In Wisconsin, there was the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10. In an effort to, “save jobs, protect taxpayers, reform government, and help balance the budget,” Governor Scott Walker introduced, and the legislature passed, a bill that impacted the collective bargaining, compensation, retirement, health insurance, and sick leave of public sector employees.
In Ohio, it was Senate Bill 5. In order to “limit government growth and ease the tax burden on Ohio tax payers,” the state legislature passed a bill, that was later repealed, that would’ve: limited collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers, and revised the process for contract disputes.
In Chicago, a teachers strike that kept students out of the classroom for ten days dealt with teacher pay, teacher evaluations, teacher job security, and the length of the school day and year.
In Idaho, Students Come First laws; passed by the state legislature and supported by the state superintendent but subject to repeal on November’s ballot; establishes merit pay for teachers, limits collective bargaining rights, and requires one-to-one laptops and online courses for all high school students.
My question is, are these the discussions we should be having about education reform? I am not smart enough to answer that question on my own, but I am smart enough to know that most of these conversations have very little to do with what’s best for students. The events above deal with what’s best for adults: Governors, state legislatures and superintendents, teachers, and taxpayers. Even when dealing with issues that do directly impact students, longer school days and years and technology initiatives, the arguments aren’t about whether it will benefit students. Instead, the disagreement is whether teachers should be required to teach longer hours or the affect of technology on the number of teachers hired.
I am a self-admitted wild-eyed idealist. That said, I believe in order to make real, positive impact on education we must shift the conversation from what’s best for adults to what’s best for students.