Thursday, March 03, 2011

Are Teachers Unions Really to Blame?

Richard Whitmire, in his wonderful new book about Michelle Rhee, The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation's Worst School District (, documents the union's resistance to change, their thuggish tactics, and how they eventually drove Fenty (and Rhee) out.  So it was with real puzzlement that I read his column in the Huffington Post recently that is MUCH too kind to the unions.  Yes, the system is messed up and they aren't solely to blame, but they are by far the most powerful, organized resistance to the change that our children so desperately need:

Sure, unions play roles in blocking reforms, but blaming the unions for concessions granted by school boards makes no sense. And yes, some unions in some big urban districts do their best to thwart attempts to root out ineffective teachers. But that crime is a misdemeanor compared the felony committed by school chiefs across the country that don't even have unionized workforces. What's their excuse for tolerating teachers who aren't really teaching?

The really, really awkward truth that you never read about: school district officials use unions as their excuse. Oh, we can't seriously evaluate teachers; that would upset the unions. Oh, we can't lay off teachers on any ground other than seniority that would upset the unions. They're just not willing to fight.

Should we really be blaming the unions for all those lapses? Truth is, schools districts get the unions they deserve.


Richard Whitmire

Veteran newspaper reporter, Author of The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation's Worst School District

Posted: February 25, 2011 01:10 AM

Are Teachers Unions Really to Blame?

 Subscribe in a reader