Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Duncan Votes Present

September 9, 2013

The Wall Street Journal

September 6, 2013, 6:56 p.m. ET

The Education Secretary pleads ignorance about an anti-voucher lawsuit.

Asked in a radio interview this week about the Justice Department’s recent lawsuit to block Louisiana’s school voucher program, Education Secretary Arne Duncan pleaded ignorance. “I’m not familiar with that lawsuit,” said the man whose department scrutinizes state education reforms in great detail as part of the Race to the Top competition. “That’s between the Department of Justice and the state of Louisiana.”

C’mon, Arne. You can do better than that. As President Obama’s cabinet secretaries go, Mr. Duncan has been one of the better ones. At least he has been willing to challenge a couple of the shibboleths of the union status quo. But if he really did first hear about the Louisiana lawsuit from a reporter, then maybe it’s time he returned to Chicago. He’s clearly not interested in his job anymore.

To recap for Mr. Duncan and his staff: Two weeks ago the Justice Department asked a federal court to enjoin 34 school districts in Louisiana from issuing vouchers under the statewide reform that passed in 2012. Only students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line and who attend schools graded C or lower are eligible. Ninety percent of recipients are black.

According to the lawsuit, vouchers “appeared to impede the desegregation process” by “increasing the racial identifiability” of certain schools. Incredibly, the suit objected that in some cases the departing black kids left their former schools with a student body with more white students. Meanwhile, studies from Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. have found that voucher recipients increase integration by letting minority children escape geographic school boundaries.

Governor Bobby Jindal this week asked the court for more time to respond to Justice’s suit because much of the data the state needs to make its case isn’t yet available. He also got to the heart of the matter by noting that the real motive for this lawsuit is union politics. The teachers unions have been trying to block the voucher plan by any means possible, but so far they’ve failed. Bringing in the feds for a desegregation gambit is merely the latest attempt.

The Advocate daily newspaper in Baton Rouge reports that former Justice Department Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who is now Labor Secretary, was nosing around the state earlier this year. On Thursday we reported that Mr. Perez had threatened California with a loss of federal cash if it didn’t exempt Teamster and Amalgamated Transit Union transit workers from pension reforms. If Mr. Perez is now also running education policy, it really is time for Mr. Duncan to leave.

A version of this article appeared September 7, 2013, on page A14 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Duncan Votes Present.

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The Evil Empire Strikes Back

November 20, 2012

Even when reform passes, teachers unions engage in massive resistance.

Education reformers had good news at the ballot box this month as voters in Washington and Georgia approved measures to create new charter schools. But as the reform movement gathers momentum, teachers unions are giving no quarter in their massive resistance against states trying to shake up failing public education.

In Georgia, 59% of voters approved a constitutional amendment that creates a new statewide commission to approve charter schools turned down by union-allied school boards. Instead of absorbing the message, charter opponents are planning to sue. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said last week it will join a lawsuit against Governor Nathan Deal to block the change. According to Caucus Chairman Emanuel Jones, because the ballot measure’s text didn’t discuss the details of how the schools were selected, “people didn’t know what they were voting for.”

This is the legal equivalent of sending back a hamburger because you didn’t know it came with meat. Georgia voters rallied around the charters because they want something better for their children than the dismal status quo. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that as of April only 67.4% of the state’s freshmen graduated from high school in four years. Last year a state investigation of Georgia schools found that dozens of public educators were falsifying test results to disguise student results.

A different battle is unfolding in Chicago, where the city’s teachers union is getting ready for its second showdown with Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In September, teachers went on strike and won a pay raise and limits on test scores in teacher evaluations. Now the union is fighting the city’s plan to close underused schools in an effort to consolidate resources.

Chicago Public Schools have some 600,000 seats but only 400,000 kids, while the district faces a $1 billion deficit next year and over $300 million of pension payments. Yet at a protest rally last week, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey declared that the union was “serving notice to elected officials, if you close our schools, there will be no peace in the city.” Remind you of Selma, circa 1965?

The tension is especially acute for black parents whose children are trapped in the worst public schools. In other states, black organizations that march in lockstep with Democrats and their union allies have also been slow to catch up, but the message is getting louder. In Harlem last year, thousands of parents protested the NAACP’s role in a lawsuit to block school closings and the expansion of charter schools.

No reform effort is too small for the teachers union to squash. In this month’s election, the National Education Association descended from Washington to distant Idaho, spending millions to defeat a measure that limited collective bargaining for teachers and pegged a portion of teachers’ salaries to classroom performance. In Alabama, Republican Governor Robert Bentley says he’s giving up on his campaign to bring charter schools to the state after massive resistance from the Alabama Education Association.

Unions fight as hard as they do because they have one priority—preserving their jobs and increasing their pay and benefits. Students are merely their means to that end. Reforming public education is the civil rights issue of our era, and each year that passes without reform sacrifices thousands more children to union politics.

Now that the election is over, is it too much to ask that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan drop their union coddling and speak truth to union power? Alas, it probably is.

A version of this article appeared November 19, 2012, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Evil Empire Strikes Back

Dick Morris: What About the Teachers Unions?

February 3, 2011

Dick Morris has a great idea for how state can get out of their costly teacher union contracts.

How can we take seriously any proposal to improve schools that does not deal with the force that has dragged them down — the teachers union?

Detroit is a great example of the damage they have wrought. Due to the costs imposed by the union, the public school system has already had to close 59 of its 200 schools, and another 70 are slated for closure.  The result will be eighth-grade classes of 40 children and high school classes predicted to have more than 60 students.

Detroit will actually now have to pay teachers more to compensate them for their bigger class sizes.

Governors throughout the country are getting it, even if the president is not. Rick Scott in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Chris Christie of New Jersey have all proposed major new initiatives to promote school choice.

Can our cities and states free themselves from the ropes with which the unions have bound them? The problem is that states cannot abrogate contracts. It’s in the Constitution. But a federal bankruptcy court can. So to free ourselves of the ties that bind, we need Congress to create a procedure for federal Chapter 9 voluntary bankruptcy for states.

Mr. President, What’s Up with Superman?

October 6, 2010

Here’s another great WSJ editorial, “Speak Up on D.C. Schools, Mr. President“, about Obama and education reform.  Some highlights:

That deafening roar you hear—that’s the sound of Barack Obama’s silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn’t break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington’s children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.

The mayor who appointed [DC’s] reform-minded schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, went down to defeat.  Even now, when Ms. Rhee’s fate—and that of D.C. school reform—hangs in the balance, Mr. Obama remains mute.

“All he has to do is to say two simple sentences. First, ‘I support anyone who gives D.C. parents more options and more accountability.’ Second, ‘We need to keep D.C. on the path of reform with a schools chancellor like Michelle Rhee,'” …says Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform.

“All presidents have the bully pulpit,” says Mr. Chavous, head of the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunity. “This president in particular has the power to change hearts and minds instantly.”

But will he?

Charter Schools Get the Short Stick Again

September 17, 2010

The WSJ explains how most of the federal teacher bailout is really a unionized teacher bailout. Highlights:

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made charter schools a big part of their reform agenda, but the pushback from unions has been fierce. Perhaps that explains why the new $10 billion federal teacher bailout will be dispensed in a way that discriminates against charters.

Under the Administration’s guidelines, charters that want the bailout money would have to do their own hiring and contribute to a public pension that takes nearly 20 cents of every dollar.

[But many charters] contract with education management organizations [to handle payroll,] OSHA mandates, and other rules for them.  [According to the bailout rules, this practice would prevent them from getting bailout funds.]