Education and education reform are hot topics in today’s headlines. Movies like Waiting for “Superman” have put the problems with American education center stage. Everyone seems to be aware that the crisis in public education is growing. Despite record level spending, students from 16 countries are outperforming their American counterparts. To top it all off, 50 percent of teachers in the classroom today will be retiring in the next ten years. This is not the recipe for a well-educated public.
Unfortunately, teachers largely have been pushed aside as education reformers determine how to help America’s students catch up with the rest of the world. Teachers can thank the teacher union leadership for being excluded from the education reform decisions. While American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten claims that teachers are being “scapegoated” for the nationwide lack of student achievement, administrators, parents, policymakers, and business leaders are working together to develop innovative strategies to help America’s students catch up with countries like Finland and South Korea.
Ms. Weingarten and her allies at the National Education Association have an arsenal of sound bites that are nothing more than double talk. It’s as if they are saying “we are part of the solution but only if you do it our way.” So who can blame policy makers for tuning out the unions when their prescription for improving public education is more money and less accountability?
The unions have done a masterful job at branding teachers and their unions as essentially the same. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of teachers who are not members of the teacher unions and do not support the unions or their positions.
There is hope for teachers, however. An alternative to the teachers unions called the Association of American Educators is a non-partisan, non-union professional association for educators. This summer the organization randomly surveyed its members from all fifty states to understand the changing sentiments of teachers relating to education reform. The findings show that teachers are indeed warming to reforms - a shocking blow to union-held stances relating to accountability, tenure and compensation.