Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obama Talks Education

Mere hours after complaining that Election '08 was bypassing substantive discussion of public school education issues like "No Child Left Behind" (see ranting comments section), I note this morning that Barack Obama is in Ohio talking about doubling federal funding of charter schools:
''I'll work with all our nation's governors to hold all our charter schools accountable...Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow. And charters that aren't will get shut down.''
and getting rid of bad teachers:
''We must give teachers every tool they need to be successful, but we also need to give every child the assurance that they'll have the teacher they need to be successful...That means setting a firm standard -- teachers who are doing a poor job will get extra support, but if they still don't improve, they'll be replaced.''
In case you've forgotten...Barack Obama is the Democratic Presidential candidate. No word on whether Senator Obama favors compulsory prayer in the public schools and immediate implosion of all underperforming K-12 institutions nationwide.

I kid, of course. Still, while I'm glad to see the candidates talking education issues, it is a wee bit scary to see them try to our-Republican each other here.

That is not to say that I, alleged hyper-liberal that I am supposed to be, am against either charter schools or getting rid of bad teachers. I love the idea of charter schools. I desperately want to get rid of bad teachers. And many, many public school teachers agree with me on both positions. My personal squirming here is that:
  1. I have zero confidence that a Government capable of screwing up academic accountability so royally with NCLB can regulate "bad teaching" without disastrous results, regardless of whose Administration it is done under;
  2. I take the words "charter" and "bad teachers" as code for "get rid of teacher's union altogether". While I have big problems with teacher unions around the country, I fear that instead of fixing the current labor status, lawmakers, etc. will merely overreact and use the move to charters as a means to eradicate teacher's unions altogether. As someone who saw the problems of absolute zero union representation at a charter school first-hand, this worries me.
Blah, blah, blah...I seriously seem to be operating on a Presidential level of hot air bellowing these days.

2 comments:

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Kelsey Atherton said...

Charter Schools and teacher accountability are seen as the way around public school failure that at the point has only been met with deadlock. New Orleans operates, at this point, 9 public schools which aren't charters. Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had the one of the strongest teachers unions in the nation. Post-Katrina, very few schools hire Union, and with the reduced demand for teachers (fewer people in public schools, natch), the supply is greater than demand. So teachers who support the union are screwed, and collective bargaining has more or less just died.

I have no idea how to get around the problems of poor-urban, quality-suburban, affordable-catholic, and high-quality-pricey-private schools in this nation. We have, in most cities, at least 4 tiers of education, and I think charters are being heralded as a way to change poor urban schools into something comparable with suburban or catholic schools. To get competitive means to be less public, and Obama's strong words on this point are an interesting twist on liberal notions. "To save public schools, we have to change them radically, and we have to do it quickly," goes this line of reasoning, "and maybe if we can keep them public but make them competitive, we won't have to go to vouchers or dismantling our education system". It's not good, it's not ideal, but it should be seen aspragmatic, not pseudo-republican. Which, okay, it kind of is.