For politicians, taking a stand has always been painful. If you're a pro-life politician, you can count on the democrats to endorse your opponent. If you want to raise taxes to pay for just about anything, the republicans will roast you. Every decision will alienate someone, so politicians have to really think about what positions they take, lest they pay a price at the polls.
Except when it comes to education.
Taking a stand on education is pain free, no matter how stupid that stand may be. Take NY, for example. Mayor Bloomberg spent 8 years villifying teachers and trying to take down public education, and not only did the UFT fail to oppose mayoral control of schools, we stayed neutral in the mayoral election. The city was ripe for a change; Bill Thompson was, at least, a friend of teachers and far less likely to try to dismantle public education in favor of charters and the education reform idea du jour. Nevertheless, Unity failed to act, afraid of alienating the rich and powerful mayor. As a result, we have four more years of BloomKlein to look forward to with dread.
Now we have Barack Obama, ostensibly a friend of teachers. His first boneheaded act was the Race to the Top fiasco, which pits state against state to see who is most willing to bring public education to its knees for the sake of some eduation dollars. In this particular race, it matters not whether you throw teachers or students down the stairs in order to make it to the top--the money is too tempting to pass up.
In recent days, Obama has endorsed the mass firing of 93 teachers and school workers in Central Falls, RI. This is not only a slap in the face to the teacher unions who endorsed Obama, but it sets the stage for more such actions now that scapegoating teachers has the official imprimatur of the presidential seal. And the price that Obama will pay for this flagrant backstabbing? Zero.
What should happen is that Randi Weingarten (who appeared only slightly miffed at Obama), NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, Michael Mulgrew, and every other teacher union leader should band together and officially withdraw their support from the Obama administration. They should then demand that every senator and house member up for re-election publicly declare their position on Central Falls and RttT. Then, the NEA and the AFT should publicly and loudly support the ouster of any politician who takes an anti-teacher stance, regardless of their political affiliation.
We have to make politicians like Bloomberg and Obama pay a severe political price for supporting the education deform movement. The only thing they fear is losing the next election. Right now, supporting deform is no pain and all gain. We need to put the fear of 4 million union members into their hearts. Only then do we stand a chance of preserving public education as we know it.