Dems Rally Against Unions!
OK, teachers' unions. Still ...
By Mickey Kaus
One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention!
"The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause!
Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!
As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.
Is this a "landmark" that future historians should note? Is this the shot heard round the world? Time will tell, but it gets me excited.
Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. By his own words he was told that if kept pushing school choice his political career would be over. I don't think for a minute that this happened in isolation. I think every black Democrat politician presiding over an urban school district in decay has been told that if they look to the market for options that they are F'in finished in this town.
And I think that is a main reason that he got resounding applause. He was exposing the man behind the curtain. "I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore!!!"
Cory Booker broke the veil. It will be interesting to see what follows. He has at least served notice that you can't continue to push around black urban democrats and threatening them without the possibility that teachers unions will be exposed for compromising the futures of young black children for political considerations.
And again, those other Democrats at the convention are applauding because they know it is true. They know the make or brake pressure that is applied to all candidates in which they have to decide either for their community's children or their own political future.
Democrats are moving in the direction of school choice. More evidence abounds...
With the Democrats in Denver
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, his Newark counterpart Cory Booker, the Rev. Al Sharpton, New York City superintendent Joel Klein and others gathered to push for merit pay for teachers and other accountability measures for urban schools. The biggest obstacle, they all agreed, is "special interests," by which for the most part they mean teachers unions -- whose members will make up about a tenth of convention delegates, according to National Education Association executive director John Wilson.
Sharpton described the terrible schools open to many poor black children as the biggest civil rights issue of the 21st century. "If our parents could stand up to biting dogs in Alabama, we can stand up to special interests in America's cities," he said.
Fenty said he supports Obama and his message of change -- "and change is most important in education." He offered ongoing teacher contract talks in the District as "a real life example." Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposed contract includes merit pay for teachers who achieve results. But the American Federation of Teachers, "which I don't think does anything for the District of Columbia," is weighing in against the contract. Why? "The only thing I can figure out is, the people who are elected [as union officials] want to keep their jobs."
Could this be a start of an avalanche? There is a strong undercurrent in the Democratic party for choice and change. Here is the rebuttal in the article...
The NEA's Wilson, in the audience, told me he found the references to special interests, and the exclusion of unions from the conference, "disrespectful to teachers, and naive . . . . You're not going to change the current system until you bring in teachers and their collective voice."
The NEA would like to have the teachers "represented", in fact he would like the teacher's unions to have run the forum. They could have proposed more spending. Who cares about results. Poverty pimps anyone? Meet the NEA.
Indeed, both big teachers unions insist they favor transformation and reform. But any time the talk goes to pay for performance or other ways to attract the best teachers to the worst schools, they change the subject to the problems with parents, or say the need for change is so big that we shouldn't get bogged down with little tactical things like the right to get rid of teachers who don't perform. There was a lot of hope expressed in the auditorium yesterday that Obama would stand up to the unions -- and for children who are being deprived a decent chance in life.
So far, Obama hasn't done much more than nibble at that one.
Like any issue, we have no idea what Obama will actually do. We can hope though...
We have been reforming our schools for as long as the NEA, the UFT and the Department of Education have been in existence. The only reform they don't want is market reform. It all boils down to this, the teacher's unions have a government monopoly, and they oppose people having the choice to avoid their monopoly.
Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation posted on this here. That is what alerted me to this story.
The Friedman Foundation is a favorite of mine. They have a publication entitled "The School Choice Advocate" which I get in the mail. You can view the latest issue on PDF here.
I just go my last copy, and the cover story is about Democrats for School Choice. A timely cover is ever given what has happened at the Democratic Convention.
The article was written by a proud Democrat, Michael Tobman. Some quotes:
"Democrats are natural advocates for school choice principles and policies. That they haven't been is more about institutional ties that bind and outdated politics than it is about the actual substance of school choice"
Michelle Rhee (regarding school choice and teachers unions) at a press conference:
"We are finally going to put aside the rights and privileges and priorities of adults and return the focus to children"
Albert Sharpton (nobody calls him Albert but me!):
"Out children are drowning in the waters of indifference and old coalitions no longer work and no longer care"
Talk about politics making strange bedfellows. I am quoting Albert Sharpton. I still think he is a sleazebag though. I detest the man, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend in some cases, and thus I quote Reverend Al.
I think a gang rush to the door will be in effect at some point. I have always believed that School Choice is a Civil Rights issue and the next big Civil Rights issue in our country's future. At some point school choice will move from the controversial fringe to be an idea that is obvious and accepted by all. When will that happen? The date is coming close my friends.
And when it does, politicians will be exposed on being on the wrong side of history. They won't want that at all, for they are politicians. Once the shift is recognized as inevitable you will get a "gang rush to the door" That could be happening right now. The Times They Are A-Changin'
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'. Sphere: Related Content