My post-election commentary on the impact for teachers unions and education reform was published today in the Denver Post. A key section to whet your appetite:
Peter Groff’s Democratic peers voted to re-elect him as state Senate president, and Rep. Terrance Carroll was selected to become the new speaker of the House.
Supporters of public school parental choice could find no better friends in the Democratic caucus than Groff and Carroll. Both men have a strong record of protecting charter schools against union-backed legislative attacks, even attacks launched by other Democrats.
Carroll was hardly the unions’ first choice to be the new speaker. Rep. Bernie Buescher of Mesa County, the presumed successor to retiring House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, took more than $10,000 into his campaign coffers from CEA and its affiliates. Yet on his road to the speakership, Buescher surprisingly was beaten by Republican challenger Laura Bradford.
Carroll is set to appoint fellow Democrats to the House Education Committee. In recent years, the committee, largely stacked with handpicked union favorites, has killed or watered down many K-12 education bills deemed unacceptable by the union. CEA may lose some of its leverage to bottle up education reform in committee.
I do hope that Speaker Carroll makes a bold choice or two in appointing education committee members not in the unions’ hip pocket. It’s a great encouragement to see school choice (at least in the public education sector) become a more strongly bipartisan issue.
As for my criticisms of the teachers unions, this is hardly hot-off-the-presses information. My many teacher friends who know me and my well-thought views are amused to hear me called “anti-teacher”. I have nothing necessarily against teachers unions or associations per se. But take an honest look at the status quo. It’s the current monopoly model for teacher unionism that leans heavily on coercion and fear to prop up its power that needs to change: for the benefit of education (including many teachers), students, and other Colorado citizens.
It was exactly a year ago I reported on a very similar issue being raised at an education policy forum:
The second question really busted down the walls, such that no one on the panel really seemed ready, willing, or able to engage with an answer. But if we’re going to think outside the box a bit, there’s no reason to fear asking whether teachers unions ought to be dissolved and reconstituted as professional guilds “to defend the profession rather than the practitioner.”
Probably most unsettling to union officials in the audience was the source of the question, a man whose preface identified himself as someone who neither disrespects the teaching profession nor has any affection for Republican partisanship. But the question needs to be asked again and again. Perhaps a seminar devoted to the role of the teacher organization in Colorado would be worthwhile. Invite representatives of the various organizations (CEA, AFT, PACE, CEAI), other education practitioners, scholars, parents and outside observers to participate. Could we all begin to be honest in such a setting?
This kind of thinking isn’t anti-teacher or anti-public education, unless you are part of the existing union hierarchy threatened by the thought of reconstituting the profession, expanding school choice, and other education reforms. Let’s be honest. For now, it’s a promising step to see Democratic leadership in the state legislature willing to test the boundaries of union power.