Words and deeds on education reform
The White House wants to have it both ways on education reform. This week, President Obama hosted an Oval Office meeting with the young students featured in the popular education reform documentary "Waiting for Superman." The film follows five young people as they struggle to escape failing public schools by winning a lottery for seats in better-performing charter schools. Politics Daily reported that the meeting "was, perhaps, tacit approval of the film's message," which "lays much of the blame for the country's underperforming schools squarely on teachers."
But just two days after the White House meeting came news that Michelle Rhee is resigning as head of Washington D.C.'s public school system. For three years, Ms. Rhee has shaken up the dysfunctional system by firing incompetent teachers, closing failing schools and forcing a more performance-based work contract on local teacher's unions. The union didn't forget, and when D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who had appointed Ms. Rhee, ran for re-election this year, they poured over $1 million into the race to defeat him. Last month, Mr. Fenty narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Vincent Gray, a union-backed candidate, making Ms. Rhee's departure a fait accompli.
Though President Obama had spoken highly of Ms. Rhee and Mr. Fenty, who was one of his earliest supporters in 2008, the president was notably AWOL while Mr. Fenty was fighting for his political life. Despite public pleas from Mr. Fenty, Mr. Obama didn't even offer his endorsement much less campaign for his friend. Andrew Rotherham, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, said the decision was "a pretty deliberate move" by the Obama White House. "There was a calculation that they wouldn't get involved in the race" regardless of the high stakes for the nation's most visible effort to fix a moribund public school system.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed questions this week about whether President Obama had any second thoughts about his failure to support Mr. Fenty. "I don't think the president has any regrets about not getting involved in a mayoral race," he told Politics Daily. "The important work of Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan and others has to continue, regardless of the outcome of elections." . . .
Does anyone really think that the pressure on unionized teachers will continue?