I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Charter Schools, An Exchange: Part I

Dmitri Mehlhorn is a venture capitalist and school "reform" advocate. He was the COO of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee's education "reform" lobbying group, and he maintains a regular presence in both traditional and social media as an advocate for charter school proliferation, the revocation of teacher tenure as it is currently constituted, and other similar "reform" policies.

I have had several Twitter back-and-forths with Mehlhorn, and I've found them extremely unsatisfying. To be clear, that's not his fault, nor is it mine: it's the inherent limitations of 140 characters that have kept us from having a substantive debate.

The funny thing is that I enjoy our exchanges. I think Mehlhorn is a sincere advocate for policies he believes will genuinely help America's students. I also believe, however, that he's wrong about nearly everything when it comes to education -- particularly when it comes to charter schools.

At Dmitri's suggestion, we are going to have a dialog about charters here on my blog. I promised him that I would let his words stand here free of any editing on my part [I have added a few links in the text, but that's all], and that I would make my opposing case in separate posts.

I don't know how long our exchange will go, but I will respond to what Mehlhorn wrote below in a couple of days. I hope he'll reply back; this dialog about charter schools could be very helpful in clarifying one of the key issues in education "reform." 

Thank you, Dmitri, for engaging in this conversation. I encourage all of our readers to weigh in through comments.

Mark Weber
aka Jersey Jazzman

ADDING: Here is an index for the entire exchange:

Part I: Mehlhorn's opener.

Part II: My reply.

Part III: Mehlhorn's response.

Part IV: My second reply.

Part V: Mehlhorn's second response.

Part VI: My final reply.

* * *

Research about charter schools

Since the Enlightenment, humanity has increasingly valued science, evidence, and the inherent nobility of individuals. Progress has been inconsistent and incomplete, but over the past two centuries this focus has brought us new political movements, new policy ideas, new businesses, and new technologies. As a result, we have less poverty, warfare, torture, and drudgery, along with longer lives and greater literacy.

Over the past few decades, this focus on evidence and human potential has come to social science research in education. Since the 1966 Coleman Report, the United States government has gathered and published extensive data on how different inputs (including money, teacher credentials, and student socioeconomic backgrounds) influence outcomes (including in-school literacy and numeracy as measured by tests, graduation rates, lifetime incomes, and adult crime rates). The Gates Foundation, which primarily funds global health initiatives such as malaria prevention, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to evaluate teaching and schools. Interested parties, including charter school networks and the teachers’ unions, have commissioned additional research.

These studies, collectively, are still imperfect. They tend not to capture important elements of American education, including ethics, tolerance, and community-building. Despite good-faith efforts at transparency and objectivity, all such studies may be accused of bias. Nonetheless, all of this research represents an increasingly systematic effort to improve how we engage and empower the rising generation. Education policy debates, at their best, holistically consider the results, methodology, and motives behind such studies to determine the best course of action for the future.

With that as context, I am grateful to my fellow Democrats and education advocates at Jersey Jazzman for entertaining a conversation about what the current evidence states about charter schools in this country. Although they sharply disagree with me about education policy, and although education debates have become acrimonious, their commitment to children is clear from their willingness to have this open exchange with me. The long-term evidence is still thin, since charters have only been a meaningful part of the nation’s education landscape, but we have enough evidence to know a few things. 

The starting point for aggregate charter school research is the Stanford University Center forResearch on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which has conducted numerous studies of the charter sector. Their methodology uses a “virtual pairing” that compares charter students with comparable students at traditional public schools. Their methodology also relies on standardized tests to evaluate literacy and numeracy, and makes assumptions to translate those tests into imputed days of learning. These methodologies have weaknesses, but a when a 2009 CREDO report concluded that charters in the aggregate did no better than traditional public schools, many reform critics praised their work and methodology.

In 2013, CREDO did another national study, and found that the intervening four years had changed the sector. Low-performing charters had closed, and high-performing charters had expanded. As a result, the 2013 study showed that students at charter schools now outperformed students at traditional public schools. The overall performance difference was modest, but the improvement was significant, as part of the original theory of charter schools was that the sector would be able to improve more quickly than traditional schools. Also notable were charter demographics; overall, the sector served a population overall less wealthy and white than the traditional sector, which was important for the equity-based arguments of charter advocates.

In 2015, CREDO did a deep-dive analysis of charter schools in 41 urban areas. Education reform advocates argue that urban parents often lack the political and social capital that suburban parents use to navigate local school bureaucracies, so this urban-specific research was important. The 2015 urban study showed that on average, students gained 40 additional days of learning per year in math, and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading. Assuming a 180-day school year, those gains would be the equivalent of extending the school year by 22% in math and 16% in reading.

If this result holds up under scrutiny, it would mean that charter schools already out-perform traditional public schools in ways that are greater than the impacts of smaller class sizes, intensive preschool interventions, and other popular union-backed education investments. Additionally, the CREDO results suggest that charter schools are getting steadily better over time, so that this performance gap will only continue to grow. To be sure, there are many legitimate criticisms of the CREDO study, but the power of the 2015 results puts the burden of proof squarely on those who would attack the efficacy of charter schools. 

Turning to those criticisms, the most frequent is that CREDO is affiliated with the conservative Hoover Institution, which has received funding from conservative-leaning philanthropists such as the Walton Family Foundation. On the other hand, almost all of the published criticisms of CREDO have come authors affiliated with the National Education Policy Center, which is funded by the Great Lakes Center, which in turn is funded by the teachers’ unions. Since many charter teachers are not unionized, union leaders have a direct financial incentive to attack charter research. The Walton Family Foundation, by contrast, gets its funding from the anti-union Waltons, but the Waltons have no direct economic contact with the teachers’ unions. Allegations of bias alone, therefore, are not sufficient to dismiss the CREDO results. 

There are, however, several much better substantive criticisms of CREDO.

The first strong argument is that charter schools might still be skimming the best students. This is because CREDO’s “virtual pair” methodology is imperfect: although it captures initial test performance, it does not capture degrees of poverty or degrees of special needs. In other words, it is possible that CREDO shows superior performance for charters because they serve slightly less poor students (students who get their lunches at reduced price, rather than who get their lunches for free), and slightly easier special needs students (mild SPED rather than severe SPED). They might serve these slightly less hard-to-teach students by cherry-picking students (since charter schools admit students by lottery, the mechanism for this would be that they somehow encourage “easier” students to enroll in the lottery), or by selectively pushing out students (some charter schools have come under criticism for having unusually high suspension rates). The CREDO studies do not directly address these claims, because their data sets do not differentiate free vs. reduced-price lunches, or severe from mild SPED.

Substantial evidence disputes this “skimming effect” argument. Mathematica research has studied KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools, all of which overwhelmingly serve black and Hispanic students, and has concluded that those charter schools have superior retention rates to comparable traditional public schools. Several scholars have compared students who won lottery slots to charter schools, vs. those who enrolled in lotteries but did not gain slots. These studies control for selection bias, and reveal strong performance for charter school chains such as Achievement First. Of course, these high-performing charter organizations are not the only charter organizations, but the point of the CREDO 2013 study is that better charters are expanding while weaker charters are shrinking. Increasingly, the better charters are the norm, and that’s already true in cities and states that have competent charter authorizers. For example, the University of Michigan’s Sue Dynarski published a 2013 NBER paper showing that charter schools in Boston delivered significantly better results in college enrollment and placement in ways that were highly unlikely to be from skimming.

As their final trump card, charter critics pivot to the broader claim that these studies do not generally assess students who are “left behind” in traditional public schools. According to this argument, even if skimming does not account for the gains charters deliver, skimming might still leave traditional public schools in poor urban areas with a high average concentration of difficult students. In addition, because schools have fixed costs, an outflow of students to charters can leave traditional schools with budgetary problems as they adapt their fixed costs to new enrollment levels.

In considering students left behind in traditional public schools, three conclusions appear inescapable.

First, the evidence for the claim is speculative as best. Even the strongest charter critics, at places like the union-funded NEPC, are only able to conclude that the evidence is “mixed.” Of course individual schools face budgetary struggles, but charters have become a scapegoat for those challenges. My mom’s school district was known as Richmond Unified, until it went bankrupt and had to be renamed West Contra Costa Unified under pressure from the City of Richmond that didn’t want to the negative brand association. This all happened without any charters or choice in the area. Today, only 6% of students in the country attend charters, due largely to caps. We simply do not have any evidence that charters hurt traditional schools.

Second, the evidence that we do have suggests the opposite – namely, that charters improve system-wide performance. A 2008 study in the Journal of Urban Economics showed that charter schools in Texas actually stimulate performance improvements in traditional schools, through a combination of competitive effects and demonstration effects. The most powerful study to this effect comes from New Orleans, where the entire school district was converted to a charter system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2015, researcher Doug Harris compared New Orleans with Baton Rouge, another hurricane-impacted city that did not shift to charters. The entire district of New Orleans saw dramatic performance improvements under a system-wide charter regime, a result that would be impossible if the criticism were correct.

Finally, and most importantly, charter critics are on untenable moral ground when they pivot from individual benefits for students to alleged system-wide effects of the schools that are “left behind.” Prosperous Americans already have choice; they buy homes in areas near schools they like, and they use their social and political capital to guide their students through those schools. We do not know exactly how many poor families of color are on charter wait lists, because some families apply more than once, but we know that over one million applications are on wait lists, and we know that at least tens of thousands of families want choice in how public money gets spent on behalf of their children. The argument to cap charters, despite these wait lists, amounts to public compulsion that these parents remain in schools that are not right for their children. Knowingly sending a child to a bad school is morally bankrupt; forcing parents to send their kids to such schools on pain of jail time is even worse. Charter critics can decry residential segregation and ask for all schools to become good, but until that happens, it is simply immoral to cap charter schools and thus deny poor parents the same choice that wealthy parents already have.


Michael Fiorillo said...

Can we dispose of the trope that because venture capitalists/philanthropists and other so-called education reformers actually "believe" the garbage they're pushing, that somehow it has some validity?

Of course they "believe" in it: full-spectrum control of the schools is a multi-billion dollar prize they covet, masked by a millimeter-thin facade of faux social conscience, self-congratulation and appropriated rhetoric ("the civil rights movement of our time" and so forth).

Their "beliefs" are so inseparably woven into their personal and/or class interests (via privatization, union busting, related investments/rents/fees, etc.) that they should be discounted virtually one hundred percent and greeted with derisive laughter.

Ben Faber said...

No comments through moderation yet, so I will pluck the low-hanging fruits: NOLA, & untested skills. New Orleans clearly needs to be considered an outlier for before/after concerns, because the demography of before-NOLA and after-NOLA are totally different. The city got substantially white-washed & gentrified, so of course there are substantial before-after improvements, the city is teaching different students now. I'm not aware of any reason that this would show evidence against charters, but it can't be evidence for charters either.

Untested skills: I'm reasonably familiar with the programs at these charter schools, and yes they do a great job of preparing students to take standardized tests, because they spend virtually all of their time on that. Now, for sure there are public schools trying to do that do, witness the conditions that led to the Seattle Teachers strike this year, but it's less ubiquitous and it's not intrinsic to the philosophy of the schools. Show me an entire grade cohort of students in a charter network school who do a research project supported by a librarian. Show me that cohort being enriched by music and arts skills education. Or even show me that cohort learning about their local history and connecting their personal experiences to classroom situations in ways that validate their cultural experience. And please show me that while you are pushing to revoke charter caps you are also working on student evaluation systems that evaluate skills other than filling in bubbles.

I'm curious about the Mathematica research on retention rates, because that doesn't jive with what I've heard before, and is clearly a crucial point. Mark just reviewed here the disproportionate suspension data for Uncommon, in connection with his critique of our new acting SecEd.
Is this the stuff we're talking about? http://www.kipp.org/results/mathematica-study

Giuseppe said...

I'm just wondering if Dmitri Mehlhorn is against teacher unions and feels that they should be banished or eliminated. Oh wait, that's what charter schools do, for the most part (an infinitesimal percentage of charters are unionized). He seems to be implying that teachers' unions are a big problem and a roadblock to educational progress and excellence. I think that is untrue. The states with the best performing schools, such as NJ, CT and MA are unionized. Leaving unions aside, charter schools are imposed on school districts whether they are wanted or not, whether they are supposedly needed or not. Charter schools are like separate school districts unto themselves that do not work in cooperation with the real public schools, quite the opposite. Charter schools have unelected boards of directors and they do not answer to the elected school boards and the appointed superintendents of the district schools. Charter schools are a parallel school system that do drain funds and resources from the district schools.

Dienne said...

"Second, the evidence that we do have suggests the opposite – namely, that charters improve system-wide performance."

You say this and then you go on to give exactly one study, from Texas, done in 2008, published in an economics journal. Oh, yeah, and New Orleans (the same city that still performs lowest in the state which performs second lowest in the nation, and which city can't even find a few thousand of its students, and let's leave aside the mountains of opposing evidence that Mercedes Schneider and Crazy Crawfish have uncovered).

Well, I'm convinced.

Unknown said...

1) Using evidence collected by organizations that have potential conflict of interest is problematic. This entire argument hinges on data collected by sources that are not considered impartial.

2) Ability to sift for better children is a fundamental argument against charters. Parental support (required by KIPP and implicit in the charter application process) is the primary ingredient for student success. We can only recognize the quality of schools that can not sort for children and must backfill to maintain similar class size to the schools they "compete" with.

3) Schools that have received additional financial support from advocacy groups in an economy that is defunding and underfunding schools does not speak to the ability of charters to do better. It speaks to the ability of money to do better.

4) Public schools impacted by charters will see increased enrollment of students who are counseled out, fewer of the better children whose parents will choose schools w fewer behavior problems, lower class size and more resources. This trend undermines public education as a social good and does not support equity.

5) Right to choose your school because you have the income to optout of public education is something that comes with more wealth. Charters do not address this issue for the entire public. They allow for some parents to remove their children from public education which further undermines it as a social good. It results in increased segregation by race and class in places where parents want to choose that path. It results in inappropriate policies in schools that are funded by public dollars because a school can open just to benefit a particular racial, cultural, political or religious group. That is contrary to the vision of universal free public education.

6) The impact of allowing charters to proliferate even when they are not viable has not resulted in better opportunities for the children who are impacted by them. The notion that any change is better than the status quo dismisses the very negative impacts that are being reported by multiple charter related scandals around the country. If charters are here to stay, they need regulation and oversight. The idea that dumping "bureaucracy" allows for innovation has resulted in a sloppy free for all that is a burden on tax dollars and a negative impact for children.

7) When we sift through the information about charters, we uncover the advantages in play: funding matters, resources matter, class size matters, parental support matters. These are the ingredients for a good school. It does not require charters to exist. It requires political will, financial investment, and support for parents. We need every child to have the same resources, low class size and support. We need buy in to our public system not optout of public education for desperate recipients of elitist largesse.

Dmitri Mehlhorn said...

Michael Fiorillo: I agree with you that motivations are complex. For instance, as I mention in the column, essentially every single anti-charter scholar of any note is sponsored or published by organizations affiliated with the union leaders, who have a direct financial incentive to oppose charters because charters tend to be non-union. Hence it's easy for all sides to attack. I write about this a little bit in Education Post, where I note that John King, Arne Duncan, and Barack Obama get attacked as "corporate reformers" even though they've never worked for corporations. As for my own interests, I deliberately refrain from any investments in K-12 education precisely to encourage people like you to actually look at the facts, rather than spend your time on my own financial conflicts. Put bluntly: I have zero financial upside in any outcome in education reform. Indeed, since my mother and my in-laws are still alive and receive pensions for their work as public K-12 employees, I have a very slightly financial interest in maintaining the status quo. More broadly, I try to be transparent about my own interests and motives in this piece about my mom and daughter, here: http://dropoutnation.net/2014/10/07/why-teachers-have-no-voice/. Now, will you please review the actual evidence, as listed in the column?

Dmitri Mehlhorn said...

Ben Faber: Thanks for reading. A few thoughts for your consideration.

(1) One of the pieces you should also read is Sue Dynarski's NBER piece from 2013. It refers to college entry due to charters, vs. traditional schools, and it rules out "peer effects." This is a broader measure than standardized tests. The link is here: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19275.

(2) I absolutely agree we should have broader measures of student achievement. But tests and data are one issue, somewhat separate from parent choice. Even if we don't have great measures of student results, we can still take seriously the "voice" of parents as measured by residential housing patterns for wealthier parents, and by charter wait lists for less fortunate parents.

(3) This is subjective, but if you ever meet some of the kids who graduate from Achievement First or Success Academies, they are extraordinary. I've seen them give speeches, compete in tournaments, and perform uncanny dance routines. This is at the same time that they are doing extremely well in their literacy and numeracy as measured by tests. Any schools that truly "teach to the test" ironically tend to do poorly in tests as well as other areas.

(4) Agree that disproportionate suspension is a big issue. What the Mathematica research and others try to do is assess overall retention. The argument from charter advocates is that suspensions are a formal way of pushing out students, and that traditional public schools may use that technique less often but use other means to softly push out kids. If you look at overall retention (vs. retention just via suspension), charter schools actually do better than traditional schools. For example, Success Charters has 10% annual attrition, vs. 20% attrition at co-located public schools. Now, Success gets criticized for not backfilling, which is a legitimate criticism. Policies should require charters to backfill. But there's simply no systematic evidence that charters push out more than traditional schools.


Dmitri Mehlhorn said...

Ben Faber, one more thing: about New Orleans, you should read the study. Doug Harris and his team controlled for the changes in the New Orleans population in a couple of ways (for instance, they compared with Baton Rouge which also had a changed demographic but did not switch to charters).

Dmitri Mehlhorn said...

Giuseppe, you make several different points that I'd like to address with available evidence.

(1) The idea that charters are "imposed" on school districts whether they are wanted or not: who do you believe public funds are intended to serve? The school districts as entities, or the children and communities in which they are embedded? If parents want charter schools, and the constituents (via a Mayor or Governor or State Legislature) deliver charter schools, where is the legitimacy problem? Yes, school boards are one form of elected governance, but so are other regulatory regimes.

(2) As for the role of teachers unions, yes I believe that teachers unions in the United States have over time taken anti-student positions in the areas of parent choice and teacher accountability. This is due to the mechanics of who votes in union elections, which generally have about 20% turnout. I argue that the most insecure teachers tend to be the most motivated to vote in union elections, although Jersey Jazzman has taken issue with that and I admit I don't have solid evidence. However, I do have evidence that union leaders are very different than most teachers in their political views, and that pro-reform union leaders often lose election immediately after pushing more-reform contracts. I also have survey evidence about teachers' views, and factual evidence about teachers' own use of choice for their own kids. I summarize this evidence here: http://dropoutnation.net/2014/10/07/why-teachers-have-no-voice/

(3) As for your argument that teachers are unionized in high-performing states, that is true. But as a matter of scientific inquiry, we have to question the direction of causality. Did high-performing districts attract unions, because the public union organizers were attracted to the wealth and results? Or did unions deliver high-performing schools? In New York, for example, there was no collective bargaining until 1958, at which point the schools were already wealthy and high-performing. The existing patterns of success (higher performance in the wealthier states of the Northeast, such as Massachusetts), all pre-date the period in the 1960s when public sector workers obtained collective bargaining rights. Thus, there is no evidence that unions actually promote performance in schools, at least not as unions are constructed in this country. And indeed, the Boston charter schools are illustrative here. The Dynarski / NBER study of 2013 shows that Boston charters substantially outperform traditional schools in Boston in terms of helping disadvantaged children get into charters. Massachusetts, as you no doubt know, is one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to embrace tenure and lockstep pay, and was an early state in unionizing teachers. Even in Boston, then, it's important to see that charters (which indeed are often not unionized) do a better job of serving low-income students.

Kevin said...

While I have qualms with both the quality of Mr. Mehlhorn’s data and the conclusions he attempts to draw from it, I will leave that to more qualified commentators and bloggers to consider. Instead, I will focus on the two issues I found most troubling.

First, Melhorn attempts to reduce the dichotomy between charter schools and public schools to technical issues regarding the quality of data. He makes no qualifications about the limits of that data (e.g. the possibility of statistical “noise” when attempting to quantify something as complex as learning) or its appropriate use in a broader debate about the necessity for charter schools. Conveniently, that ignores numerous quandaries in the ethical and political realms. Melhorn does not address any of the issues of governance, transparency, or ownership of charter schools; their continued insistence on being private entities when it suits them (denial of rights to workers and students) and public entities when it suits them (funding); the perverse incentives created by “competing” with other schools (both charter and public); and disproportionate effect charter owners have on the political process (think Eva Moskowitz). Even if data proved conclusively that charter students scored higher on standardized tests, which is not true but also an extremely limited indicator, that does not “prove” charter schools should supplant public schools.

Second, and most offensive, is Melhorn’s insistence that “choice” is the solution for disadvantaged students and parents. This line of argument assumes two things: one, that parents in these communities would always choose a charter school over a public school. Perhaps Melhorn missed what happened in Philadelphia last year when two communities overwhelmingly voted against a charter conversion. Two, that not only are public schools in these communities decrepit and failing, but also that they have always and must always do so (perhaps due to the unionized, tenured, more experienced, and more diverse staff that selfishly collect high salaries for an entire career). The state of these schools, just like the living conditions and wage conditions of the communities in which they are situated, is the result of political and choices by people like, well, Melhorn.

You see, Mr. Melhorn, “choice” by definition does not insure adequate schooling: indeed, many parents may at first choose inadequate charter schools or choose charter schools for non-academic reasons. What we advocate for is the insurance, the guarantee, of a quality education for children. It is their right as citizens and their parents’ right as citizens. If only you and your benefactors had exercised a choice to spend your lobbying, public relations, and organizing millions and securing adequate funding.

Unknown said...


I love your argument. Thank you for bringing it. So sensible, clear and logical. I will note, however, that all those unionized, tenured, experienced and diverse staff do not collect high salaries for an entire career. They work up to a decent salary starting at a salary that doesn't pay the bills. In my own case, I started at 19k when I first started teaching. In the last few years, I've had a salary that affords me a truly middle class life, thanks to my union and to the many years that I have put into my profession.

Giuseppe said...

I started teaching in 1968 with a whopping salary of $6,900.00. Oh yeah, what a greedy union slug was I. My first class was 38 (THIRTY-EIGHT) pupils. It took almost 25 years before I achieved a middle class salary. I really take offense at Kevin's slap at unionized, tenured, experienced teachers unless he was using snark or sarcasm, which is quite possible. I hope he was being sarcastic.
Now Christie and many others would love to cancel my pension, the COLA has already been eliminated.
If tenure, seniority, LIFO and unions are eliminated, then the older, more experienced and more expensive teachers will have a big fat target on their backs for immediate dismissal no matter how great they are.

edlharris said...

(3) This is subjective, but if you ever meet some of the kids who graduate from Achievement First or Success Academies, they are extraordinary.

Dmitri Mehlhorn said...

Kevin: thank you for your note. I did indeed try to underscore in my piece that data is not perfect. I tried to emphasize that the United States government, as well as philanthropists, have been investing massive resources to try to bring insight to what works and doesn't in education, and that furthermore even their best efforts don't capture important elements of learning.

You raise other issues, however, about politics. But these issues do not cut the way that you claim.

First, consider the idea of competition. The competition between charters and TPS is not perverse, it's healthy. This is one of the reasons that nations such as Denmark have been so successful; they've encouraged internal competition within their public sectors. That was also a big part of the success of Bill Clinton's administration via "Reinventing Government." Also consider healthcare delivery in the United States (not payment, but delivery). Medicaid and Medicare patients can choose from among government-run hospitals (about 20% of the sector), nonprofits (about 60% of the sector), and for-profits (about 20% of the sector). Would anyone argue that this system is bad for innovation?

Second, consider the idea of political influence. The two national teachers' unions spend roughly $700 million per year, every year, on political advocacy. They have a strong and direct financial interest in attacking charters, because most charters are not unionized. Part of their advocacy takes the form of sponsoring think tanks, such as Great Lakes Center, which fund criticisms of the studies that I have mentioned. Today, there are no criticisms of the basic pro-charter study that have not been sponsored directly or indirectly by these funds. Additionally, the unions spend their resources to shape the political landscape through electoral and advocacy work which dwarfs the resources available to charters. Does that bother you? If not, consider the fact that unions generally have about 20% turnout in their internal union elections, so this flood of money is spent not on behalf of all teachers, but on behalf of a group elected by a majority of about one fifth of teachers. Your concern about the influence of charter operators should pale in comparison.

Giuseppe said...

Diane Ravitch makes the case for teacher unions:
Friends, this is why labor unions were created, to prevent the exploitation of teachers and other workers. The writer says that other teachers are afraid to speak up. This is why labor unions were created. And this is why the overlords of economy and efficiency are eager to crush public sector unions, so people can be compelled to work 50 and 60 hour weeks without overtime. This is why so much money is pouring into charter schools, because 90% or so are non-union. This is why Teach for America is the workforce for many charters, because they are right out of college, they don’t have children, they have lots of energy, and they don’t mind working 10-11 hour days.

If you/we let this continue, teaching will be a job for temps, not a profession.

Get your union to stand up for you. If you don’t have a union, start to organize one. Join the Network for Public Education and let us magnify your voices.

Unknown said...

So many points to attack.. so little time. I simply have too much to do to spend attacking each point. Just two for now..

Dmitri misquotes union spending by close to 650 million. By even the most right wing sources I could find (those most likely to inflate), I can't find expenditures of over 50 million for both major teacher's unions and all unions (public and non public) together came to around 70 million. Unless he has some sources that he'd like to name that can prove that 700 million dollar claim?)

Dmitri argues that teachers vote in local elections and he surmises that the most insecure teachers have the most reason to vote. What? First,that is an argument against the right of teachers to be viewed separately as citizens and parents at the poll booth... it seems almost a covert attack on teachers right to have a voice in in their own communities. Or perhaps it's that second point... the voters are likely to be insecure. Is that because secure teachers are less likely to feel the need to vote? Hmmm. One would think that the most educated and informed people would vote in local elections, but never mind. Most disturbing of all is the conclusion that he draws from all of this non evidence and vague supposition... let's just get rid of elections since local elections get poor turnout. What the heck... while we're at it, let's get rid of mid term congressional elections as well.After all.. a midterm congressional election only gets 40% participation. All those insecure voters voting gets in the way of progress.

Dan McConnell said...

I am going to warm up my coffee, grab a bagel, and enjoy the digesting with some reading here. I have also had brief 140 character exchanges with Dmitri,and find him to be clever, well spoken and able to offer honest counterpoint and insight, raise some good questions (as well as more willing to admit some shortcomings of the current reform approach). Thanks to both of you for doing this.