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Posts Tagged ‘education’
September 12th, 2012 at 12:59 pm
Chicago Charters Are Better Bargain Than Teachers Union

Christian Schneider  writing in City Journal shows the vivid cost/benefit contrast between members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and their public charter school counterparts.  CTU members average $76,000 in annual salary before benefits, while public charter school teachers make $49,000.

Charter school teachers are a bargain.  A study by the Illinois Policy Institute cited by Schneider indicates that nine of Chicago’s top ten performing schools are open-enrollment, non-selective charter high schools.

Faced with this kind of competition, CTU members did what any self-respecting public employee union would do when offered a sixteen percent pay raise in exchange for linking employment to student test results – they went on strike.

Change is coming to all levels of the education industry.  Groups like CTU need to adapt to the new reality of pay-for-performance or risk expulsion from the system.

September 11th, 2012 at 7:17 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Chicago Teachers
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 29th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
CATO: The Charter School Paradox?

Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute argues a provocative thesis about the effect of public charter schools:

How can charter schools spend less money on average than regular public schools and yet cost taxpayers more overall at the state level? How can charter schools increase educational options and diversity in the public school system and yet decrease options and diversity in education overall? And how can some charter schools outperform regular public schools on average and yet decrease achievement overall?

I call these outcomes the Charter School Paradox, but it is only a paradox if we take a very narrow view of the effects of charter schools. When we expand our perspective to include their effects on private education, we find that these seeming contradictions are really the unintended consequences of inadequate, public-sector-only reform. On average, charter schools may marginally improve the public education system, but in the process they are wreaking havoc on private education. Charter schools take a significant portion of their students from private schools, causing a drop in private enrollment, driving some schools entirely out of business, and thereby raising public costs while potentially diminishing competition and diversity in our education system overall.

Schaeffer’s commentary is based on a larger study published by Cato colleague Richard Buddin.

Some of the key findings of Buddin’s study are that public charters in urban areas draw one-fourth to one-third of their student bodies from private schools.  The direct cost of these private-to-public migrants is estimated to be $1.8 billion a year (as of 2008) in new spending.

According to Schaeffer and Buddin, unless education reformers enact “good private school choice reform, such as education tax credits,” expanding the number of public charter schools could “cannibalize the private sector, increase public costs, and decrease options and competition.”

Conservative governors like Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and others have been rightly praised for reforming their public education system by increasing the school choice options for parents.  Going forward, they and others would do well to continue pursuing policies that protect private education while improving its public counterpart.

August 23rd, 2012 at 1:12 pm
In Indiana, an Education Success Story
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Here at the Center for Individual Freedom, we recently launched a State Sovereignty Project that aims to encourage states to resist Washington’s encroachment on their constitutionally-protected powers. While resisting federal overreach is, in and of itself, a worthy pursuit, it becomes even more valuable when the states then use that freedom to enact major public policy innovations.

As I’ve noted here before, one of the areas where that charge is being met with the most vigor is in education reform, where a handful of Republican governors are transforming the way we think about public schools. One of the leading lights of this crusade has been Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, who successfully pushed legislation providing for the sweeping use of school vouchers in the Hoosier State. As a recent profile by The Economist notes, he’s getting results:

The voucher scheme, potentially the biggest in America, was set up a year ago as part of a big package of educational reforms led by Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels, and his superintendent of schools. These include teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, giving school heads more autonomy and encouraging the growth of charter schools. Jeanne Allen, president of the Centre for Education Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group, says the reforms are unique because Indiana has looked at education reform in its “totality”, rather than taking a piecemeal approach as many other states have done.

The Indiana scheme has allayed fears that vouchers will not reach their target audience of low-income families. In the first year about 85-90% of children receiving them have come from households that qualify for free school lunches. Moderate-income families can receive a voucher with a lower value. … Indiana’s philosophy of promoting choice has also extended to making it possible for students to apply to any public school—including those outside the school district in which the child lives. And some signs suggest greater choice is having a positive effect in Indiana. For one thing, some public schools have started to compete for students. They are advertising their educational prowess directly to parents, through billboard signs on highways, mailing campaigns and clothes carrying slogans. Schools are trying to make themselves more attractive to students, for example by buying iPads.

All well and good, but we can already hear the skeptics saying that competing for students isn’t the same as generating better results. Well …

The reforms have had already phenomenal results, according to Mrs Allen. Tony Bennett, the superintendent of public instruction in Indiana, arrived in 2009. Every student performance indicator has improved he says and over the last two years the state has ranked second in the country for achievement on college-level courses taken in high school. Graduation rates from high school are at an all-time high.

Competition is working intra-state in Indiana. Now, it falls to federalism to get it to work inter-state. If the Hoosier State keeps up the progress, it won’t be long before the nation’s education laggards start to realize that they could improve their results by following Indianapolis’ lead. No such comparisons would have been possible had education reform been imposed top-down from Washington. That’s one more reason to defend the Tenth Amendment.

August 7th, 2012 at 4:13 pm
The High School of the Future, Now

Check out a fascinating new public school in Salt Lake City called Innovations High School.  A first-of-its-kind program, Innovations allows public school students to sample every type of educational model currently available.  According to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, kids in grades 9 – 12 can blend online and in-classroom learning, choosing courses in traditional subjects as well as technical programs from community colleges.

The purpose of Innovations is to give students and their parents more flexibility when it comes to progressing through coursework.  The personalized nature of the Innovations experience also lets kids get exposure to well-paying career options they might otherwise miss in a more structured high school program.

I apologize if my summary sounds like a paid advertisement –it isn’t – but the flexibility seemingly provided by an Innovations education makes too much sense to be ignored.  Too many kids aren’t allowed to fit their education around their interests and abilities.  The result is often a one-size-fits-all widget system that pumps out graduates who know a little (or in many cases very little) about many things, but have no depth or experience in anything.

It should be noted that Innovations is not a charter school.  Rather, it’s a project by school administrators to use the changes wrought on education by technology to create new opportunities for local students currently in public, private, and home school situations.  If quality and flexibility are the norm, then Innovations might represent one area where traditional public schools can entice high-performing students back onto campus.

H/T: Governing.com

August 1st, 2012 at 1:44 pm
Louisiana Teachers Unions Fight a Desperate Rearguard
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A few months ago, I authored a column here touting the extraordinary accomplishments of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in enacting perhaps the most sweeping piece of education reform in the country. Part of what made the reform possible, I noted at the time, was the relative weakness of teacher unions in the Pelican State:

The laws passed by the Louisiana legislature last week read like a conservative education reformer’s wish list. Teacher tenure, which previously required three years of employment, will now be contingent on educators receiving a “highly effective” rating in five out of six consecutive years. Back-to-back “ineffective” ratings will be a firing offense. Seniority will no longer be a dominant factor in layoff decisions. Decisions about teacher employment and pay will largely devolve to principals and superintendents (they had previously been dominated by local school boards), allowing them to act with the dispatch becoming of an executive.

The reforms go well beyond personnel matters, however. They open up opportunities for charter schools, allowing new providers to enter the market. They offer vouchers that will allow poor and middle-income children in Louisiana’s worst schools to attend private or parochial institutions. They even expand opportunities for online learning.

Had Jindal tried something nearly as audacious in a union-dominated state like California, Illinois or New York, the proposal surely would have been stillborn in committee. But in right-to-work Louisiana, where the unions aren’t subsidized by compulsory membership, the best that organized labor can do is flail in anger after the fact. And flail they have.

Well, the flailing is now reaching a crescendo. As is the tendency of unions that can’t win arguments at the ballot box, organized labor is now taking the fight to the courts. From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

On Thursday, lawyers representing the unions faxed letters to about 100 of the 119 schools that are participating in the voucher program. “Our clients have directed us to take whatever means necessary,” the letter reads. Unless the school agrees to turn away voucher students, “we will have no alternative other than to institute litigation.” The letter demanded an answer in writing by the next day.

Louisiana’s voucher program is adjusted for family income and is intended above all to give a shot at a decent education to underprivileged minorities, who are more likely to be relegated to the worst public schools. Forty-four percent of Louisiana public schools received a D or F ranking under the state’s grading system, and some 84% of the kids in the program come from one of those low-performing schools.

Demand for vouchers has been overwhelming: There were 10,300 applications for 5,600 slots. Despite claims to the contrary by school-choice opponents, low-income parents can and do act rationally when it comes to the education of their children.

That last sentence, I think, says it all. Liberals — who reflexively bay about the plight of the underclass — are actively complicit in keeping them “under”; that is, in denying them both opportunity and aspiration. They are there for the poor only to the extent that it does not conflict with the interests of one of their client groups. In this instance, they have chosen the pecuniary interests of the unions over the future of Louisiana’s children. There is much shame in that. Citizens of Louisiana would do well to make them bear it.

July 12th, 2012 at 5:51 pm
ACLU v. Teacher Unions?

From the Washington Post:

In the first case of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union is charging that the state of Michigan and a Detroit area school district have failed to adequately educate children, violating their “right to learn to read” under an obscure state law.

The ACLU class-action lawsuit, to be filed Thursday, says hundreds of students in the Highland Park School District are functionally illiterate.

“None of those adults charged with the care of these children . . . have done their jobs,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.”

Setting aside the questionable and problematic assertion that people “have a right to learn to read” – it will be interesting to see how a court tries to enforce this – the ACLU’s frustration with underperforming public schools is shared by many.  What’s missing from its complaint, however, is any mention of how teacher union policies contribute to the problem.

Later on in the article a teacher of readers below grade level is identified as “not provid[ing] instruction while students read books on their own, or in groups, or completed self-directed work on the computer…”  Is it impossible to surmise that such behavior is protected from censure by her employment contract, the one negotiated by her union?

So far, the ACLU is suing the school district and the state, but logic demands that if you’re going to allege that “none of those adults charged with the care of these children… have done their jobs,” then someone from the Michigan Education Association needs to be included in the lawsuit’s defendant caption.

I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around.  The ACLU should make sure that the relevant teachers union gets its fair share.

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 9th, 2012 at 5:45 pm
Would a President Romney Waive ObamaCare Rules?

Last Friday, the Obama Administration announced that Wisconsin and Washington joined 24 other states as recipients of No Child Left Behind waivers.

The Department of Education claims that Congress’ repeated failure to reauthorize NCLB since it became due in 2007 empowers it to exempt petitioning states from certain requirements in exchange for accepting new rules and policies dictated by the White House.

This links to a chart from Governing.com identifying each state’s waiver status.

Writing in an email commentary about the waivers, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation summarizes President Barack Obama’s justification of the waiver system as “necessary to provide relief to states that fear drowning in a cascade of sanctions that are forthcoming in 2014,” such as 100 percent of students being proficient in reading and math.

While I agree with Burke that states “should demand genuine relief from NCLB through congressionally approved options that fundamentally reduce federal intervention in education,” her summary of Obama’s justification for waivers got me thinking.

If Mitt Romney gets elected president with less than full (or consistent) control of Congress and can’t repeal ObamaCare, would he resort to granting waivers from its penalties “to provide relief to” individuals “that fear drowning in a cascade of sanctions”?

I certainly hope so.

David Harsanyi points out:

According to the Congressional Budget Office—which can only calculate the narrow data it’s given—the non-tax penalty on Obamacare’s non-mandate will affect 4 million people by the year 2016. Of those paying this ‘untax,’ 75 percent will make less than $120,000—breaking the president’s promise that those making under $250,000 would not have to pay a “penny” more in taxes, which, presumably, includes “shared responsibility payments.”

Anticipating Romney’s inauguration, I’ll go ahead and get in line to ask, “Mr. President, can I have a lifetime waiver from my ‘shared responsibility payment?’”

I think there’s a precedent…

July 5th, 2012 at 12:52 pm
The Best News Out of the Public Sector in Some Time …
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… comes from a despondent teachers union of incredible heft. Here’s how USA Today reported it on Tuesday:

The National Education Association (NEA) has lost more than 100,000 members since 2010. By 2014, union projections show, it could lose a cumulative total of about 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers, a 16% drop from 2010. Lost dues will shrink NEA’s budget an estimated $65 million, or 18%.

NEA calls the membership losses “unprecedented” and predicts they may be a sign of things to come. “Things will never go back to the way they were,” reads its 2012-14 strategic plan, citing changing teacher demographics, attempts by some states to restrict public employee collective bargaining rights and an “explosion” in online learning that could sideline flesh-and-blood teachers.

Herb Stein’s famous maxim is that “If something is unsustainable, it won’t go on forever.” It looks like teachers unions are keeping their date with inevitability.

June 29th, 2012 at 8:54 am
Podcast – The Real Bullies in America: DOJ and Teachers’ Unions
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In an interview with CFIF, Sarah Lenti, Senior Policy Advisor for The State Government Leadership Foundation, discusses voter fraud, education reform and the real bullies in our schools – Teachers’ Unions.

Listen to the interview here.

June 19th, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Graph: DC School Choice Saves Money

Finally, an election evolution that puts President Barack Obama on the side of the angels.

From the Washington Post:

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), the authors of legislation that reauthorized and expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program, said they had reached an agreement with the White House to ensure that enrollment in the program can grow and that parents can apply to have their children stay in or join the program and get a response as soon as possible.

“I’m pleased that an agreement has been reached to expand the program, consistent with the law already on the books,” Boehner said, praising the scholarships as “both effective and cost-effective.”

How cost-effective?  The price of a D.C. Opportunity Scholarship is $8,000 per year.  The cost of educating the same child in the D.C. public school system is $18,000 per year.

Here’s a Heritage Foundation graph showing how much the D.C. school voucher program costs federal taxpayers:

http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/DCOSP-Chart.jpg

So, not only are kids receiving D.C. school vouchers getting the education their parents want; they’re doing it for less than half of what it would cost if the vouchers didn’t exist.

Let’s hope President Obama evolves to the point where every D.C. child gets an Opportunity Scholarship.  They – and the taxpayers – will be better off.

June 6th, 2012 at 8:24 pm
Chart: 10 Step Process for Firing a Calif. Public School Teacher

We’ve all heard horror stories about how difficult it is to fire exceptionally bad public school teachers in large urban districts.  Thanks to a chart (see below) in a new lawsuit challenging California’s teacher tenure law, now we know why.

http://toped.svefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Screen-Shot-2012-05-17-at-12.09.04-AM.png

The parties behind the lawsuit, discussed by Larry Sands in City Journal California, simply ask the California judicial system to make sure “that the policies embodied in the California Code of Education place the interests of students first and promote the goal of having an effective teacher in every classroom.”

Part of achieving that goal may involve requiring every California school district to comply with the Stull Act, a forty-year-old law that mandates using some measure of student learning outcomes in every teacher’s performance evaluation.  You won’t be shocked to discover that this law currently goes unenforced.

That is, unless the lawsuits Sands discusses are successful.  If that happens, students just might start getting the level of education so many of their parents are paying for in taxes.

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 10th, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Ezra Klein and the Cult of Youth
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With spring quickly turning to summer, it’s graduation season throughout the nation. This is a time of year where rubbish masquerading as good advice is rampant, and the same holds true in the Twitterverse, where liberal uber-pundit Ezra Klein offered up this half-baked idea:

Ezra-Klein_lightboxUm, Ezra … nothing. There’s a thread in modern liberalism — going all the way back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau — which esteems the callow and untutored as morally superior to the experienced and wise. Unfortunately, since the 1960s, that belief has increasingly come to be shared by society at large.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on this topic in highfalutin journals and serious publications — much of it worthwhile. But for my (admittedly demotic) tastes, late night comic Craig Ferguson really hit the nail on the head in a monologue a few years ago:

April 18th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
More on Hijacking of Common Core Education Standards

In my column just up today at this site, one item I mention is the administration’s hijacking of the Common Core educational standards. Well, here’s a WSJ video interview just out, with Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, that discusses the issue at length. Well worth viewing.

April 16th, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Beg Pardon? School Workers Allowed to File for Unemployment Benefits Over Spring Break?
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The debate over unemployment benefits isn’t an easy one. While the left completely ignores the rudimentary economics (and the empirical evidence) showing that prolonged benefits tend to keep unemployment artificially high, the fact remains that many workers use the system in good faith, relying on it as a bridge during uncertain times. We can all probably agree, however, that this doesn’t make any sense. From MarketWatch’s report on rising unemployment claims:

Weekly jobless claims jumped by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 380,000 in the week ended April 7, the highest level since late January, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Much of the increase was related to spring break, when many school bus drivers and cafeteria workers are allowed to file for temporary unemployment benefits.

Hey, if this is the direction we’re going, why not allow them to file for unemployment over the weekend? Or perhaps for those oppressive hours of 5 PM-9 AM every weekday when they’re not gainfully employed?

This is an offense both to people who really require unemployment benefits and to the taxpayers who are underwriting school workers’ spring breaks. And with MarketWatch attributing”much of the increase” to these workers, are we to understand that it’s become common practice for school workers to exploit this outrageous provision?

Some aspects of the unemployment debate are difficult trade-offs between economics and empathy. This one, however, is a no-brainer.

April 13th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
California’s Political Correctness vs. Louisiana’s School Reform

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee is the dean of California political writers and today he’s got a gem.  Walters criticizes including yet another entry on the state’s list of population groups required to be taught in a positive light in history classes.

The latest effort is Senate Bill 993 by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, which would require social science instruction on the “braceros,” a long-expired federal program that brought workers into the country, mostly from Mexico, during and after World War II to offset farm labor shortages.

Lest Walters be accused of insensitivity, he rightly directs attention to the real crisis facing California’s schools:

In a state as diverse as California, there’s literally a bottomless well of ethnic and cultural groups that could seek inclusion not only on the instruction list but in the liturgy of those that must be portrayed only in the most positive terms.

We don’t need to brainwash our kids. We need to give them well-rounded, accurate instruction that prepares them for life beyond childhood – and our poor academic test scores indicate that we’re neglecting that important task while filling their minds with feel-good pap.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative to such a broken system by applying your tax dollars to tuition at a private or charter school of your choice?  If you think so, check out Troy’s column on Bobby Jindal’s school reform breakthrough in Louisiana.

And if you’re a pap-hating Californian with school-age kids, consider moving.

April 12th, 2012 at 11:46 am
Podcast: The Administration’s Education Power Grab
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In an interview with CFIF, Lance Izumi, senior fellow and director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses his Encounter Broadside, “Obama’s Education Takeover,” and how President Obama is leading a massive federal power grab that is disempowering local communities and parents by centralizing education policy in Washington.

Listen to the interview here.

March 26th, 2012 at 1:39 pm
Meet Your Next Secretary of Education
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If the next Republican president has a brain in his head — and if the federal Department of Education must remain (it sadly seems as if we’re beyond a day when cabinet departments can disappear, their very existence now functioning as prima facie evidence of their worth) — he’ll pick Michelle Rhee to be his Secretary of Education.

Rhee spent three years as the chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools — one of the nation’s worst (and most expensive) educational systems — before resigning in the fall of 2010 with the election of a new mayor. During that time, Rhee was a game-changer, firing nearly 250 under-performing teachers in one blow, closing down failing schools, and devising an extraordinarily clever workaround for tenure reform.

These days, Rhee is running an education non-profit and living in Sacramento, where her husband, former NBA star Kevin Johnson, is the mayor. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend, she demonstrated why — in addition to her impressive record — she has the chops to be the next Secretary of Education; Because she not only has a strong grasp on first principles, but an artful way of presenting them:

Q: You are archenemy No. 1, according to the teachers unions. Do you see a way to work with them rather than wage war with them?

Rhee: First of all, we definitely did not wage war on the union. In fact, the union has very little to do with what we’re focused on really at all.

What we are focused on is a pro-kid agenda. And if we have to fight the existing district bureaucracy, state legislators, teachers, whoever is standing in the way of kids getting the education they deserve and trying to protect the status quo, and maintain the way things are, we’re going to be willing to fight against any of those.

I believe that the teachers unions are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They were designed to be professional organizations that protect the rights and privileges and pay of their members. … The problem is that we don’t have an organized national interest group with the same heft as the teachers union that’s advocating on behalf of children.

This, it seems to me, is a remarkably sober response to the ever-expanding influence of teacher unions on education policy: I will not decry you, I will simply defeat you. Game on, Madame Secretary.