The Boston Globe reports today on Mayor Thomas Menino’s charter school conversion, which was ignited by frustration with the Boston Teachers Union’s aversion to change. According to the Globe,
Teachers, a longtime component of the Democratic political machine, are increasingly finding themselves at odds with education changes proposed by party leaders nationally and locally, including President Obama, Governor Deval Patrick, and Menino. All are pushing for creation of more charter schools, which often operate without unions or with scaled-back contract provisions. This, supporters say, spurs cutting-edge teaching techniques that can boost student achievement.
Says Paul Grogan, president of the reform-minded Boston Foundation, “The mayor was driven into the arms of charters by the unions…History will record this as a huge miscalculation on their part.”
It’s not just a shift in the Democratic party leadership. Suddenly, stalwart union supporters are starting to question the teacher unions’ defense of the status quo, in spite of mounting evidence that our public education system is ineffective. Massachusetts has taken it a bit further then Jersey – Cozine is keeping his NJEA creds clean. That probably helped get him elected four years ago. The irony is that this year that loyalty could lose him the election as the cry for charter schools and increasing teaching effectiveness broadens and slams smack into union dogma.
What will it take for the NJEA to acknowledge that charter schools have a place in the public school complex? Here’s Joyce Powell, NJEA President (until September, when she joins the Executive Committee of the NEA) on Ed Sec Arne Duncan’s visit to N.J., which was showcased in front of Newark’s North Star Charter School:
NJEA is pleased that Secretary Duncan has chosen to come to New Jersey.We’re proud of our public schools, and believe our success could serve as a national model. That’s why I hope Secretary Duncan also chooses to visit a traditional public school, since these are the schools enrolling the vast majority of children in New Jersey and across the United States
Even a ramrod article of faith in the educational gospel – small class size – was heretically questioned by Bill Gates yesterday when he was asked how states could maintain school standards in the current economic climate. Reports the Philadelphia Inquirer,
“I am not against small class size,” he said, but class sizes can grow, without negative consequences, “if you can raise the average effectiveness of teachers.”
Is nothing sacred anymore?