New Lessons for Our Classrooms

Improving the education of African American Students Will Require A Stronger Teacher Workforce. Here's What it Will Take?

Perry believes that type of achievement is missing in most public schools because teachers lack accountability.  While Perry and the teachers at Capital Prep are union members (which is required in Connecticut), he resents the standards the union requires of him and his staff. For example, he says he cannot call a mandatory staff meeting more than once a month, a stipulation that prevents his teachers from working collaboratively.

“The children, the people who schools are designed to actually support, are the ones getting the shortest end of the stick. The adults are getting the most,” says Perry, who says “Teachers unions [are] the worst thing that ever happened to public education,” a statement he used as the title of a chapter in his new book, Push Has Come to Shove (Crown; $25).

Perry and those who wish to minimize or eliminate union power in school districts believe unions keep principals from firing ineffective teachers, prevent teachers from working extended school days and school years, provide some teachers with salaries and benefits that exceed the value of their workload, and deter professionals who don’t have an education degree from entering the field.

“The recession is the best thing to happen to public education in a long time,” says Perry, suggesting that the budget crisis is forcing state and local governments to take a critical look at how money is being wasted in public schools.

This year, national debate about teachers unions has centered on collective bargaining, the process by which teachers collectively negotiate salary, work hours, benefits, vacation time, and grievances.

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