Rhee and Friends Urge Union Teachers to Get Active on Reform
Vanessa Romo | September 6, 2013
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Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools and a lightning rod for education reform, played to her audience of LA area teachers during a panel discussion last night at the Los Angeles Central Library, telling them that teachers need to be part of any debate about reform.
“I definitely think that teachers have felt excluded from the [reform] conversation,” said Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst, a reform group. “Most of the teachers that I’ve talked to say that they feel like the reforms are being done to them instead of with them. And I think that’s why we had to elevate the teacher voice and bring them into these policy debates.”
Just how might that happen?
Another panelist, former Washington, D.C. teachers’ union president George Parker, urged reform-minded teachers to “get active,” chiding union teachers who support reform mandates for not participating in the process and making their voices heard.
“In my union, there were more reform minded teachers than non-reform minded,” he said, pointing out that teachers “who support the status quo and don’t want to see things change” are more likely the ones who turn out to vote on the big issues.
“Reform minded teachers have to be able to stop hiding,” he said. “Those teachers have to unite within their union to create the kind of change that’s necessary and to begin to change [their] union internally.”
“Remember,” he said, “union leaders are elected politicians, and if you’re voting then [they’re] listening.”
While many in the audience of about 200 cheered the panelists’ calls for “immediate change” and greater “school choice,” teachers’ union members were having none of it.
Standing outside the library wearing red UTLA tee shirts, they handed out fliers that read: “Tell Michelle Rhee and her billionaire friends that public education deserves better than their anti-teacher, anti-student, market-based “solutions.”
And on it goes.