The first farmer was the first man. All historic nobility rests on the possession and use of land. Ralph Waldo Emerson

11 December 2010

Public Education Gets A Wake-Up Call

As faithful readers of this blog already know, I have little love or respect for the National Education Association--the strongest teachers' union in the country and one of the strongest unions in the United States. To briefly reiterate, my biggest argument with the NEA is that it's grossly self-interested in the preservation and expansion of its membership--not the education of our nation's youngsters. The NEA promotes mediocrity, rewarding teachers with the longest service with top salaries while completely disdaining individual initiative and achievement so that the best teachers receive the highest reward. Sure, the NEA gives plenty of awards, but real incentives are financial--and there's no way the NEA will allow anything but remuneration based on seniority.

The preservation of the mediocre is not the NEA's only goal. It also fiercely defends the grossly incompetent. This was most graphically revealed this week in the Southern California city of Compton. McKinley Elementary School has consistently underperformed over the past decade, and ranks in the bottom 10% of California's elementary schools. The students' parents--exercising their rights under a law passed by the California legislature in January--signed petitions demanding school reforms, including the firing of the administration and the faculty, in favor of a charter school. Under the new law, if more than 51% of the parents sign such a petition, they can choose from a menu of school reforms--from conversion to a charter school to removal of the principal and faculty to closing the school outright.

The move by the parents was applauded by Governor Schwarzenegger, as well as by Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. "This is the beginning of a revolution", said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization focusing on education reform. "Parents are waking up to the fact their schools are failing because they are run on an agenda designed for adults. We advocate a kids-first agenda."

The new California law has inspired similar legislation in the state of Connecticut with six other states now considering parent trigger laws similar to California's.

The reaction of the California Teacher's Association was predictable: it is questioning the way the signatures were gathered and intends to pursue legal action.

But Mr. Austin concludes: "Parents are the only ones who truly care about their children. The only way to truly change things is to take power away from adults with an agenda."

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