Sunday, April 01, 2012

Teachers Union - Roadblocks

Even Democratic mayors have had enough of teachers unions. For too many years, simply getting elected was enough to satisfy a Democrat. But some want to get something accomplished while in office. And the most critical issue facing most mayors is the crappy condition of their cities' schools and the unions that obstruct reform.
As a young labor organizer in Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa worked for the city’s teachers, honing his political skills in the fight for a good contract. The union loved him back, supporting the Democrat’s election to the State Assembly, City Council and, finally, the mayor’s office he occupies today.

But now, Villaraigosa, a rising star in the national Democratic party, has a different view. He calls the teachers union “the one, unwavering roadblock” to improving public education in L.A. 

Villaraigosa is one of several Democratic mayors in cities across the country — Chicago, Cleveland, Newark and Boston, among them — who are challenging teachers unions in ways that seemed inconceivable just a decade ago.

“This is a very, very interesting political situation that is way counterintuitive,” said Charles Taylor Kerchner, who has written two books about teachers unions. 

At at time when most Americans believe that U.S. education is imperiled, and cities are especially struggling to improve schools, the tension between the mayors and the unions is causing a fundamental realignment of two powerful forces in urban politics. 

In the clash over what is best for children, adults on both sides are gambling.

The mayors risk turning labor friends into enemies, a lesson D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty learned in 2010 when he lost his seat in part because teachers were enraged by his school reforms. The unions, meanwhile, risk appearing recalcitrant and self-serving, further alienating a public frustrated by failing schools and growing cool to organized labor.


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