Enabling the Opponents of Reform

A promising performance-pay program is under attack in the Boston public school system, which is trying out some new and innovative school reforms. The plan was to allow Advanced Placement teachers to receive $100 bonuses for each student who passes an AP exam, and teachers could be rewarded up to $3,000. But the Boston Herald reports that the Boston Teachers Union is trying to put an end to the innovative plan:

Grinchlike union bosses are blocking at least 200 of Boston’s best teachers from pocketing bonuses for their classroom heroics in a puzzling move that gets a failing grade from education experts.

The Boston Teachers Union staunchly opposes a performance bonus plan for top teachers – launched at the John D. O’Bryant School in 2008 and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Exxon Mobil foundations – insisting the dough be divvied up among all of a school’s teachers, good and bad.

The union responded this way:

There’s no one solely responsible for the development of these students. They should all share in the money,” said Richard Stutman, head of the Boston Teachers Union.

Stutman’s sentiments are nothing new. Teachers unions contend that even the worst among them should receive pay equal to that of the best and brightest in their field. To do otherwise would mean jeopardizing membership rolls.

Teachers unions do little to improve teaching, or improve academic achievement overall. Yet there are those who still refuse to acknowledge the negative impact of organized labor on American education. Worse even are those who carry the banner of “education reform” while simply propping-up the failed status quo.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Ford Foundation has decided to enlarge the pockets of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The WSJ writes:

The biggest headline in education circles last week was that the Ford Foundation is making a whopping $100 million grant ‘to transform secondary education in the nation’s most disadvantaged schools.’

Our eyes raced to see which piece of the vibrant school-reform movement Ford was going to support. Would it be America’s 4,600 charters schools, many outperforming their traditional school peers and some even closing the race gap? Maybe it would be Teach for America, busting at the seams and turning down Ivy League applicants by the hundreds. Or, who knows, maybe Ford’s really on the leading edge, and would want to support voucher programs in cities like Washington.

Would you believe the recipients of Ford’s largesse are the teachers unions? Yup. The folks at Ford are giving new meaning to the word ‘retro’.

University of Arkansas education researcher Jay P. Greene probably put it best:

The Ford Foundation might as well give $100 million to the city of Las Vegas to address gambling addiction.

The Ford Foundation could have made a real investment in the lives of the nation’s children by supporting one of the most effective education programs in the country: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The small $12 million program, which is currently on life-support due in large part to the slings and arrows of teachers unions, has provided more than 3,000 children the opportunity to escape the underperforming and unsafe D.C. public schools, and attend a private school of their choice. The Ford Foundation’s grant would have saved the embattled scholarship program for nearly another decade instead of propping-up unions that work tirelessly to deny a bright educational future to thousands of children in the nation’s capital and across the country. That would have spurred real reform.


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