Education Sector Executive Director Richard Lee Colvin is our guest columnist this edition.
Marches on state capitols! Recall campaigns! Calls for President Obama to fire Arne Duncan! Actors and comedians coming to the rescue of beleaguered teachers! Barrages of tweets claiming education reformers are corporate stooges who want to make billionaires even richer, one student at a time!
Politics, as the saying goes, ain't beanbag. Neither is education reform-as most of those active in the PIE Network know only too well. Striving for consensus and avoiding conflict-two impulses prized by the make-nice culture of public education-haven't brought about significant improvements in student outcomes. But how much conflict can be endured before it undermines political, community, and educator support for reform?
In Wisconsin, for example, twice as many teachers retired in the first half of this year compared to last year. Did the salary hit due to an increase in their pension costs and the narrowing of the scope of collective bargaining drive good teachers out? Will similar salary cuts in Michigan and New Jersey have the same effect?
How should we think about the polarization and heated rhetoric around education reform? Is it evidence reformers are making a difference? Or does it impede progress by alienating the unions, which are not going to go away?
There are lots of questions for reformers to answer as they think about the tactics they should use. Obviously, the political context matters a lot. Republicans dominate in many of the states where we've seen significant change. But not all.
State teachers unions also vary a lot. Illinois has had several strong and reasonable statewide teacher union leaders. Wisconsin's union is widely known to be staunchly anti-reform, at least until recently. Did Scott Walker win or lose in taking on the unions? Did Illinois give away too much? Do the media still matter? What other factors should reformers consider?
Richard Colvin will be moderating a panel on the topic of "Going Jugular" at the PIE Network Fifth Annual Policy Summit later this month in Seattle.