Teacher Unions and the Tea Party

Kevin Chavous, Chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, explains the politics that undermines the integrity of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB), otherwise known as Enzi-Harkin bill. He describes the bill as “a legislative monstrosity that would make Rube Goldberg proud;” it substitutes vague language for meaningful benchmarks and accountability standards.

How did we get into such a pickle? Blame it on “a political alliance between the tea party and the teachers unions. These strange bedfellows have teamed up to push for turning teacher-evaluation standards over to the states—in other words, to turn back the clock on educational accountability.” Chavous continues,

On the right are tea party activists who want the federal government out of everything, including establishing teacher standards. On the left are teachers unions who bridle at the notion of anyone establishing enforceable teacher standards. And in the middle is another generation of American kids who are falling further and further behind their European and Asian counterparts.

In celebration of Halloween, Charlie Barone of Democrats for Education Reform described some of the “fantastical creatures involved in the current ESEA debate,” including the “NEA-Tea Party hybrid.” He describes the chimera:

During one of NTEA’s many jubilant moments at the Senate mark-up, Politics K-12 tweeted: “GOP Senate aide spotted hugging NEA lobbyist Mary Kusler after the vote on the Alexander amendment giving flex to states on turnarounds,” a sighting later corroborated by none other than @NEAMedia, one of the organization’s (NEA’s, that is) Twitter accounts.

Indeed, we see similarly strange alliances right here in New Jersey. Take the Tea Party-ish genuflection towards home rule expressed by Save Our Schools-NJ, which insists that our great schools “are facing an onslaught of legislative and executive actions that take away local control.”Or remember the union protests over legislated increases in healthcare/pension premium contributions. From The Record: “While legislators hold hearings on the benefits legislation, protesters outside chant “Kill the bill,” a mantra used during tea party resistance to federal health care reform. “

Or consider NJEA’s tenure reform proposal, which it describes in its literature as “an aggressive, progressive reform agenda.” And it is a good step in the right direction, adding a fourth year to the current three-year probationary period before tenure is awarded. But aggressive and progressive? Not really, but that’s the point.

The Record piece quotes Kyle Dondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, who explains that “the common thread between the tea party on the right and public unions on the left is that both are trying to keep things the way they are…Both protests are by definition reactionary.” And that’s how you get strange bedfellows.


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