Thursday, June 25, 2009

Arne Duncan wimps out

Obama's secretary of education, Arne Duncan, former superintendent of Chicago's public schools was interviewed by Diane Rheem on WBOI (Public Radio) this morning. For one hour we got nothing but political blather and dancing around the issues from the man who's supposed to turn our public schools around.

Indiana school superintendents, including Eugene White of Indianapolis have cited No Child Left Behind and PL 217, which allows Indiana teachers to unionize, as the two biggest obstacles to improving Indiana's public schools, especially the urban public schools which are in dire need of change. But Arne never once mentioned the dominance of public education by teacher's unions. Perhaps that's because those unions gave $500 million to Obama's campaign. Teachers' unions are the number one obstacle to change in public education. If your district is doing well and doesn't need to change, unions are not a problem. If your district, like FWCS, is sinking, you'll have to vote with your feet if you can afford it. Like GM and the UAW, the end result is just a matter of time.

When asked why charter schools could succeed in urban areas where traditional public schools failed, he wouldn't say it's because charter school teachers are not unionized. He talked about excellent data bases on students and teachers in California, which couldn't be merged to evaluate teacher performance based on student improvement. He complained that in California, as in most places, 10% of teachers are excellent, 10% are incompetent and the rest are in between. But there was no way to know in which category a teacher fell. That's because teachers and their unions adamantly oppose any evaluation system. And if they lost that battle, their union would still protect the incompetent teachers from dismissal. Apparently, teachers, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average.

Then he said we are in a new age where dropouts and even kids without a post secondary no longer have manufacturing jobs as an avenue to make a decent living. So do you think Arne and Barack are going to change that? No way!

Their approach is to hold out stimulus money as bait to get public schools to do the right thing. If you've ever owned a boat, you've heard it described as a hole in the water to throw your money into. If you don't own a boat, you can throw your money onto the hole in Washington D.C. and the one on South Clinton street.