As you may recall, Jeb Bush was the architect of the national policy of "No Child Left Behind" - a thinly veiled effort to push national student achievement designed instead to do two things and two things only - to use mostly invalid testing data to fire teachers (in an effort to destroy teachers' unions) while maximizing the amount of public tax dollars being moved into the private sector. Now, I know this sounds harsh and I detest throwing mud on anyone. How about I throw Mr. Bush's own words back at him instead? According to Bush, the only (and he says ONLY) reason education today is failing our students in schools is because of the 13,000 teachers unions. Yep, he has said it repeatedly and continues to. The guy who built a nation of test takers - driving tax dollars to support text book publishers and their test bank creators, claims everything would be fine with our system of education if it was not for the damn teachers unions. Now, I know there are some bad teachers out there, but their are also bad politicians, lawyers, doctors and well, in just about everything.
What struck me the most is the absence though of other causes for poor student achievement that Mr. Bush can't seem to think of. But what pray tell could those be? How about hunger? Statistics have shown that students that do not eat a nutritious breakfast come to school hungry and less interested in learning. Now I know these are just studies, but how well do you all concentrate when you have not eaten or are hungry? But what about a student that has not eaten a decent meal for several days? Weeks? Months? It can't all be the unions' fault for student failures! But according to Jeb it is! What about students that have no support at home? No parents around to help them learn to read or write, or for that matter, think? I guess its also the unions' fault for so many folks failing there own children as poor parents What about students who wear the same clothes to school everyday because their parents can't afford to buy them new (or new to them - "gently used" clothes)? Now low self-esteem wouldn't be a problem achieving in school would it? Not according to Mr. Bush! The teachers' unions are the sole reason for these problems. And what about school systems that provide little to no support to students and/or teachers (textbooks, computers, projectors, even basic classroom supplies)? That too would be the unions' fault right?
And now we have a pile of evidence that Mr. Bush is paid a king's ransom to push for the privatization of public schools through the initiation of "vouchers". Yes, free tax money for private corporations in the "business" of education. Yet there is one problem with this initiative. Students are not widgets that can be evaluated like a business selling inventory. When a bad piece is received from a parts manufacturer and it does not conform to the specifics and standards of the manufacturer, those "widgets" can be rejected and returned to the parts supplier. But what about students that arrive at school already "damaged in the box?" Do we simply return them home with a rejection notice because they don't meet the specifications of the school, made even more stringent by State laws imposing unrealistic state standards and education gains? I say "unrealistic" because the sole purpose of the state-mandated testing is not to ensure academic achievement. It is in reality, an effort to undermine public school education, teachers and their unions. You see without unions, principals and administrators can freely terminate any teacher for any reason. So if a teacher isn't teaching the ideology of the administrator or they have a relative or friend they would like to employ instead, there will no longer be a high hurtle for them to fire that teacher.
Once again, there are bad teachers in education, but from the collective bargaining agreement in our district, bad teachers can be terminated if they are really bad at their job. What stops them from being terminated? It's not the union making sure teachers are treated fairly! It's the failure of the administrators to make the effort to terminate the teacher. Procedures exist to do get rid of bad teachers - they actually do. Administrators though are unwilling to make the effort. Can you imagine a prosecutor failing to seek a conviction of a thief or murderer because a defense attorney is involved making the state prove its case? We would never think a prosecutor would use such an excuse not to try to obtain a conviction against an indicted criminal, would we? Then why do administrators make little to no effort to use the procedures agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement with unions to try to actually get rid of bad teachers? Because it is much easier to blame the unions for "protecting" bad teachers. Has anyone ever asked the unions if they enjoy protecting teachers that do not belong in the classrooms? I'm willing to bet they too would like the bad teachers out and it's obviously if you believe Jeb it makes the unions look damn bad, right?!
The bottom line is that privatization of public schools is just plain Un-American. Education has always been a public right. Claiming Johnny can't read or write solely on unions is both naive and well, down right dishonest. Again, there are bad teachers, like in any profession. But destroying teachers unions will accomplish just that - destroying basic protections for ALL teachers from administrators pushing personal agendas. How do I know? I had a problem with an Assistant Principal when I first started teaching. He claimed I failed to follow procedures when I clearly had. He claimed I did not post required information in my classroom when I clearly had. And when I challenged him before my principal while also attaining considerable success in the classroom - he coordinated a group of students to make wild accusations about me. When the truth came out, my UNION saved my career. The AP? He's gone. Was I a bad teacher? No! Did I encounter a bad administrator with an agenda? Yes! (As a side note - Florida teacher evaluations are public record. You can look my 2013-14 rating up...a "Highly Effective" rating speaks for itself).
President Thomas Jefferson once wrote; "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." I doubt he had private school businesses in mind when he wrote this. Have a great week!