Posts Tagged ‘charter schools’
September 20th, 2012 at 12:46 pm
The Party of the Teachers Unions
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Now that the Chicago teachers’ strike has come to an end (a mostly unsatisfactory one, as chronicled by my colleague at the Manhattan Institute’s Public Sector Inc., Paul Kersey), the issue will likely fall out of national consciousness by week’s end. But there is one fact from this struggle that will remain with me for the foreseeable future. It was buried deep in the recesses of the Wall Street Journal‘s interview from last weekend with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and it’s an extremely telling statistic about the party that considers itself the vanguard of civil rights:

We’re seven weeks from a presidential election in which Barack Obama needs all the cash and foot soldiers that organized labor can provide. His Super PAC’s chief fundraiser is none other than Rahm Emanuel. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s chief funders remain teachers unions, groups that also accounted for an estimated 20% of delegates at the recent Democratic National Convention. So you can imagine why Chicago’s unionized teachers struck now, gambling that Mr. Emanuel’s killer instinct may be stayed at least for the season.

One out of every five representatives of the Democratic Party on the floor (or at least at the hosted bar) in Charlotte represented institutions whose lust for self-preservation has the practical effect of killing minority achievement and ambition  in school districts throughout America. Their parents, who are overwhelmingly expected to vote for Barack Obama, ought to pause on that fact. The sacrifice of generations of schoolchildren is too high a price to pay for identity politics.

July 12th, 2012 at 1:10 pm
One More Exception on Education Reform
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Quin’s right to point out Alabama’s Robert Bentley as an exception to the growing trend of conservative governors pushing education reform pointed out in my column this week. Bentley deserves every ounce of scorn he’s getting for knuckling under to the unions. And while we’re in the midst of handing out demerits, I’ll also nominate Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Around the same time that Bobby Jindal’s education reform package in Louisiana was doing its victory lap, Brewer vetoed a huge expansion of school vouchers in the Grand Canyon State with an explanation that defies exegesis:

… Brewer, while describing herself as a long-time advocate of school choice—citing other legislation she has signed promoting educational competition—also said “there is a careful balance we have to maintain.”

“We must enhance educational options wherever we can, but we must also ensure that government is not artificially manipulating the market through state budget or tax policy that would make an otherwise viable option so unattractive that it undermines rational choice in a competitive market,” the governor explained.

Impenetrable. This reads like a veto statement by James Joyce.

Obviously Brewer didn’t want to deal with the backlash from the educational establishment, so she sold out the members of the state legislature who were brave enough to take up the fight. How folks like Bentley and Brewer can look their state’s schoolchildren in the eyes is beyond me.

July 12th, 2012 at 11:21 am
On Education, a Sad GOP Exception

I commend Troy for his excellent column on school reforms being pushed by Republican governors.

Alas, there always seems to be one exception that proves the rule, one skunk in a beautiful garden party, one, uh, floatie in the punch bowl… and one cliche too many in an otherwise insightful blog post (meaning mine). In this case, the exception is Alabama’s Robert Bentley, elected at least in part with the help of the Alabama Education Association, who (I reported recently) had watched the defeat of what should have been a simple effort to allow charter schools, all while he provided scant leadership on the issue. Well, now Bentley has done even worse: He has announced that he will not even include a charter-school bill in his legislative package next year, despite the fact that the House and Senate leadership (Republicans all) want it.

The editorial board of the Mobile Press-Register gently chided Bentley for his abandonment of the cause. But that promises to be just the start of the reaction. Some Tea Party groups are rumbling about the abandonment, and there will surely be more public opprobrium heaped on the governor. After all, if Jindal, Christie, Daniels (and in earlier iterations, Jeb Bush, Tommy Thompson, and Lamar Alexander, among others) can push meaningful school reforms, why can’t Bentley, in a state desperately in need of them?

May 18th, 2012 at 11:34 am
CFIF’s Troy Senik in the LA Times: The teachers union that’s failing California

In a stinging op-ed published yesterday in the LA Times, CFIF senior fellow Troy Senik focuses the blame for California’s failing public education system squarely where it belongs: the California Teachers Association (“CTA”).  Senik writes:

California’s education tailspin has been blamed on class sizes, on the property tax restrictions enforced by Proposition 13, on an influx of Spanish-speaking students. But no portrait of the schools’ downfall would be complete without mention of the California Teachers Assn., or CTA, arguably the state’s most powerful union and a political behemoth that has blocked meaningful education reform, protected failing and even criminal educators, and pushed for pay raises and benefits that have reached unsustainable levels.

Senik goes on to explain how the CTA is using its “fat bank account fed by mandatory dues that can run to more than $1,000 per member” to maintain and build its political dominance in the state.  In the past decade alone, Senik notes, “the CTA had spent more than $210 million…on political campaigning — more than any other donor in the state.”

Fortunately, there are signs of hope to help counter the CTA’s political stranglehold that has enabled it to prop up its own interests over that of students: Parents are starting to revolt against the union’s orthodoxy.  And  “unlike elected officials, parents are hard for the union to demonize.”

Read the entire piece here.

May 11th, 2012 at 9:41 am
Video: Obama’s Hypocritical Class Warfare
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In this week’s “Freedom Minute,” CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the deception and hypocrisy of President Obama’s class warfare.

October 21st, 2011 at 5:12 pm
Former Clinton Advisor Comes Out Firmly for Charter Schools
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If you’re a regular Fox News viewer, you’re probably familiar with Lanny Davis, the longtime Democratic political hand and former Special Counsel to President Clinton. On television, Davis can usually be seen defending Democratic orthodoxy with vigor.  He’s taken a recent turn in print, however, that shows he’s unafraid to gore one of his party’s most sacred cows: opposition to charter schools. From the piece:

The deal is this: The contract, or “charter,” allows the outside entity to operate the school free of the uniform rules applying to curriculum, teaching salaries, hiring and firing and other operating details that are applicable to all public schools; but in return, the charter school must deliver on pre-agreed goals, such as performance measured by standardized tests or graduation rates.

What does this achieve? A lot. First and foremost, it busts monopoly power, where one organization, such as the school district, has a captive group of customers, i.e., public school students, who have no choice but to be subject to the monopoly. And it provides the benefit of competition — students have choices, and if the charter school doesn’t work, they (i.e., their parents) can vote with their feet. And perhaps more importantly, the public school system is no longer a monopoly — they must do better or they will lose more students to charter schools within the public school system.

Imagine that: an institution that has to face consequences for failing its consumers. At at time when the folks over at Occupy Wall Street are casting their lot with the teachers unions that trap children in failing schools, it’s nice to see at least one liberal who realizes that “sticking up for the little guy” means defending the students, not indulging big labor.

May 23rd, 2011 at 5:27 pm
Tennessee Leads the Way on Education Reform
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Three cheers today for my (intermittent) home state of Tennessee, which has just passed a package of education reforms that should be held up as national models:

Cheer # 1 — The Volunteer State is doing away with tenure-based layoffs, in which teachers who’ve been on the job the longest are insulated from dismissal regardless of job performance.

Cheer # 2 — Tennessee is abolishing the cap on public charter schools, institutions that are controlled by the government but given much greater administrative flexibility than traditional public schools. This will allow for much broader educational competition — a move that will create more opportunities for children trapped in failing institutions.

Cheer # 3 — The state is also creating universal access to charters. Previous iterations of the policy had restricted which students were eligible to attend the schools.

With these reforms, the state of Tennessee has shown that it understands the most important principle of public education: the needs of the students come before those of bureaucrats and public employees. We salute their courage and look forward to the results.

April 28th, 2010 at 10:07 pm
What’s the Perfect Title for a Film About Public Education in America?
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How about “The Cartel”? That’s the title of what looks to be a fantastic documentary put together by the good (and talented) folks at the Moving Picture Institute. View the trailer below … then buy tickets for yourself and all your friends:


April 9th, 2010 at 4:07 pm
Video: Obama’s Education Policy

In these week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the Obama Administration’s education policy.  While the president has taken some steps in the right direction, there are still other, more troubling aspects of the policy that need to be addressed.


October 26th, 2009 at 7:45 pm
Better Living Through Education Cuts
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One of the loneliest titles in American life is “education reformer”. You spend your entire career trying to disrupt entrenched interests, upset a stubborn status quo, and come to grips with an issue that everyone proclaims to care about but no one really acts on.

In recent years, a handful of reformers have started proving themselves at the local level — From Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C. to Joel Klein in New York City and — prior to becoming Secretary of Education (easily the best pick in the Obama Cabinet) — Arne Duncan in Chicago.

Any serious accounting of these figures should also include Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the principal of a series of minority-heavy charter schools in Oakland, California. With a regimen of discipline, back-to-basics academics, and political incorrectness (how many other public schools could get away with extolling the virtues of the free market in their charter?), Dr. Chavis turned one of the lowest performing middle schools in California into one of the top schools in the state in less than a decade.

I’ll be profiling Chavis and other education reformers in a column later this week, but for a taste of his principled irreverence, take a look at this video, where he argues that cutting education budgets is the best thing that could happen to public schools:

Dr. Ben Chavis on Education Budgets

September 24th, 2009 at 10:09 am
“We Have To Perform Well, Or We Lose Our Charter”
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“We have to perform well, or we lose our charter.  It makes us step up our game.”

Those are the words of Stacey Gauthier, principal of a New York City charter school, explaining why charter schools have so significantly outperformed public schools in a study released this week

The study, by economics Professor Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University, demonstrates that poorer, inner-city students who spent their elementary school years in charter schools excelled compared to counterpart students in New York’s public system.  Remarkably, these charter students’ achievement scores even matched those of more affluent suburban students. 

The reason that Professor Hoxby’s study is particularly enlightening is that critics of charter schools and vouchers typically argue that their students are somehow selected from “the cream of the crop.” According to these apologists for public teachers’ unions, more ambitious students and families are the ones who selectively gravitate to charters.  But Professor Hoxby compared only students who were similarly-motivated: those who actually attend charters versus students who were motivated to seek entry to charters but were denied random lottery applications to do so.

Imagine how much public schools could improve if faced with the choice described by Principal Gauthier – perform well or lose your charter.