Tough choices, or not

On a scale of one to unlikely, this set of bedfellows deserves at least an honorable mention. The National Education Association has joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers to sign on to the sweeping and provocative 2006 report by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, "Tough Choices or Tough Times." The report suggests making states the sole funders of schools while also centralizing teacher recruitment, training, and certification at the state level. It also proposes a host of comprehensive changes to standards, college readiness, and teacher pay scales. But don't forget the fine print. A pesky press release asterisk informs the careful reader that the NEA "strongly disagrees" with the report's recommended elimination of defined-pension benefits for teachers. But the report explicitly argues that the only way to afford increased starting teacher pay and other warm-and-fuzzy reforms is to recoup dollars from overly-generous retirement promises. That's one of the "tough choices" alluded to in the manifesto's title. So the NEA is really saying that it will take the money and leave the tough choices for someone else. Sounds like business as usual.

"NEA, More States Sign On to 'Tough Choices' Changes," by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, March 16, 2009 (subscription required)

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