Thursday, August 05, 2010

Kudos to DC Schools Chief

Be Wise, Decentralize

Workers, who seems to spend alot of summertimes in our Nation's capital, is very happy to see that the the DC Public Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, is taking on the public schools union (a huge donor to Democrats, and DC, if nothing else, is hugely Democrat). Ms. Rhee has had the fortitude to fire more than 150 union-member school teachers based on lousy local test results and assigning responsbility for these tests to specific teachers.

"Teaching to the test" isn't such a great a idea, but oftentimes you have to play the game from the inside to make change from the inside. Once you are a member of a union usually you can't be fired no matter how lousy a teacher you are, and if you can't be fired, then, well, what is the incentive to perform besides a love for your craft. But, if love of your craft is taken away by the non-creativity and strict rules that union-based education and government standards bring, well then it is a Catch-22 that needs reform.

For those of us that support public funding of schools (if not necessarily of course public provision of schooling), as some type of public good for our "republican democracy" (whatever that means besides, it seems, in the modern context of a state which just grows larger and larger while independent choice and concumbent responsibility grows smaller and smaller) with the end-result being an educated voter-age populace, then anything that curtails the consistent decline of American public (e.g., labor-union supplied) education is positive.

Washington, DC is not a state, so it is highly-dependent on federal funds, and the vagaries of the purse are especially strong for DC's local efforts in improving educational quality through market-based, parental-choice, alternatives to the mainstream public schools, especially given that the recent Congress and recent President of course are Democrats and get, again, huge amounts of money for the election campaigns from the teacher's unions.

So therefore it is doubly admirable that Ms. Rhee is biting the hand that feeds both locally and 'federally'.

Lastly what she is doing is in reality just reacting to supply and demand. The DC public schools have lost 1/3 of their students to charter schools. At the same time private philanthropy is filling the gap for funding charter school education while the Democrats have hemmed-and-hawed at funding the reform that students and their parents obviously support. So, while less students attend union-staffed public schools, and more attend innovative and demand-driven alternatives, the right thing to do is indeed to lay-off the union teachers, and good for her. Give the people what they want.