Thursday, July 07, 2011

Teacher Union Tries to Keep Accountability Away

To show how hard the unions fight reform and accountability – and how little has changed – here's a 2004 article by Charles Sahm highlighting the difference between the police and teachers unions:


Changing the NYPD's culture was key to the 1990s reforms - and the police unions played an integral role. With crime at historic highs and morale at historic lows, they knew change was needed and worked with City Hall and police headquarters to bring it about.

It soon became clear the NYPD was being restructured - cops who were committed to doing serious police work were rewarded, while those who weren't were encouraged to find other employment.

And most of the department welcomed the changes. As former NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Timoney (now Miami's police chief) puts it, "Nobody wants to be part of a losing team. Most cops get into policing because they want to make a difference."

The same is true for the majority of the city's teachers today - but they're trapped in a system that doesn't value or support excellence.


…Mayor Bloomberg worked hard to win control of the school system - and moved its headquarters right next to City Hall, just like the NYPD. He replaced the Byzantine bureaucracy with a new streamlined management structure so there is now a clear path of accountability that runs from the mayor, to the chancellor, to the superintendents, to the principals.


But the accountability now ends there: It's still virtually impossible for a principal to get rid of a bad teacher or reward an exceptional one.


Last fall, Bloomberg proposed replacing the teachers' 204-page contract with an eight-page agreement that seeks to treat them as professionals rather than union cogs. He wanted to get rid of most work rules, expedite the process for removing incompetent teachers, scale back seniority rules to give principals more authority and offer financial incentives for skilled and successful teachers to move to low performing schools where they are most needed.


Weingarten's response? At a City Council hearing, she literally ripped up the mayor's proposal.


Since then, she's made a few small steps in the mayor's direction. But all she's offering are limited experiments in a small number of schools.


We can't afford to assign another generation of New York's children to a broken school system, especially when we already know how to fix it and are so close to doing so. Parents and reform-minded teachers should push the union to finally embrace these common-sense reforms.


Change is possible. The NYPD has proven it. A decade ago, no one would have imagined we could reduce crime by 70 percent. If the teachers union would only stop acting as a roadblock to reform, perhaps a decade from now we could be celebrating the same kind of turnaround in our children's reading and math scores.


Teacher Union Tries to Keep Accountability Away

By CHARLES SAHM, NY POST, June 16, 2004

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