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Won’t Back Down from Parent Organizing

October 10, 2012

If Teachers Can Organize, Why Can’t Parents? That’s essentially the question that Doreen Diaz, president of the Desert Trails Parent Union, an organization formed to change failing Desert Trails elementary school under California’s parent trigger law, asks in a Washington Examiner column.

The frustrated parent compares the real life efforts of California parents to turn a school around to the movie Won’t Back Down, saying the movie makes union tactics seem tame in comparison.

So of course Doreen Diaz was excited to appear next to AFT President Randi Weingarten during a panel at Education Nation, where she could ask the union leader directly how she could justify the tactics being used to stop the Desert Trails conversion. Diaz:

“On the panel, she told me how she understood my frustration over my daughter’s education and how she shared my goals of giving her a great school. But after the lights and the cameras turned off, she left the stage and sent a tweet deploring the absence of parents who want “real” empowerment at the panel discussion. I had been sitting right next to her for the entire discussion. Her tweet made me feel just like our school district has made me feel for years: invisible.

It is Weingarten’s union that fights hardest against parent trigger laws, despite the fact we are fighting for the same right to organize that her teacher-members enjoy — a right we support.” Read More…

I'm Not Impressed

disappointedToday’s speech by Randi Weingarten of the AFT exemplifies what’s wrong with teachers unions and their control over America’s education system. Randi made news today by announcing that she’d be willing to incorporate student test data in teacher evaluations-but she also listed a litany of other things (including “portfolios”) that should be included.

I’m not impressed.

I simply don’t see why the concept of putting student learning first is so challenging for Ms. Weingarten. Her attempts to pacify those who want to see bad teachers removed from the classroom and off of the public payroll lack specifics. What will she do to remove the stranglehold that her union has over principals across America when it comes to terminating the employment of people who cannot teach – so that we can rightly elevate and compensate those teachers who can? What I see is an ‘our way or no way’ approach by the AFT that neither benefits children to the fullest nor serves the best interests of her members.

Finally, any speech on “reform” by Ms. Weingarten is specious, given that her union claims to want the “best” schools for children. This can’t be true, or else she and her allies would be fighting for school choice programs, not standing in the schoolhouse doors blocking the exits for low-income children.

Randi Weingarten fails to impress once again.

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Extreme Makeover: AFT Edition

Folks have been fawning over Randi Weingarten’s seeming embrace of education reform since her National Press Club speech in November, and Dana Goldstein has a must-read profile of the AFT/UFT president in the latest American Prospect.

Weingarten’s media makeover has served her well, leading many to do as Goldstein has and give her credit for talking the talk.

But that’s not the whole story.

For reformers, the real definition of reform – which we helped give life to in 1993 – is much more cut and dry than what is expounded here. Quite simply:

– The status quo embraces the existing system, and while members of the status quo will often advocate for policy or program changes, none of what they endorse will fundamentally change the balance of power between producer and consumer.

– Conversely, real reformers seek to fundamentally replace what is known as the school system with a system of schools that is accountable to those in power at each school, as well as to the parents, in whose hands the ultimate fate of their children depends.

By this definition, Randi Weingarten doesn’t even approach the notion of a reformer. On the continuum between status quo and reform, she has barely passed go.

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Not your average cover girl

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee seems to be dominating the media these days, and she’s making headlines again this week, gracing the cover of TIME Magazine.

While there’s nothing glamorous about firing nearly 300 teachers and principals, Rhee has made more changes within DCPS in one year than most could even dream about over several decades. She’s not your typical cover girl, as TIME points out. She’s been called a “nightmare” but Chancellor Rhee seems okay with that. “Have I rubbed people the wrong way? Definitely. If I changed my style, I might make people a little more comfortable… but I think there’s real danger in acting in a way that makes adults feel better.”

A piece in today’s Washington Post shows that this new style can work, but with folks like AFT boss Randi Weingarten highly critical of this new trend, it is unlikely to catch on without bold leadership from our elected officials.

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