Friday, July 01, 2011

New Jersey, Statehouse Democrats and the Decline of Teachers Union Influence

Here are RiShawn Biddle's spot-on comments on what's going on in NJ and nationally (with a nice plug for DFER):

But for the NEA, the … days in which they could count on unquestioned support and cover from the Democratic Party is coming to an end.

…Despite the millions ponied up by the unions last year on behalf of Democrats, the party still lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives, majorities in state legislatures and gubernatorial spots. Democrats may still depend on teachers' union largesse, but they no longer think that those dollars are worth all the kowtowing required to get them. The emergence of centrist and progressive Democrat school reformers as forces in statehouses also means that the prime foe at the federal level will become more fervent at the state level. With organizations such as Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children actively providing an alternative voice to the tired rhetoric of NEA and AFT affiliates — and with big-city mayors and young urban Democrats already galvanized for reform — the two teachers unions will continue to lose influence.

What happened last night in New Jersey — actually the latest in a series of moves by statehouse Democrats since Republican Gov. Chris Christie took office last year — is just one more example of the NEA and AFT ending up on the defensive. This can also be seen across the Hudson in New York State, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully pushed the state Board of Regents to allow for student performance data on state tests to be used for as much as 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation; and in Illinois, where the AFT and NEA found themselves signing on to a series of modest (actually, hardly revolutionary) reform measures in order to stave off the possibility of even more-radical efforts. And despite last year's lost by Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, more Democratic mayors will be looking to take over traditional school districts and authorize charter schools, further weakening the fraying ties between teachers unions and Democratic leaders.

This isn't to say that Democrats and teachers unions will part ways. Democrats may be less-dependent on teachers' union largesse, but they still dovetail ideologically on other issues. More importantly, the NEA and AFT really have nowhere else to turn. While they have been strong donors to Republicans in some states, the teachers unions can't count on them to defend their interests either at the state or federal level. There will be more Scott Walkers, more John Kasichs and more Mitch Daniels ready to do battle. They need Democrats — including school reformers within the party's ranks — and will have to adjust their rhetoric accordingly.


New Jersey, Statehouse Democrats and the Decline of Teachers Union Influence

June 24, 2011 No Comments by RiShawn Biddle

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