Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, attended the Education Nation 2012 Summit Tuesday, saying a few words before taking questions from NBC’s Brian Williams and the audience, portions of which were aired Wednesday on the Today Show’s Education Nation (you can see the video hereand read the full transcript here). Governor Romney offered a contrast to President Obama on education reform, particularly in regards to the President’s assertion that criticizing teachers unions is equivalent to “teacher-bashing.” Among the many education issues covered during his appearance, Governor Romney did indeed address the issue of teachers unions that often hold back reform. But he also discussed the importance and of the role of teachers and the value we should place on the profession.
President Obama appeared this morning on the Today show’s “Education Nation” on NBC (see the video here). In the interview Savannah Guthrie began by asking the President about the recent teachers union strike in his hometown of Chicago. Specifically Ms. Guthrie addressed how the strike put Democrats who support education reform in a difficult position, as they have traditionally sided with unions. Ms. Guthrie quoted the Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, as saying that President Obama chose his side – the unions. Obama responded that “Governor Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher-bashing.” Ms. Guthrie struck back asking, “can you really say that teachers unions aren’t slowing the pace of reform?” President Obama went on the defensive replying, “I just get really frustrated when I hear teacher-bashing as evidence of reform.”
Developing good teachers has been both a controversial and imperative aspect of K-12 education reform. In fact, quality teachers have the most effective impact on student achievement within the school environment. Studies, such as the Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain study from the University of Texas at Dallas, have found that quality teaching for four consecutive years could successfully eliminate the achievement gap. Teachers are no doubt important; however the role of principals and other education leaders in school reform is often overlooked, though it is just as crucial to achieving effective education reform.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that D.C. public schools have now set reading and math proficiency goals for black and Hispanic children lower than for white and Asian students. Additionally, goals in poorer areas of the city are lower than those for affluent areas.
Chicago students and teachers were back in the classroom today, after the teachers union delegates voted to end the strike Tuesday evening. It appears the teachers union came to the realization that striking would do little to persuade the school board to resume contract negotiations, especially after the board filed suit on Monday to end the strike they believed was illegal.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike has lasted five days now. As teachers and other school staffers joined the picket lines, nearly 400,000 students have been out of school. At issue are salaries, tenure, benefits, teacher evaluations, and the length of the school day. In regards to the salary issue, many Americans might initially side with the teachers. After all, there is a common consensus that teachers are underpaid and overworked – especially in an inner-city district like Chicago.But some may be surprised to hear that on average, teachers in Chicago make $76,000 a year – among the highest in the country and significantly higher than their students’ families. Yet, this is not enough for these teachers. CTU has demanded an increase of 24% over two years. That is obviously a large number, but let me add a little perspective here; most Americans who are lucky enough to receive a raise only average somewhere around 3%. And those raises are not guaranteed nor are they granted every year.
“If ever there was a cause, if ever there can be a cause, worthy to be upheld by all of toil to sacrifice that the human heart can endure, it is the cause of Education." – Horace Mann
While I may not agree with Horace Mann’s approach to education reform, I could not agree more with his words above. Educating our children is essential to ensuring the future prosperity of the county, and – hopefully – the prosperous futures of the students themselves. Just providing an education is not enough; we must be able to provide quality education that will give kids the skills they need to be successful.
I graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in History (minor in Political Science) and the University of Wyoming with a Master of Public Administration. I am an experienced copywriter and content manager. I am also a former intern/research associate for the Education Policy Center at the Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado and have previously blogged for National School Choice Week.