Why Not Here?

A few people have emailed The Times story about the United Auto Workers – GM collaboration on the Sonic car. While it remains to be seen if the car is a commercial success in a country that loves big cars, the collaboration is certainly noteworthy.  But what readers want to know is why can’t this happen in education?  Actually, I think it can and there are some examples – Pittsburgh being one recent one.  But, the answer to why it’s not more widespread may also be found in a comment by the U.A.W. president:

“We are committed to the success of the company,” [U.A.W President] Mr. King said recently. “We had to talk about a business model that makes sense.”

I don’t want to imply that teachers’ union leaders are not committed to the success of public education.  But, what “success” looks like is different in the public sector and private sector.  Or more specifically – the incentives around success are different because private firms can go out of business while public sector ones generally do not (especially public education, which is an essential service).  So while I wasn’t a fan of what went down in Wisconsin, you don’t have to be to see that there are real differences between public sector and private sector unions and their various incentives and that we had better pay attention to them in our industry and think about how to navigate the various challenges public education faces with that in mind.

16 Replies to “Why Not Here?”

  1. Andrew,

    When are you going to run a column on Jonah Edelmen’s recent public speaking video? I know you are not a fan of Wisconsin. I want to know whether you are a fan of how your client is conducting himself.

  2. Think back fifty years ago when Walter Ruether and the union told the car industry how to reform itself. Management didn’t listen back then either.

    The same applies here. If we don’t listen to unionized teachers, our schools our urban schools don’t have a chance.

  3. John, read this:
    D.C. CAS scores worse than projected, but who’s counting!

    Standardized test scores are supposed to bring the hammer of accountability down on teachers, principals and schools. When scores don’t grow as expected, evaluations suffer, career trajectories flatten, jobs can be lost. Schools that miss out on the still-coveted AYP seal of approval face questions from parents and elected officials.

    But for the D.C. school system as a whole, this year’s so-so showing will come without cost–even though the District fell short of what it promised the federal government in its successful 2010 application for $75 million in Race to the Top funding. D.C. projected a statewide (DCPS and public charters) reading proficiency of 56.6 percent in 2011. It came in at 43.9 percent for the elementary grades and 48.2 percent at the secondary level. Same for math scores, which fell about eight points short of the projected 56.1
    A senior U.S. Department of Education official, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said the District’s four -year grant is not at risk, and that the city will be judged by its overall capacity for reform in such areas as tougher teacher evaluations and data systems to drive instructional and personnel decisions.

    “I don’t get the sense that this would be the kind of thing they get dinged for,” he said of the scores.


  4. Thanks, now read this. As it concludes, it to be continued …

    One of the multiple murky aspects of the U.S. Education Department’s apparent involvement in the D.C. cheating probe is how it began. Was the agency’s office of inspector general asked by the District’s IG to assist? Did it intervene on its own? Was it prodded by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has been more vocal lately on the issue of test security?

    Justin Hamilton, Duncan’s press secretary, offered a fragment of new detail today.

    “All I can say for now is that we’ve met with the IG’s office about the issue of cheating and know that they are engaged and paying close attention to what’s going on,” he said.

    More fragments as they develop.

  5. John,

    I appreciate your point about Reuther. Lost in our jaded, almost completely socialized negative perspective on unionism in this nation is the fact that Reuther approached the Big Three in the 1960s and told them that UAW health benefits would be unsustainable in the future if the United States did not embrace a national approach to health care. Use your bully pulpit and get this done with Congress was the mantra that Reuther embraced. The Big Three, in their arrogance, dismissed this and now 50 years later we are left picking up the pieces and the storyline is that is the UAW is somehow at fault for the demise of American industry. Reuther could foresee what the future held, but as it required a certain redistribtuion of wealth to deal with it, it became an unwelcomed vision.

    This all seems quite ironic now when we have the children of 1960s era activists and pioneers for civil rights advocating for another type of redistribution of wealth—the funnelling of money from the elite benefactors of corporate America to undermine the voice of workers. No matter how much the reformers want to focus on the obstinance of unionized educators, they can’t get past the fact that their voice is paid for out of their own pockets. Meanwhile, the reformers, increasingly to their own detriment, are getting paid for out of the pocket of the boss. They may be OK with the fact that their boss ran a new wave industry like Microsoft or has keen connections with the mayor of Chicago, but they are still getting paid by the boss. The same boss who shrugged off the need for national health care in the face of Reuther. The same boss who beat workers in the orchards of Bakersfied. The same boss who bought his workers off a ship in Charleston.

    Congratulations, Jonah! You are now are inextricably linked to the legacy of the boss. Don’t be surprised when the folks who pay their own way choose to stand in yours.

  6. Just when I think the level of self-parody in the Eduwonk comments section has reached an apex, someone comes in and tops it with a new unimaginable performance defying logic and even, now, coherence.


    The rest of you are going to have to take your games to a whole new level of keep up with a tenure reform to slave trade analogy.
    It is true however that no one has ever seen Bill Gates and Nathan Bedford Forrest at the same place at the same time, so maybe Lou is on to something.

    After all, if Chewbacca is a Wookie, you must acquit.

  7. Help me out here- teacher union members get caught changing answers on student tests on a massive scale…and somehow in the bizzarro universe of the K-12 reactionary this is discrediting to reformers but not to teacher unions.

    Just checking.

    Obviously Georgia needs to seriously upgrade their test security proceedures, making extensive use of erasure and pattern analysis. Critically, it needs to be known in advance that they will be doing these things. At some point it become necessary to develop third party administration if these steps don’t work.

    Sorry cheater, the correct answer is not to turn out the lights on school transparency.

  8. Yeah, I’ll help you, bonzo.

    There are no teacher UNIONS in Georgia.
    It’s a right to work state.

    Go read the Georgia government report in which is describe the atmosphere of fear and intimidation created by Dr. Hall and her cheatin’ buddies.
    Teachers went to their associations to tell about the cheatin’ and they got whacked by the cheatin’ Hall and her buddies, like reactionariesarecutewhenfuckedover.

  9. So they call themselves associations instead of unions, distinction without a difference. No less a reactionary than Diane Ravitch singled Atlanta out for praise for achieving gains without engaging in the sort of reforms that she doesn’t like. Ooops.

    This Hall person, in short, is not my problem. The fact that your association people followed orders is your problem.

  10. reactionariesarecutewhenfuckedover,
    in short:
    blah, blah, blah
    Blame the teachers.
    Undoubtably, the torando that hit Joplin was the teachers fault.
    My bad back is the teachers’ fault.\

    blah, blah. blah

  11. I agree that there are differences between the public and private sector unions. In my opinion private schools here in Canada actually hold the teacher. If you fail to teach the content of a course you end up getting fired. The public school systems here are dominated by unions where bureaucracy has grinded everything to a halt. Once tenured, many public school teachers literally can’t be fired for their deficiencies and simply show up to collect a paycheque. Likewise, those teachers that are passionate about their jobs are not rewarded for their effort. I personally feel that our entire school system should be privatized.

  12. I’d like to respond to “Cheaters” comments above: “So they call themselves associations instead of unions, distinction without a difference.”

    Please be aware that there is a real difference between unions and associations. Anyone can have an association, but associations have NO bargaining power to bargain for the teachers’ contracts. They certainly have no power to strike (although many teacher unions don’t have that power either).

    Are you arguing that teachers should not be allowed to associate with each other? Perhaps you’ve heard of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution and the freedom of association?

  13. Tutors in Edmondson:
    “Once tenured, many public school teachers literally can’t be fired for their deficiencies and simply show up to collect a paycheque.”

    How many is many?

    “Likewise, those teachers that are passionate about their jobs are not rewarded for their effort. ”
    What reward do they seek?

    Here’s teacherken on that:

    I could be down. In fact, I probably was down until I read this email.

    Teaching is not about test scores. Yes, we must know our content areas. Yes, we must be able to communicate in in a way that makes sense to the young people in our care. But to do that effectively we must care about them, we must take the time to know them, and even then we cannot be certain about the impact of the lessons perhaps until many years later.

    Teaching is about relationships.

    Teaching is most of all about and focused upon the students.

    it is nice when we hear the positive things that come from our teaching.

    As my wife notes, this letter is more valuable to me than all the certificates I received for my Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher award from the Washington Post.

    I thought I’d share.</blockquote

  14. Cheater-

    Note that you are the one crying in your beer and dropping F-bombs rather than mustering anything to resemble a coherent argument. You may as well get used to it, there are many more setbacks on the way for you reactionaries. Have fun with those “Bill Gates as a slave trader” stories.


    You are correct that there are differences between unions and associations, just none that seem relevant in this context.

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