The week in review: local control, teacher unions, & democracy

The Education Gadfly

Who knew democracy could be such a sensitive subject? When Mike wondered
whether union clout has corrupted the progressive ideals of school
boards and local control on Monday, he touched off a flurry of posts in
the ed reform blogosphere over the interplay of politics and education.
Here’s a quick recap:

Local control, teacher unions

Photo by Justin Mitchell

Randi Weingarten asked whether Mike’s real agenda was “getting rid of democratic principles” and Diane Ravitch warned
that “it’s pretty radical to go to the extreme of eliminating 15,000
school boards and centralizing everything in the big state bureaucracies
in the hope that this will suffice to silence the teachers’ unions.”
Mike responded that it was actually union-controlled school boards that were a “perversion of democracy,” and the debate was on.

On Flypaper, Choice Media founder Bob Bowdon accused
teacher unions of corrupting the democratic process through hefty
campaign contributions and serial legal challenges to popular reforms,
although Rutgers professor Bruce Baker questioned his logic and choice of examples. Over at Dropout Nation, Rishawn Biddle took issue with Ravitch’s depiction of NYC’s school reform, and Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute concluded that democracy really doesn’t belong in education governance. In the latest contribution, Baker defended America’s 15,000+ local governments as a buffer against top-down imposition of political agendas in education. Got all that?

If not, don’t worry: the conversation about how our school system
should be governed is just beginning. For more, keep an eye on Flypaper and be sure to register for the Fordham-Center for American Progress “Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century” conference on December 7—when we’ll welcome an esteemed group of scholars who actually study these things to the conversation.

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