Friday, January 8, 2010

View from right field

Conservatives Finn, Petrilli and the boys at the Fordham Institute think-tank are rightfully impressed by union-supported teachers in L.A. applying to run new schools being outsourced under LAUSD's reform plan. In the latest Gadfly, they claim that this move towards teacher empowerment is merely a response to the threat of competition from charter schools.
Competition, the universal motivator They're working 24/7 to write management proposals for the LAUSD competition. "For the first time we're trying to show that we can, as teacher-educators, build a school that will benefit our children because we know our children best," says Josephine Miller, a first-grade teacher at Hillcrest Drive Elementary, a school deemed "failing." It seems that teachers are both energized by the competition--and determined to prevent their schools from turning charter and being run by independent organizations. Too bad it took the threat of actually being held accountable for teachers to sit up and take notice of their schools' shortcomings and what they might to do rectify these. Better late than never, however.
There's a kernel of truth is their assertion that L.A. teachers are responding to threats of privatization, school closings, and mass teacher firings, although this is certainly not "the first time." But crediting ownership society assaults with energizing resistant teachers is a bit like crediting southern segregationists for the Civil Rights Movement.

In fact, teachers were creating and running new small schools, including charters, long before the current wave of takeovers, turnarounds and privatization. If anything, the latter was a reactive move on the part of conservative, anti-teacher/anti-union groups and think tanks like Fordham. They were (are) the ones acting in fear of the democratic reform movement of the late '80s and early '90s. Hopefully, now teachers are once again pushing back.

Yes, better late than never.

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