By Victor Skinner
LOS ANGELES – The American Federation of Teachers union has finally picked on someone its own size, and union officials don’t like the result.
Rhonda Weingarten, president of the AFT and former head of New York City’s teachers union, is upset because Big Apple Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently donated $1 million to help elect pro-reform candidates to the Los Angeles school board, the New York Post reports.
Weingarten thinks Bloomberg is a bully and the AFT has vowed to counter the mayor’s contribution with “boots on the ground,” according to the post.
The situation is telling: Bloomberg is working to counter the union’s political influence by helping to elect a slate of school board candidates that want the type of student-focused teacher accountability measures that the union hates.
Weingarten accuses Bloomberg of “trying to buy the LAUSD board,” according to the Post.
Weingarten and the AFT are working to keep the system like it is, and are backing an entirely different slate of status-quo candidates. It’s sort of ironic that the AFT – an organization based in Washington, D.C. – is criticizing Bloomberg for exerting the same type of influence that the union has on school districts throughout the nation.
“Teachers unions have spent millions in Los Angeles and tens of millions around the nation to oppose reform and defend the failed status quo,” Deputy New York City Mayor Howard Wolfson told the Post. “Mike Bloomberg is proud to help level the playing field on behalf of children and their families. The union may not like it, but they should get used to it because he is just getting started.”
New York City and Los Angeles school officials are both engaged in an epic battle with their respective unions over new teacher evaluation programs and want to tie the teacher reviews to student performance.
The AFT, the parent union for teachers in both cities, has steadfastly resisted performance-based evaluations, forcing thousands of students to continue to attend classes with subpar teachers in miserable public schools.
The status quo serves the union well by preserving teacher jobs and dues revenue, but educational quality is suffering as a result – in both Los Angeles and New York.
Bloomberg is making it clear the current system isn’t going to cut it, and he clearly understands the best way to turn things around is to use his considerable wealth to help elect reformers who will finally put children ahead of the union’s selfish interests.