In the Arena

Hell Freezes Over

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Eric Alterman at war with the teachers unions! I’ve long believed that the NEA and AFT were harmful to children, as functionally reactionary as Southern suburban Republican legislators–in fact, I’m sure Alterman has criticized me about my anti-teachers-union harangues at some point or other (before his own kids started going to public school).
But here’s a litmus test for Democrats that I think Eric and I can agree upon:
Teachers’ Unions should be all about building floors–ensuring adequate minimum wage and benefit packages–and they should have absolutely no control over ceilings (merit pay) or walls (work rules). There should be higher pay, but also longer school days and years, and no tenure.
And here’s a litmus test for Republicans:
Schools should be funded on a statewide per capita basis rather than by local property taxes–this would be far more equitable and progressive than the current funding system, which stiffs the urban poor and favors wealthy suburbanites.
My dream education system would do both of those things, and much more–especially a greater emphasis on teaching creative thinking and problem solving. The sad thing is, I doubt you could find five elected politicians anywhere who would agree with both litmus tests.
But I suspect that Eric would. All right!
update: A reader raises an excellent question on funding

Funded per capita?
So x amount per student?
The city schools teaching special needs/ESL students would get the same per student as a second ring suburban school?

We’re talking fantasy here, but I would hope that kids who’ve been “identified”–that’s the term of art–as having special needs would be funded at the same (higher) rate per capita in both the city and the suburbs. But I’d also hope that we’d tighen the screening on special needs especially in poorer areas, where the smartest, most creative kids are too often dumped into special ed because they’re unruly–that is to say: bored with the crap that passes for curriculum.

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