Friday, November 11, 2005
Honor our veterans today.
This post on Edwize caught Eduwonk’s eye because at a discussion recently in Denver, UFT honcho Randi Weingarten said she’d support raising the cap on charters (and also that they deserved equal funding with other public schools) as long as teachers in charters were allowed to unionize. This latter issue struck Eduwonk as odd at the time because New York law already allows workers to organize now and seemed as though if there were any question about whether this applied to charters it could be put to rest with clear language about current law in any cap-raising legislation. In other words it seemed like an easily accommodated provision. In New York currently any charter school found to be violating workers rights or retaliating against union organizers can – and in Eduwonk’s opinion should – have its charter revoked.
And it turns out it was odd...because as is often the case in edupolicy/politics, there is more here than meets the eye. Edwize’s Casey is exactly right that a lot of people on the right talk out of both sides of their mouth about choice when it comes to workers being able to choose to organize but that’s really not the issue here because, again, current New York law does give teachers in charters the right to organize.
Rather, the UFT doesn’t want current law which requires secret ballot votes on decisions about whether or not the faculty at a school should form a union. Instead, the UFT wants to require public votes among teachers about whether to organize. Why? Well, peer pressure isn’t just for kids. So rather than ensuring equal rights, what the UFT is really seeking are special rules for charter schools.
What’s troubling is that there are rumors of a side deal having being cut (perhaps linked to the recent contract deal) here where the cap is lifted only for New York City in exchange for the UFT’s new charter organizing proposal. For everyone except the immediate parties to such a deal it’s a lose-lose arrangement. It would screw kids in Buffalo, Rochester, and a host of other places and splitting the statewide charter coalition would be a big coup for charter school foes. In addition, while teachers in charter schools should be able to organize like other workers, the case has not been made about why the current labor policies are inadequate to the task and special measures are necessary.
Things sure didn't go the Governator's way in California. Voters rejected all four of his initiatives. Though it will certainly add to Republican woes today (getting beat in VA and NJ, too) the CA referendums could be a Phyrrhic victory because powerful Democratic-leaning interest groups in California, in particular the California Teachers Association, are now basically broke for next year when the Governator is on the ballot -- and a year is a long time in politics.
Cynical Take: (This was part of the strategery all along…)
By the way, if you care about sensible education policy you should be disappointed that the California redistricting proposal went down; the current redistricting process fuels the polarization in politics and policymaking.
At a small dinner in LA last night with some key eduplayers in the city a couple of things were clear: First, nobody seems to have a clear sense of what happens with the Governator's referendums today. Lots of contrary predictions and speculation. One teacher said she was strongly supporting the tenure one though it just wasn't something you could talk about in school...so generalize wildly and irresponsibly from that anecdote...
Also, Steve Barr will ultimately win this fight he's picked with LAUSD and the LA teachers' union over Jefferson High School and it's a profound one because it could lead to not only better quality education but genuine new unionism over time. But, in the meantime standby for a lot of angst.
It’s a Ravtich twofer. After her Sunday Washington Post op-ed Diane Ravitch comes back with a big New York Times piece Monday about standards arguing states are setting them too low and the feds need to step in. To make her case, Ravitch focuses on the NAEP proficiency levels compared to how states define proficiency. The problem here is that there is a lot of criticism of NAEP proficiency levels and not just from anti-testing folks (although regardless of what one thinks of those levels the disparities in some states are eye-popping). But, to Ravitch’s credit, she doesn’t heap all this on NCLB but rather points out that it is an ongoing issue that predates the law. That stance is at odds with the recent rush to dump it all on NCLB (which could exacerbate this problem down the road, but isn’t causing a race to the bottom just yet). Ravitch also comes clean about the tough politics here. It could happen, of course, but Eduwonk has yet to hear a plausible political roadmap for getting it through Congress even if the occupant of the White House favored it.
Ravitch: Size Matters
In a Sunday Washington Post op-ed Diane Ravitch weighs-in on the school size issue. Some additional 411 here and here.
Ravitch agrees with the growing consensus that today's big urban high schools are too large but argues in essence that:
Small schools of fewer than 300 may be appropriate for some students, especially those who have been educationally unsuccessful, but they are not the right size for most students. If we move too far in that direction, we may have the paradoxical outcome of higher graduation rates and persistent mediocre achievement.
Eduwonk thinks worry not. While some schools of this size are being created as part of the new wave of small schools, and many are terrific schools, logistics alone mean it will not be the norm over time (and besides, the good ones get bigger anyway).