March 8, 2010
Short on Money and Common Sense
Friday’s Los Angeles Times had three articles, the interconnections of which weren’t clear, but ought to have been.
One reported on the state-wide “Day of Action” by students, faculty and parents protesting cuts in education funding in California. The second article detailed the refusal of the US Department of Education to award California a single dollar of the $4.35 billion to be given to states in the first round of grants under the administration’s “Race to the Top” reform program. The third item was an editorial by the Times decrying the failure of California to get the federal money and noting the “lack of coherence” in the legislation passed by the state in its vain (and half-hearted) effort to win the federal funding.
The Times failed to connect the events or highlight the tragic irony of a good deal of Thursday’s theatre.
The “Day of Action” was led, in good measure, by the state’s teachers’ unions. They decried the cuts that have “shredded this year’s budget.” So far so good—-we lack money, the budgets have been cut—-the teachers are, understandably, upset.
But as one reads the Times’ article about why California didn’t receive what might have been some $700 million in “Race to the Top” funds, it appears that one of the critical reasons was that the very same teachers’ unions were unwilling to support the reforms that the federal government explicitly required be undertaken as a condition of receiving the monies.
Over half of California’s districts did NOT get their unions to sign on to the necessary reforms. The California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association openly opposed receiving the federal dollars. Yet they had no qualms or sense of shame in vocally sponsoring Thursday’s protests about how students will be hurt by budget cuts.
There is more than a little irony in the teachers’ union leading parents and kids in protest about the budget woes facing California education while they were actively opposing the $700 million in federal money that would, at least partially, have eased those woes.
One California Federation of Teachers official is anonymously (wisely so) quoted as describing the $700 million potential federal dollars as “peanuts
” which would do harm to the “quality of teachers’ jobs.”
Some teachers’ union leaders would like more money, but seemingly only ontheir
terms. They are averse to reforms that offer, as the Times suggested, “meaningful help for the students who most need it.” What a sorry state of affairs.