Thoughts on Liberating Learning: The Politics of Blocking
This chapter of Liberating Learning describes the political process of education reform. In a nutshell, new practices like merit pay and parental choice threaten teachers’ unions, so the unions do all that’s in their power (and they have a lot of power) to prevent them from taking root. If a significant reform makes it through the political process, unions challenge its legality in the courts.
The authors stress how unions would lose out if public schools became more competitive and efficient. I think they would agree, though, that virtual schools, charter schools, and other new developments in the education market have the potential to help teachers as individuals. The catch, from the unions’ point of view, is that not all teachers would gain in the same way. Good teachers would earn more. The best would have new opportunities for career advancement; an example of this appears in the very beginning of the next chapter, “Technology on All Fronts,” where the authors tell the story of a teacher who goes into curriculum development after helping to create a successful online charter school.
Teachers would depend less on unions if schools competed to offer them better pay and benefits. They might also consider which schools would suit their teaching style — virtual vs. in person would be just one choice they could make. Instead of asking, “Will the union negotiate the best deal for me and everyone else?” teachers would ask, “Which combination of work environment and pay would be best for me personally?” Then unions would lose members, dues, and power.