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I highly recommend taking a look at this NPR Intelligence Squared debate contesting the proposal “Don’t blame teachers unions for our failing schools.” (Click on the Audio/Video tab at the top of the screen to watch the lively bout). As you will see from the audience response to the heated discussion, most people think exactly the opposite, teachers unions are the culprit! For those interested in education reform, the politics of education, and parental choice, this is one of the more honest and open discussions with leaders from both sides and is very revealing of the stakes, the interests, and the facts.
Terry Moe, the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education (2001-2005), and Larry Sand, public school teacher turned union critic, represent the reformers.
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Gary Smuts, superintendent of the ABC Unified School District in California, and Kate McGlaughlin, elementary teacher in the Lowell, Massachusetts public schools and executive vice president of the local Lowell teachers union, represent the pro-union side.
These issues are deeply connected to policies and politics that could provide greater access to Catholic schools for low-income families and improve the viability of urban private and faith-based education. Unions are by far the most powerful actors and this debate reveals their role in a fair and open forum.