By Steve Gunn
CHICAGO – Last week, in an interview with the New York Times’ Frank Bruno, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made a startling admission.
When asked about the growing public perception that teachers unions care more about compensation and job security than quality education, Weingarten admitted that, “We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused – as unions are – on fairness and not as much on quality.”
Some might expect Weingarten’s admission to logically lead to a different union approach that takes student needs into consideration.
But there’s been no alteration to the “adults first” strategy in Chicago, where the AFT-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union continues to bog down contract negotiations with demands that would lessen – not increase – the quality of education in that city.
And if those demands are not met, the CTU has threatened to strike before the start of fall classes.
The union has already forced the school board to fill 477 new teaching positions with instructors who were previously laid off, instead of allowing school officials to search for the best possible candidates.
“Principals won’t be free to hire the best of the best,” the Chicago Tribune noted in an editorial.
The union also wants to “dumb down” teacher evaluations so that more teachers are rated “proficient or better,” according to the Tribune. That way most can keep their jobs and tenure protections, even if kids are not learning.
“If that happens, Chicago Public Schools will take a huge step in the wrong direction away from a performance-based strategy that needs to focus first and foremost on students,” the Tribute wrote. “CPS shouldn’t give another inch on this.”
If teachers unions want to remain viable in the new public school environment taking shape in America, they will have to acknowledge (as Weingarten did) that they have obstructed efforts to improve academics, and take a much more student-based approach.
And that new approach should be immediately applied in Chicago, where a bunch of radical unionists continue to cling to a failed system that accepted mediocrity or even failure as a norm. Chicago students deserve much better, and leaders in that city should settle for nothing less.