Michelle Rhee on Education Reform vs Teacher’s Unions


……The truth is that despite a handful of successful reforms, the state of American education is pitiful, and getting worse. Spending on schools has more than doubled in the last three decades, but the increased resources haven’t produced better results. The U.S. is currently 21st, 23rd, and 25th among 30 developed nations in science, reading, and math, respectively. The children in our schools today will be the first generation of Americans who will be less educated than the previous generation.

When you think about how things happen in our country—how laws get passed or policies are made—they happen through the exertion of influence. From the National Rifle Association to the pharmaceutical industry to the tobacco lobby, powerful interests put pressure on our elected officials and government institutions to sway or stop change.

Education is no different. We have textbook manufacturers, teachers’ unions, and even food vendors that work hard to dictate and determine policy. The public-employee unions in D.C., including the teachers’ union, spent huge sums of money to defeat Fenty. In fact, the new chapter president has said his No. 1 priority is job security for teachers, but there is no big organized interest group that defends and promotes the interests of children.

You can see the impact of this dynamic playing out every day. Policymakers, school-district administrators, and school boards who are beholden to special interests have created a bureaucracy that is focused on the adults instead of the students. Go to any public-school-board meeting in the country and you’ll rarely hear the words “children,” “students,” or “kids” uttered. Instead, the focus remains on what jobs, contracts, and departments are getting which cuts, additions, or changes. The rationale for the decisions mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children.

The teachers’ unions get the blame for much of this. Elected officials, parents, and administrators implore them to “embrace change” and “accept reform.” But I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.

What that means is that the reform community has to exert influence as well. That’s why I’ve decided to start StudentsFirst, a national movement to transform public education in our country. We need a new voice to change the balance of power in public education. Our mission is to defend and promote the interests of children so that America has the best education system in the world.

Teacher’s unions and the NEA in particular, are entrenched in a system of self-serving thuggery. They care more for power and influence than graduating students who can read, write, and become productive members of society.

Good luck, Michelle. You’ll need it.

2 thoughts on “Michelle Rhee on Education Reform vs Teacher’s Unions”

  1. I believe that your comments on teachers unions including the NEA are disingenuous. Michelle Rhee has developed her own special interest group that is meant to vilify the efforts of teachers inside and outside the union. The unions are only being asked that the teachers be treated like professionals and not being bullied, lied on, and demeaned by the media. The unions are saying that the teachers they represent ARE looking out for the needs of their students and want a spot at the table when discussing the next move in education reform. Michelle Rhee is not the answer to education.

    1. Martin,
      Your response proves Michelle’s point. Why do you think the educational system in this country has deteriorated to such a shameful level? The teacher’s unions couldn’t care less about the students. It’s a thuggish, self-serving organization that politicizes everything from pay to classroom instruction. I applaud people like Ms. Rhee and Governor Chris Christie for standing up to these slugs.
      Here’s a few examples that demonstrate the obscene arrogance and sense of entitlement on the part of the unions:

      Unionized New Jersey educators boast about how it’s virtually impossible to fire tenured teachers.

      The NYC teacher’s union turned down $700 million in federal funding for NY schools teachers because the extra money would have been paid based on performance.

      This is the kind of culture created by unions. Many of these teachers expect to remain in their position regardless of their incompetence and lack of success in producing literate, reasonably educated graduates. If there was ever proof that unions need to be outlawed, and more leeway given to school vouchers, this is it.

      The public government-run school system in our country is terrible. The unions have made it worse.

      SFC MAC

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