Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joe Williams, DFER leading Dems into school reform movement

A great article about Joe Williams and DFER:


For years, the battle over reform in our nation's public schools appeared to be a partisan affair.

   On one side you had the Republicans, who were advancing concepts like charter schools, private school vouchers and tenure reform, with little success. On the other side were the Democrats, a party with strong ties to the national teachers unions, who defended the status quo.

   But there was a reformist movement quietly taking shape within the Democratic ranks, according to Joe Williams, executive director of the New York-based Democrats for Education Reform. It just took awhile for these free-thinkers to find their voice and openly challenge the union position on education, he said.


…How the unions respond to future reform efforts is anyone's guess, according to Williams.

   He said he was encouraged when AFT President Randi Weingarten recently expressed interest in the concept of tying teacher evaluations to student performance. Unfortunately, he doesn't see much evidence of grassroots union support for her position.

   He said that's particularly true in New York City, where Weingarten served as the local union president before going national.

   "(State and local AFT leaders) aren't as eager as she is to run down the path that uses test scores in teacher evaluations," Williams said. "In New York City, they won't touch her ideas with a ten-foot pole."

   Williams has even less hope for the NEA and its response to the reform movement.

   "The NEA has somehow managed to become totally irrelevant in education," Williams said. "It's a shame that the teachers are being so ill-served because their leaders have become so out of touch with reality."

   Regardless of their "out of touch" positions, the unions still wield a lot of power, which means they will have to be dealt with as the reform effort moves forward, according to Williams.

   "The unions still have the power to block a lot of things," Williams said. "They are not going to give that up any time soon."


 Subscribe in a reader