The ‘Parents Union’ vs The Teachers’ Union

In a comment to my Tuesday morning post about Michelle Rhee and school reform, Deacon Ed made the point:

[T]he only real solution to D.C.’s education woes (the same as it is everywhere else) is a voucher system where parents — who have the best interest of their children at heart — get to choose where to send their children to school… Unions and other pressure groups simply distort the market and create the problems such as we’ve been having in our economy.

Exactly. The biggest obstacles to improving our schools are the teacher’s unions, as Waiting for Superman makes clear. Flush with money from membership dues, they use their immense political influence with Democratic lawmakers to block any meaningful attempts at education reform.

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But the tide is turning. The New York Times reports that parents of students in one of the worst schools in Compton, California, are using a new state law to replace the old management with a charter operator:

Under the law, if 51 percent of parents at a school sign a petition, it “triggers” one of four actions, including takeover by a charter school. In this case, 61 percent of the parents signed the petition. When the State Legislature approved the measure in January, union officials referred to it as a “lynch mob provision”….

In many ways, the parent trigger is a nightmare situation for unions, threatening to pit teachers against parents, particularly in poor neighborhoods where schools have struggled for years. In essence, it is a union for parents.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Marion Orr, a professor of public policy at Brown University. “It really pushed to the edges of a strong democracy and could create real challenges for public officials who believe they know best how to run school districts.”

The trend is catching on with the Left as well: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supports the law, and Rahm Emmanuel has said he’ll introduce similar legislation if he wins the Chicago mayoral race. The teachers’ unions are finding themselves increasingly isolated among former allies, and that’s great news for students.

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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