As spring breaks starts, millions of parents are unhappy about the miserable state of public education whose slogan should be: Costs more, teaches less. A shocking poll from a group that Obama once belonged to shows the public is fed up and wants reform. Will Obama listen? Will he marshal his "grassroots" group Organizing for America to push for change?
From the Chicago Tribune:
The poll finds widespread support for reforms that tie student achievement to how teachers are evaluated, paid and, when necessary, laid off.
• Merit pay. Chicago Teachers Union leaders fought hard against merit pay in negotiations over their current labor contract. Unfortunately, they won. But Chicagoans overwhelmingly support the concept, the poll shows: More than 7 of 10 respondents (72.2 percent) agree that highly effective teachers should be paid more than those whose students make insufficient progress. We strongly agree and hope that school boards throughout the state take notice.
• Making the grade. How long should a low-performing teacher have to significantly improve? More than 6 in 10 respondents (61.7 percent) believe that it is unfair for a student to have a low-rated teacher for more than a year. We strongly agree. If anything, a year is far too long to doom kids to an ineffective teacher. Studies show those teachers hold back student performance. That should prod CPS officials -- all school officials -- to take a tougher stand on pushing mediocre teachers to leave the system. Termination is a shamefully rare event in Chicago.
• Seniority and layoffs. A strong majority of respondents (71.9 percent) favors laying off ineffective educators, regardless of their seniority, if the teaching staff needs to shrink. When CPS tried to do that in 2010, the union hauled the school board into court to block it. The new teachers contract negotiated last fall introduced the refreshing concept of exempting the best educators from layoffs. But even then, excellent probationary teachers -- who don't have tenure -- will still be dismissed before tenured teachers who don't perform as well. Sacrificing good young teachers is no way improve education in Chicago.
• Tenure. Across the nation, some states have moved to curb or end tenure for teachers because the job protection extends to excellent and inadequate educators alike. Illinois hasn't tackled that issue yet. But the poll finds wide support for an end to tenure in some cases: 73.8 percent of respondents say teachers should lose tenure if they're judged ineffective in the evaluation process.
Chicagoans approve. More than 6 in 10 respondents (62.9 percent) say improvement in student achievement should carry more than 30 percent weight in a teacher's evaluation.
The poll also reveals significant support for tuition vouchers and more charter schools. The poll was run by the Joyce Foundation-that once had as a board member none other than Barack Obama.
Of course, teachers' unions oppose all these needed reforms. Those unions stuff Democratic party campaign coffers and provide valuable free labor in terms of calls, canvassing, door-to-door campaigning (teachers have a lot of time off). Arne Duncan, Obama's Education Secretary, used to be in charge of the mess known as the Chicago Public School system, by the way.
Barack Obama has repeatedly exhorted listeners to exercise "people power" to overcome entrenched forces that impede progress and prevent people from having their wishes come true. "Yes, We Can," "We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For" - were those just mere words, as Obama would say?
Well, Mr. President, the people could use your well-funded group to help them ensure their children have a shot at success, a chance that is not derailed by entrenched union power. Or will Democrats continue to hypocritically take union money and support while derailing the growth of charter schools, as you did in Washington, D.C, ignoring the pleas of parents?
The people have spoken.
Will Barack Obama?