Occasionally, a teacher union official tells you what he really thinks. The reigning champion in this regard was the late Albert Shanker, former President of the American Federation of Teachers, who famously said, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."
With equal candor, Shanker also said, "It's time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody's role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."
Now, the National Education Association may have someone to follow in Shanker's illustrious footsteps: Morty Rosenfeld. Mr. Rosenfeld is the head of a local union in New York and sits on the NEA national board of directors. This October, Rosenfeld said:
"If the United States is to preserve our system of free public schools, teacher unions are going to have to stop accepting the status quo and making excuses for the poor performance of our students. Most of us know that contrary to all of the talk about how we are raising our standards, in most of our schools they continue to decline. The low scores on the so-called high stakes tests are testimony to the fact that large numbers of students leave school knowing next to nothing and ill equipped for any but the most menial of jobs."
Mr. Rosenfeld continued, "While many of our most talented young people spend their days in so-called accelerated courses with curricula once thought more appropriate to the college level, too many of them have whizzed right by basic skills and cannot string together three coherent sentences or know to any degree of certainty if they have received the correct change in a store. We must face the fact that some of the right-wing critique of public education, particularly their criticism of the ever inflating costs of public education, resonates with the American public because it is true, or at least truer than some of the blather put out by the people who run the schools and the unions who represent the people who work in them. If it is true that our freedom is ultimately tied to our being an enlightened and educated citizenry, we are in terrible trouble."
Here's to Mr. Rosenfeld's candor. Accepting the reality of that "terrible trouble" is the first step to ending the union's stonewalling and beginning to solve the problems in American public education.
-Plainview-Old Bethpage (New York) Congress of Teachers: "Teacher Talk with PCT President Morty Rosenfeld: Telling What We Know, Part 1"
-Goldwater Institute: "A Guide to Understanding State Funding of Arizona Public School Students"