Archive | March, 2012


Anti-Teacher Union Rhetoric Is Not Supported by Test Data

Education And Unions

March 19, 2012

By Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

No education reform rock start can get through a few sentences without playing the ”union” card. Walt Gardner makes mince meat of the argument by pointing to those NAEP results they quote so much:

……if teachers unions are responsible for low student achievement, then students in states where teachers unions are weak should do much better than students in states where teachers unions are strong. This is not the case. In Massachusetts and Minnesota, where teachers are heavily unionized, students post the highest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card. Conversely, in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, which have few teachers union members and virtually no union contracts, students have the lowest NAEP scores (“Beyond Silver Bullets for American Education,” The Nation, Dec. 22, 2010).

We’ve been finding out that using test data to justify a policy position in education is quite the slippery slope, but it is eduction reformers who have made them matter so much. Its fair to wonder what likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney – a former governor of one of those states might say about this. Education reform rhetoric has become narrowly thematic. Gardner sites liberal journalist Juan Williams as an example:

He claims that teachers unions are “formidable opponents willing to fight even modest efforts to alter the status quo.” Their obstructionism is responsible for the one million high school dropouts each year and for a graduation rate of less than 50 percent for black and Hispanic students. Williams says that when schools are free of unions, they succeed because they can fire ineffective teachers, implement merit pay, lengthen the school day, enrich the curriculum and deal with classroom discipline.

Perhaps Williams wasn’t aware of the Minnesota and Massachusetts examples. Or even  a state like Florida which  has one of those loathsome teacher unions, too. Williams education policy naiveté is demonstrated when he found a way to say unions are somehow an impediment to classroom discipline or responsible for the narrowing of curriculum.

But no matter. Ed reformers have acquired another mind-numbed,  liberal mascot in Williams  as he, too, has been intoxicated by their predictable talking points.  For them, “status quo,” “union obstructionism” and “merit pay”  are among the go-to,  Semper fidelis  rhetorical flourishes to invoke when anyone questions the wisdom or motives of their policies.

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The Morning After Defeating Florida’s Parent Trigger Bill

School Parent Trigger

March 10, 2012

By: Bob Sikes

Lakelandrepublican senator Paula Dockery knew who the 20th vote was which would defeat parent trigger legislation in Florida. She said the evening before that the vote was 20-20. Opponents of the bill didn’t know who it was but then again neither did senate leadership who pulled every trick in the book to make this happen.

I’d speculated that potential votes could come from republican senators David Simmons or Jack Latvala who had both been critical of charter schools. Latvala essentially proposed to rewrite the bill in an amendment the afternoon before. Although Latvala voted for SB 1718 this comment he made on Wednesday  justified the concern people had for the bill.

“I think we should not ignore these F-schools but, by the same token, I don’t support taking over public schools by the commercial charter school industry,’’

Latvala’s proposed amendment “would include several restrictions on attempts to use the failing schools to organize new charter schools.” It also”outlaw any remuneration for anyone who signs or collects signatures, outlaw for-profit charter schools from being involved in any petition solicitation” and would clearly define who can vote – parents whose children are leaving the school would be prohibited from voting while parents whose children are coming into the school would be allowed to vote.”

Without realizing what he was doing, Latvala was telling Floridians that opponents were right and that Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque and senate sponsors of SB 1718 were wrong. Latvala never posted his amendment.

Still no one knew who that 20th vote was. Leadership was sure to have known where guys like Simmons and Latvala were. At precisely 2:11 yesterday afternoon the world found out that the 20th NO came from an astonishing source. Umatilla republican Senator Alan Hays was a co-sponsor of SB 1718. No one knew – save Paula Dockery – that Hays would vote NO on his own bill. His name never came up in news reports nor was he a  lobbying target of any significance.

But word came within minutes that senate leadership went into motion to get Hays to change his vote before the night was over. The time for Jeb Bush to personally get involved had arrived. The former Florida governor had an influential figure from Hays’ community call on his behalf.  Gary Lester, VP of the Villages retirement community made the call. Hays held firm.

Defeat of parent trigger legislation represents a stunning defeat for Jeb Bush. The perception of Bush as having the final say in Florida educaton policy no longer exists. Eight NO votes from republican senators – most of whom perviously supported Bush’s education initiatives –   signals an end to his domination of the education narrative. Real skepticism now exists  within his own party for his agenda. The days of blind obedience for drinking the kool-aid are over.

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