CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Teachers unions have been the Democratic Party's foot soldiers for more than half a century, providing not only generous financial backing but an army of volunteers in return for support of their entrenched power in the nation's public schools.More at the link.
But this relationship is fraying, and the deterioration was evident Monday as Democrats gathered here for their national convention.
A handful of teachers and parents, carrying large inflated pencils, picketed a screening of "Won't Back Down," a movie to be released this month starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as mothers, one a teacher, who try to take over a failing inner-city school.
The plot is ripped from the headlines: California has the first "parent trigger" law in the nation, which allows parents to petition for sweeping changes to improve low-performing schools. The first parent trigger attempts have occurred in Compton and Adelanto; the former failed, and the latter faces numerous obstacles.
Parent triggers, along with other emerging efforts, have some Democrats questioning their party's longtime support of guarantees that public school districts have made to teachers for decades. Those efforts also include merit pay, charter schools, weakening the tenure system and evaluating teachers partly based on their students' performance on standardized tests.
"There is no longer sort of this assumed alliance between the Democratic Party and the teachers unions," Michelle Rhee, a leader in the movement, said in an interview. Rhee, a Democrat who is a target of the unions' ire, discussed the issues on a panel after the film screening here and one at the Republican National Convention last week.
"There are now lots of Democrats who are saying, 'You know what, we're for teachers and teachers unions, we support the concept of collective bargaining, but there are clearly some things that need to change, and we are willing to stand up and talk about those challenges,'" she said.
Two reactions: One, I continue to be astounded at the supreme selfishness of America's teachers' unions. It's never about putting the children first, absolutely never. Two, I don't believe for a second that the unions' relationship with the Democrat Party is frayed in the least. Randi Weingarten and her ilk have nowhere else to go, in any case. They can grumble all they want about movies and school reform, but so far their bureaucratic death grip on the schools seems very secure.
See the related report at the New York Times from the other day, "School Choice Is No Cure-All, Harlem Finds." Black parents are searching frantically for a good education for the children. And big plans for school choice, like Mayor Bloomberg's, often come up short, with devastating effect for families.