By Ben Velderman
NEW YORK – College-age education reformers in New York City are getting a crash course in the destructive power of teacher unions, and are searching for ways to combat it.
New York City public schools are in jeopardy of missing out on a $300 million federal grant, simply because the United Federation of Teachers (the local teachers union) is refusing to allow student test scores to be part of teacher evaluations.
Revamping teacher evaluations is one of the strings attached to the $300 million, which is made available through President Obama’s “Race to the Top” reform initiative.
If the UFT and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg can’t hammer out the specifics of a new teacher evaluation system by January 17, the city will surrender the sizeable jackpot.
The two sides don’t appear close to an agreement, and nobody in the local media is hitting the panic button. That has the college-aged reformers stunned.
“There’s no press on it,” Matt Stern, program director of New York’s Students for Education Reform, told NYULocal.com. “Our point is to bring attention to the issue. If the people of New York don’t know that the state government is dangling $300 million in front of our schools and we miss that, that’s a huge deal.”
The young reformers don’t appear to be directing their wrath solely at the UFT. (If they stay at it long enough and learn the facts, they’ll come around.) Instead, they’re hoping to bring public pressure on Bloomberg and union leaders to work together.
“In order to do so, the student club is reaching out to elected officials, journalists and other student organizations to raise awareness on what could be a huge loss for New York,” reports NYULocal.com.
They’ll cap things off with a rally on November 29th that is expected to draw hundreds of students, the site reports.
The sad reality is that UFT leaders are willing to walk away from the Race to the Top money – which would be used for classroom technology and various student programs – because they refuse to let their members be held accountable for student learning, or lack thereof.
Similar scenarios are playing out all across the country.
We wish the student reformers well on their plan, but won’t be too surprised if it fails. The college activists will be disappointed, but they’ll also be enlightened as to why unions and meaningful education reform don’t mix.
That’s something they would never learn in a college classroom.