Fighting for Equity in Education

The struggle is long but hope is longer

Business Writer Defends Teacher Unions

Monday October 10, 2011

A scathing indictment of the market-based model of education was recently published on the website of the business magazine Forbes. It makes for compulsory reading. It says the neo-liberal market reform agenda in education has failed and that teacher unions are needed to defend and improve public education.

The author accuses market-based reformers as being “simply in the business of union-busting” and “seeking to dismantle a powerful political opponent while ushering for-profit schools in through the side door, and handing out lucrative contract to political allies in the private sector”. He says the neo-liberal approach will result in an even lower-paid teaching force, with fewer benefits and less job security.

The article says that the centre-piece of the neo-liberal agenda – school choice – has failed to live up to its promise:

Vouchers have been met not only with public disappointment, but with few if any real benefits. Most charters haven’t fared much better. And for-profit schools come packaged with all sorts of other troubling implications for the future of our public – or should I say “public” – education system.

It says that charter schools are no answer. They are not a structural fix. At their best, they are a band-aid, but many serve as Trojan horses funded by billionaire donors with an anti-union agenda, and paraded in the media as “reformer avatars”. Further, the dependence on high-stakes testing is “repellent” and seeks to boil down education to learning by rote.

The writer deplores the exclusion of teacher unions from education policy formulation. He says that teachers unions are the best chance that the US has to improve and strengthen public education in the long haul:

Teachers are on the front lines of the fight to keep America’s egalitarian system of public education public.
...they represent a democratic approach to our public education system, and if we push them out and usher in an age of for-profit online schools, cheaper labor, and funnel all those saved tax dollars back in the pockets of the wealthiest Americans, we may as well kiss our public schools goodbye.

The threat is real:

Teachers are one of the last bastions of workplace democracy left in the country, and once they’re out of the picture anything goes. Including public education.

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