice.

"I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." Ezra Cornell

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 22, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Message to Obama: Dump Arne Duncan!

Posted by: lacy41 | February 22, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Unions or no unions, collective bargaining or not, recession or no recession, states still would be facing budget problems because of unsustainable obligations to public employees - especially in education. Revenues will never keep up with policies that have low (or no) employee health insurance costs and low (or no) employee pension costs.

Posted by: jjtwo | February 22, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Since some of you really appreciate my observations regarding the largely unfavorable impact unions have had upon our nations K-12 school system, I thought I'd add one more observation related to the commentary here regarding the politics of the evil of public school unionism (and by extension the inequitable promotion of the interests of any specific sub-group to the detriment of society as a whole).

I think most neutral observers would recognize that it has traditionally been the Democrats who have promoted this unionism and favoritism just as they have supported those who prostitute themselves on Wall St. and ambulance-chasing trial lawyers. And this support has been provided for the basest of reasons -- for the quid pro quo of campaign contributions and votes.

But fundamentals always trump the special deals and the short-term gains for the few garnered at the expense of long-term prosperity for a society as a whole. That is what is happening to us now as a country. The people understand the truth and they have had it with politicos who continue to play the same old games. This is what has the Democrats running scared now. And some of them realize that having spent their lives buying votes and campaign contributions in return for redistributing wealth that they are ill-equipped to lead the nation in the creation of wealth.

To those of you who've spent your lives in a fantasy world believing that you are entitled to the fruits of the labor of others for little in return, these days of reckoning are indeed frightening. For those of us who believe in individualism and in the natural right of reaping what we individually sow (while still providing for those truly unable to provide sufficiently for themselves), these days of reckoning are a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: independentincc | February 22, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Impressive display of adult first approach. As a democrat that is hyper concerned and involved in education issues, this article shocks me to the core.

The blatant ignorance of what it takes to build performance organizations is astounding. Obama and Duncan are creating an atmosphere in education that attracts adults interested in creating measurable value for kids.

Kids don't care about collective bargaining. Teachers union's have avoided taking responsibility for student achievement for decades. They continue to fight basic management techniques taught in management 101.

US is now 25th...down from 2nd globally in k-12...you can argue the exact numbers, but the trend is tragic. They refuse to be measured and held accountable. Instead they focus almost exclusively on distracting issues such as:
- seniority over competency
- shortening work hours
- fighting ALL performance terminations
- class size (an issue but not central)
- collective bargaining
- getting more funding (already very high in per capita...NOT the issue)...note Headstart could use more funding

IN SHORT, this isn't about protecting new deal ideals, it's about getting tangible RESULTS for kids. Quit making excuses and embrace the avalanche of evidence on how to get better results!!!!!!

Posted by: resultsmatter | February 22, 2011 10:25 PM | Report abuse

PS: I'm an ivy leaguer (Harvard). While a democrat, I firmly believe that we're being fiscally irresponsible and need to make tough choices. So PLEASE stop bashing ivy league grads! We do not all live in ivory towers...more importantly stereotyping us has the effect of decreasing the perceived value of a good education.

Posted by: resultsmatter | February 22, 2011 10:34 PM | Report abuse

resultsmatter;

I never said all of us live in ivory towers, but when we read posts that are largely uniformed except for the details of about how well-educated and high-achieving the poster is, and that somehow this gives them insight ... it is an embarrassment to others that believe that our true value is not a birthright or conferred by degree.

The eight years of G.W. Bush was a fiscal disaster, and the economy is simply not breaking because of labor unions. The fact that so many political leaders made conscious policy decisions to underfund the pension obligations during times of prosperity is only part of the problem.

Do you know that DCPS or their teachers don't pay into the social security system? These pensions are the often the only they have, so the deals that politicians make to fund a pet project here in DC or elsewhere often transfer monies that were originally designated to public employees without any accountability to the future implications. And, when people like the governor of Wisconsin restructure the tax code to create a deficit, and then claim that the state is bankrupt, while the two largest union pension funds (police and fire) that supported his candidacy remain safe ... well you figure that out.

Personally, I am a Rockefeller Republican, which means that I am a fiscal conservative. And I too am an Ivy League graduate, but have never felt that alone or in larger part qualified me to discuss the assault on unions in this country.

Given the demonstrated irresponsible, dishonest, and yes, unaccountable behavior of of many business and political leaders, it is hard to comprehend how collective bargaining would not be essential to certain industries where people make career choices based on promises made that will have devastating consequences to their families lives when a leaders blow it! They have no other protection

And unions, and good leaders do make concessions, as they are in this together. When the GM CEO Richard Wagoner and the BoD were fired by a Democratic President, do you think they suffered? They were totally insulated, like most big business leaders from the consequences of their complete utter failure to protect the business including the workers who executed their plan. Now, just two years later, we are seeing the benefits of a government takeover of what was the second largest automaker in the world, and I believe now the largest once again. So, as we return GM to the private sector, do you want to bet your future on the unregulated capitalist systems of multi-national corporations such as BP and Wall Street?

We have an elite class that actually benefits from unemployment and depression. Would you like to defend that, or do you think perhaps countries such as Germany that have strong manufacturing bases and unions that represent machinists and teachers alike are fiscally irresponsible fools? They have seen fascism up-close and personal, and that has informed their approach.

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 23, 2011 12:05 AM | Report abuse

resultsmatter;

I never said all of us live in ivory towers, but when we read posts that are largely uniformed except for the details of about how well-educated and high-achieving the poster is, and that somehow this gives them insight ... it is an embarrassment to others that believe that our true value is not a birthright or conferred by degree.

The eight years of G.W. Bush was a fiscal disaster, and the economy is simply not breaking because of labor unions. The fact that so many political leaders made conscious policy decisions to underfund the pension obligations during times of prosperity is only part of the problem.

Do you know that DCPS or their teachers don't pay into the social security system? These pensions are often the only retirement fund they have, so the deals that politicians make to fund a pet project here in DC often transfer monies that were originally designated towards public pensions without any accountability. And, when people like the governor of Wisconsin restructure the tax code to create a deficit, and then claim that the state is bankrupt, while the two largest union pension funds (police and fire) that supported his candidacy remain safe ... well you figure that out.

Personally, I am a Rockefeller Republican (a democrat today) which means that I am a fiscal conservative. And I too am an Ivy League graduate, but have never felt this itself qualified me to discuss the assault on unions in this country.

Given the demonstrated irresponsible, dishonest, and yes, unaccountable behavior of of many business and political leaders, it is hard to comprehend how collective bargaining would not be essential to certain industries where people make career choices based on promises made that will have devastating consequences to their families lives when our leaders blow it! Public employees are vulnerable too.

And unions, and good leaders do make concessions, as they are in this together. When the GM CEO Richard Wagoner and the BoD were fired by a Democratic President, do you think they suffered? They were totally insulated, like most big business leaders, from the consequences of their absolute failure to protect the business including the workers who executed their plan. Now, just two years later, we are seeing the benefits of a government takeover of what was the second largest automaker in the world, and I believe now the largest once again. So, as we return GM to the private sector, do you want to bet your future on the unregulated capitalist systems of multi-national corporations such as BP and Wall Street?

We have an elite class that actually benefits from unemployment and depression. Would you like to defend that? Do you think that perhaps countries such as Germany that have strong manufacturing bases and unions that represent machinists and teachers alike are fiscally irresponsible fools? They have seen fascism up-close and personal, and that has informed their economic planning.

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 23, 2011 12:53 AM | Report abuse

That sound you hear is thousands of educators throughout the country blowing you kisses. Thank you.

Posted by: judithjj | February 23, 2011 1:14 AM | Report abuse

That sound you hear is thousands of educators throughout the country blowing you kisses. Thank you.

Posted by: judithjj | February 23, 2011 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Getting back to the article's main point re: Obama, count me out for 2012. Honestly, I may have to vote for him if the alternative is some tea-party Bible-thumper, but I couldn't honestly go door-to-door for Obama, couldn't send or raise money. Not just on education, but especially on education, he and Duncan have offered a steady stream of disappointments. If his nomination is challenged from within the party, I'd consider the challenger, despite any conventional wisdom on that scenario.

Posted by: DavidBCohen | February 23, 2011 3:11 AM | Report abuse

Just a few clean-up items for some of you.

First of all, I would point out that ad hominem attacks are the tactics of the intellectually effete and belie any pretense of professionalism the perpetrators of such acts may feign.

Secondly, my disclosures regarding my academic credentials were not meant to intimidate. Rather, I was noting that I was well served by my public school experience (albeit in a union-free public school system) and that this preparation was the foundation for further success in two of our nation's outstanding universities. The larger point was that although I was well prepared by my public school experience, I am now quite concerned about the quality of our public schools. Finally, I also thought that you should know that not all Ivy League grads are ultra-liberal-thinking automatons in general and specifically in regards to the matter of public school unionization.

With respect to the charges of elitism, I would respond that you've got this whole thing ass backwards. Accomplishments, such as academic success, and the benefits derived therefrom that result from hard work do not represent elitism, they represent just deserts. Success and benefits which are derived from hard work are the antithesis of elitism. However, the preferential treatment of a particular group of individuals such as that demanded by public school teachers' unions notwithstanding the abject failure of the group to perform is both elitist and reprehensible. In any event, as someone who has worked very hard to achieve success, I strenuously object to organizations whose overriding purposes have been to protect mediocre performance and to obtain compensation and other benefits for their members in spite of and inconsistent with overall very poor results.

Posted by: independentincc | February 23, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

independentincc,

I see you wear the coat of a used car salesman.

Look through your posts again. How many errors in logic can you point out? With my magic eye I see a hypocrite emerging from the swamp. I will highlight a few of them for you and we all can play name that logical fallacy:

1. "Further, I would note that Walker is doing exactly what he was elected to do by a majority of voters -- no more, no less."
2. "But it also includes fixing the corrupt system by which many incompetent government workers, such as many teachers, are rewarded in spite of poor performance."
3. "The fact of the matter is that the provision of many services by government employees is done by monopolistic or semi-monopolistic organizations that lack real world private-sector-type accountability."
4. "To the ignorant teacher who doesn't understand the concept of an economic pie that is no longer growing (i.e., in real terms at a greater rate than population growth) but is, instead, stagnant: Well first of all, I appreciate that your attempt to insult (reference to my posting as "drivel") reflects your inability to engage intellectually."
5. "Pity that you are a teacher -- but you do provide an example of the problems we face in the K-12 educational system so I'm glad you chimed in here for all to see."

I think five with suffice for now. independentincc, you can play, too. Perhaps you'll win back some ethos from "we people on the pavement."

Posted by: DHume1 | February 23, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, you have brilliantly stated the truth--a story which seems to thus far been "missing" from the New York papers.
For years we highly educated professionals in urban public education (I have a doctorate and teach in the Bronx) were given a promise of benefits and advantages connected to persevering through poor classroom conditions, behavioral nightmares, a lack of resources (no textbooks for years...), lack of parental support and a string of indifferent Chancellors. Yet with the advent of "mini schools" and Charter Schools, we were rendered superfluous by a system which--by sponsoring the dismantling of our large high schools has given each newly hatched principal good financial reasons to avoid veteran educators: we cost them too much, compared to a starting teacher, so we are passed over as being a "hole in their budget". NYC is experiencing a rapid exodus of the veteran teachers to early retirement, many being subjected to harrassment by the "new" administrators.
This can in part be traced to the corporate policies toward education embraced by the Republicans for years(we've been under assault through both the Bloomberg and Giuliani mayoralties, as well as during the Bush presidency)--but, much to my distress, by the Obama Administration as well. We public educators have been made pariahs by this political betrayal. Instead of recognizing the extraordinary work we have always done as public servants, we are the last people anybody seems to consult for positive growth through educational initiatives. I am rendered obsolete with my nearly 25 years of experience with a system which now labels student learning as "product". They have made NY City Public Schools into the equivalent of sweat shops.

Posted by: Viaposterla23 | February 23, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Viaposterla23:

Very elegantly stated.
Thank you.

Posted by: AGAAIA | February 23, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

A good strong dose of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. might do you good independentincc. Put your ear to the monitor.

"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that's not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.

I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.

We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. ... And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity."

I've tried every day for 28 years in an inner-city classroom to be teacher with a drum major instinct. Give it a try.

Posted by: natturner | February 23, 2011 8:49 PM | Report abuse

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