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wall street journal article fwd'd to me


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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
Posts: 69138
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Posted Apr 08, 2002 at 7:19:57 PM
Subject: wall street journal article fwd'd to me

The following is an article on general education, but I think in some manner it affects lots of us, at least those residing in the late great state of ca. Not forgetting to mention, my father from the east coast e mailed it to me. It is an article printed in the wall street journal...
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Educating Davis

Once upon the 1960s, California's public schools were the envy of the world. If you want to know why they're so awful today, consider the political scam that the California Teachers Association is now playing on Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

The culprit here is AB2160, a grubby union power play masquerading as concern for academics. Introduced by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D., Los Angeles), it would move decisions about curricula and texts into the collective bargaining process with teachers. In theory the goal is to put the experts, that is the teachers, in charge of evaluating course material.


Union squeeze


In reality it would give the unions that already dominate public education one more lever of political control. The unions would be able to hold curriculum changes hostage to salary increases as part of collective bargaining. Even worse, they wouldn't have to worry about meeting California's newly adopted testing standards because they'd be able to write those standards themselves.

Their power is destructive enough already. In a new study from the Pacific Research Institute, Pamela Riley argues that restrictive teachers union contracts have handcuffed public school management in the state. An average California school district, she says, has 85% of its operating budget dictated by salaries and collective-bargaining agreements. The terms of these agreements make it next to impossible to hire and fire teachers on merit, or to measure them against student performance.

Which brings us to Governor Davis, now busily seeking re-election. He won in 1998 by vowing to improve the dismal rankings of California students against national averages. The best such measure, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, ranked the Golden State dead last in reading scores for fourth-graders in 1995. Two years later, NAEP showed most fourth-graders lacking basic proficiency in math too.

For a while Mr. Davis governed from the education reform middle, as these columns noted. He successfully pushed through measures to rank schools by performance, to use bonuses to reward schools for improvement and to require high school students starting in 2004 to pass an exit exam before getting their diploma (which has since been dumbed down). But after botching the energy crisis and sending the state budget deeper into debt than Enron, Mr. Davis has moved left to rally his political base in hopes of keeping the statehouse in November. This makes him a prime candidate for blackmail by the California Teachers Association, which knows exactly what it's doing by pushing this bill now.

Governor Davis faces a common Democratic dilemma. The moderate Democratic Leadership Council reports in its Blueprint magazine that too many Democrats "remain hostile to education reform beyond spending increases and new programs." That's no coincidence. As we learned from election documents unearthed last year by the Landmark Legal Foundation, the National Education Association (of which the CTA is an affiliate) enjoys veto power over Democratic Party platforms.

The DLC article -- "How Bush Stole Education" -- blames this state of affairs for allowing President Bush to dominate the center of the education debate in 2000; he was able to show concern for African-American and Latino children left behind in the urban public schools. It's no accident that Republicans now tie Democrats in public measures of trust on the education issue.

All of which will put Mr. Davis in a bind if this anti-reform bill gets to his desk. Right now the CTA is running radio ads plumping for AB2160. But the public and press don't seem to be buying the lesson plan. "I've been in this business for 36 years and it's the most dangerous piece of legislation I've ever seen," Jim Sweeney, superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District, told the Los Angeles Times. "It could create pure havoc." Even the San Francisco Chronicle -- the Chronicle! -- declared that "labor negotiations are no place to decide education policy."

Mr. Davis may yet have to decide between his cronies in the teachers unions and parents, especially poor parents, desperate to see the California schools return to their glory days. We aren't optimistic.

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