Movement afoot on charter schools and teacher pay reform?


It is probably fair to say that the Democratic party and the teacher’s unions have traditionally opposed much in the way of substantive school reform other than spending more money on the system we have now.

That appears to be changing, however.  Recent news stories would seem to indicate some movement toward real reform on the part of both groups.

USA Today reports, for instance, that Senator Barack Obama recently proposed “to double funding for charter schools, pay teachers based on
performance and replace those who aren’t up to the job.”  While no supporter of private school vouchers, Obama said that “Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to
grow. And charters that aren’t will get shut down. I want
experimentation, but I also want accountability.”

According to the paper, “while teachers unions typically oppose the idea of performance-based
merit pay, Obama is embracing the idea along with demands that teachers
who don’t meet standards are removed from the classroom.”

Not exactly the traditional fare from Democrats.

According to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, Obama’s move toward the center reflects a deepening division with the party between the traditional labor wing of the party, and what the Journal calls “a new cadre of urban education leaders” such as Newark’s Cory Booker and D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty.  Booker, the Journal reports, was “particularly outspoken” at a recent event about “how ‘vicious’ teachers’ unions can be in their efforts to stymie reform,” saying that “we have to understand as Democrats that we have been wrong on education; it’s time to get right.”

The American Federation of Teachers appears to be getting the message. On September 11th, the union announced the creation of an “innovation fund” to finance the development of “union-led” reforms, including “union-partnered charter schools” and “differentiated-pay” for teachers. The union is putting up “an initial and unprecedented investment of $1
million as seed money and is seeking additional support from private
philanthropic organizations” to advance these reforms.  Not a giant step toward real reform, but it is a step.

Could it be that real changes may be coming to the nation’s schools? Stay tuned…