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Teachers should be Entrepreneurs, not Labor Activists
This week Forza demands a strong admonition of the start of the Columbus teacher strike, scrutiny of a union boss’s latest PR tour, better thinking around helping great educators get the careers they want and students need, a look at opponents who are trying to put the charter genie back in the bottle, and more…
Teacher as Entrepreneurs
A new report from ReimaginED makes the compelling case that, “school choice creates the opportunity for entrepreneurial educators to start and operate schools aligned to their strengths and their beliefs about how children should be educated. Often times teachers are stuck in the very same schools that children are.
“Poor management, bad decisions around curriculum or teaching methods, misuse of technology – the list of things that frustrate children and families are the same things that frustrate teachers.”
I have a similar take on this. In a piece I wrote as school strikes were breaking out across the US in 2019, adding to the downward spiral of public support for traditional education, I argued that giving teachers the ability to innovate would not only improve satisfaction but also lead to far better results for students. So while headlines (and unions) scream that it’s all about the pay, the real solution is enabling them to be entrepreneurs.
And as the ReimaginED people argue, “school choice can free teachers” from the awful circumstances in which some find themselves.
Meanwhile, while Randi is playing politics on her new “Kids” tour, Moms and Dads are leaving public schools in droves. And for good reasons. But instead of catering to their needs, the system is fighting them (and the alternative they’ve chosen). As Michael Horn writes this week in the NY Sun, Imagine if they tried to meet them where they are.
But instead they are striking…
I predict that the Columbus, Ohio teachers union is just the first of many in the traditional K-12 system we’ll see this Fall. Voting to strike just two days before school starts - for smaller class sizes (without regard for data showing they have fewer kids than ever) for the arts (pure PR stunt) and for “safe” buildings - the union turned down a generous Columbus school board package that would have given them $91,000 on average.
Yes, teachers should be unhappy with the condition of education today – because the system is deeply broken and undervalues them as educators. But striking isn’t the answer. They should instead advocate to be paid for their skills, responsibilities and success with students – but that can’t happen with 19th century union contracts which treat educators the same, based on their age and education levels. The most successful education providers like those who have won Yass Prize and STOP Awards this year provide a different path forward – one that does not require strikes to help teachers earn a living. There are thousands like them - but they are bucking the system, as teachers should.
Discredited Union Leader On Tour
It’s hard to fathom but even after Randi Weingarten promoted a fake list of banned books on social media and was taken to task by ABC TV in Florida, Politico Morning’s normally astute editors were promoting her new PR tour that expressly has a political bent as if it’s normal or even news, without any scrutiny. Here's what I wrote to them.
“Good morning! May I offer an observation or two to this piece on Randi? It reads like her press release, with no scrutiny or questions raised.
The head of the most powerful teachers union - which for two years was justifiably questioned by most media about their actions which fueled massive school closures during Covid beyond reasonable, resulting in learning loss that persists to this day, is going on a "tour" about kids and communities - to boost the Democratic party fortunes in November - without a question mark or analysis?
Let's start with the fact her tour is financed by taxpayer dollars, which are withheld from teacher paychecks, along with subsidies from political parties. Wouldn't that be worthy of mentioning or at least inquiring?
Then there's the pesky little issue for the union of falling school enrollment, and increasing enrollment in the very schools and programs that are attracting parents - that Ms. Weingarten lobbies against - again, with taxpayer dollars. Could that be one reason she's taking a tour?
Why is she on ‘tour’ anyway? She's not an elected official, she doesn't represent parents or even most rank and file teachers across the country. She is a PR agent for the union, and, in her own words, the Administration. She shouldn't be any Administration's mouthpiece, regardless of party.
It's pure smoke and mirrors. We've always been able to count on you largely at Politico morning education for balanced and fair reporting. Don't let us down!”
“So, while certain politicians are banning books, we’re handing them out and hosting reading events across the country. While they’re trying to single out our most vulnerable students, we’re rolling up our sleeves to actually solve problems and get our kids on track to succeed.” (AFT Press Release, 8/23/22)
Like misleading people about book bans, supporting shorter school days and striking? Right, Randi.
Schools Shorting Kids
Did they lose a day? We’re seeing that more schools are going to a 4-day week to address deficiencies in staffing apparently. Really? Cutting out a day saves you a teacher? The math doesn’t add up. It not only means fewer hours of school for the kids but it’s also not a consequential savings - EdWeek reports that schools might save fewer than 3% overall.
Most importantly, it’s not only the lazy way out but it hurts the families who need education the most. What kind of signal is it to them - that education just isn’t that important to the district to offer it a full week? If districts would have some vision - and use the money they have to back that vision they may be able to figure out how to educate kids at least 5 days again. From the prolific Michael Horn, it just takes looking back at a little history.
“The children enrolled in urban areas in the 19th century went to school year-round with short breaks. In 1842, Detroit schools were open roughly 260 days. New York’s were open 245 days.
…As mandatory public school expanded, legislators and labor unions pushed for less school time and a more regulated summer break.
…there are public schools around the country that have been moving to year-round school, or what’s often known as a balanced calendar. ..These schools still offer breaks for students…In one model, for example, students attend school for roughly 12 weeks followed by three weeks of vacation year-round.”
I’ll be speaking to that issue on the news this week. It’s frustrating, but then I just remind myself that it’s just one more reason to push for parent power!
Have a great rest of your summer break. Talk to you after Labor Day!