Major Democratic Donor to Meet with McKenna
I don't think I've ever written a word about ed reform developments in the state of Washington, as it's been (to quote from the letter below) "a reform backwater", but that's beginning to change (Democrats for Education Reform even has someone on the ground). Here's a BRILLIANT letter by Nick Hanauer, a Democrat and an extremely wealthy entrepreneur and venture capitalist, who takes his party to task for (in his state anyway) being a wholly owned subsidiary of the teachers unions (PS—Hanauer first became well known nationally for this article: Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators, www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-01/raise-taxes-on-the-rich-to-reward-job-creators-commentary-by-nick-hanauer.html):
I did indeed go ballistic. I am despondent over my political party's intransigence on the most important issue in the state-public education reform.
I have seen the enemy, and it is us.
It is impossible to escape the painful reality that we democrats are now on the wrong side of every important education reform issue.
We oppose charter schools. We oppose higher standards for kids. We oppose high standards for teachers. We oppose employment policies based on quality. We oppose accountability in all its forms. We oppose competition in any form. We basically have come to the view that anything that isn't about equity- like excellence or quality- is bad. We cling to the status quo while we fail the most vulnerable year after year. We resist change and innovation. We prioritize the needs of adults over the interests of children. Washington State is now known as a reform backwater, a joke. Even the Gates Foundation has all but given up hope on our state.
As far as I can tell, the only people in the whole party willing to try to do the right thing are Pettigrew, Hunter, Tom and Hobbs.
There can be no doubt in any reasonable person's mind that the leadership of our party and most of its elected members are stooges for the teachers union, the ring leader in all of this nonsense.
I want to say that I am a huge supporter of unions. Three and a half years of research for my last book on understanding economies eco-systemically has proved to me that capitalism shouldn't just tolerate unions, it requires them for survival. Unions are essential for prosperity because they balance the interests of capitalists and provide increasing wages for workers, which creates a virtuous cycle of increasing demand, increasing employment and increasing demand. This is why all prosperous capitalist societies are unionized and why economies that are not unionized tend to be poor. This is why the post war years boomed and why we are now in a death spiral of ever decreasing demand.
But in the same way that unchecked power for capitalists will destroy an economy, so too will the unchecked power of unions. This is because the work rules and constraints that unions place on the institutions they inhabit, decrease the ability of those institutions' ability to adapt to changing needs. Each new well meaning worker protection makes it less likely that the institution will survive. Today, the WEA is literally strangling our public schools to death with an almost infinite number of institutionalized rules that limit change, innovation and excellence.
Workers deserve fair wages and reasonable protections. But 90% of what is in most teacher contracts is self-destructive bullshit designed to protect the adults with the most seniority and the least ability in the system. And everyone knows this. Even other union leaders in private will admit that the teachers make all unions look bad because they are so obviously counter-productive and self interested.
I have been a life long democrat because I believe that in general, our approach to policy is more likely to make the country better for most people than the Republican law of the jungle approach. But in Washington State, after 28 years in power with almost nothing to show for it, it is time to reckon with ourselves on what we stand for. I am a democrat, but first, I am an American and a patriot. The primary business and paramount duty of the state is to educate our kids. We are failing and we have no one to blame but ourselves.