Thursday, February 25, 2010

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

Remember George W. Bush? Remember how he had this thing called “No Child Left Behind” that was supposed to solve the education crisis by cutting the funding to schools that weren’t doing well? Remember how this idea was completely idiotic because the schools that performed poorly did so because they were under-funded? Remember how it was completely obvious that this had nothing to do with “helping the children” and everything to do with privatizing education and union-busting. Remember how everybody hated “No Child Left Behind”? Remember how they were completely right to hate it?

Remember how there was that guy Barack Obama who ran for president on a campaign of “Change”? Remember how he won and is currently president? Well, in Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, the school district board of trustees managed to outdo even Bush. They fired the every single teacher!

Naturally, with Barack "Change" Obama in power, one would expect some outrage from his administration. Not so. This whole thing was spurred on by the Obama Administration's "Race to the 'Top'" program where different public school districts are pitted against each other for funding (First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize . . . well you know). In fact, Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan actually praised the board of trustees for "showing courage and doing the right thing for kids."

Duncan also said "when schools continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to take action". By "take action" did he mean, for instance funding public education on a federal level rather than based on local property taxes, so that schools in poorer regions can actually function? Nope. He meant firing every single teacher!

In this process of the whole firing everybody thing there has been a lot of bashing of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for not doing enough "for the kids". Unlike the "courageous" board of trustees, the AFT didn't fire any scapegoats. In particular the AFT refused the "generous offer" made by School Superintendent Frances Gallo to do more work with no extra pay. The AFT was fine with doing more work for the children's sake but (gasp) they wanted to get paid.

Thank goodness Frances Gallo cared enough about the children to not spend any money to help them. And thank goodness Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was willing to recognize the importance of "taking action" for "the kids" by firing everybody because you're to cheap to actually do anything helpful. That's just so . . . courageous.


That being said, the AFT isn't entirely blameless in this situation. They did, after all, campaign for Obama.

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