Although school reform advocates notched some impressive victories at the ballot box this November, those who reckon that the path of reform will now run smoothly aren’t considering the destructive interference sure to be brought by teachers unions. According to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, there doesn’t seem to be any sign – even in places where voters overwhelmingly support the public education overhaul – that unions are ready to stop being intransigent and show willingness to work together with reformers to build a better educational environment for the students.
In Georgia – where charter schools remain a popular school choice option for parents despite no let up in union propaganda disparaging them – nearly 60% of voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution to create a state-wide agency charged with reviewing and approving charter school applications which have been turned down by local school boards. Yet, there are already threats of a lawsuit from The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus who say that the language of the amendment wasn’t clear enough, thereby confusing the people who voted to approve it.
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.
Taking their complaints to the court steps is a common second-act tactic for reform opponents, who frequently choose litigation when they are unable to have their way in the voting booth.
As the editorial goes on to note, even as defeats don’t chasten them, the victories don’t sate the unions either. Only a few short weeks after the settlement of the Chicago teachers strike which was hugely favorable to the teachers, there were already noises being made about further acts of protest against reform-minded Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to shutter and consolidate some of the city’s schools.
There are 600,000 school slots in Chicago with only 400,000 students, and the system is projected to hit a budget deficit of $1 billion next year. But union heads there are protesting the imminently reasonable plan to reduce expenses by eliminating some unused seats as if they are attacks on the city residents’ civil rights.
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?
According to the Wall Street Journal, if anyone’s civil rights are being violated, it is the students’ who are being used as pawns by the unions whose only goal seems to be the preservation of the status quo.