One of the many regrettable by-products of the Republican political victories in the 2010 midterms has been the wave of teacher-bashing initiatives emanating from GOP-led state legislatures from coast to coast.
However, if there is a silver lining to this tsunami of "reform" (much of it of dubious value, of course), it is the fact that there is a growing backlash among teachers, parents, and those who care about education.
A powerful symbol of that awakening among true education advocates is this weekend's Save Our School March and National Call to Action, taking place in Washington. The event has been months in the making, and has been inspired in no small part by the assault on public education being waged across the country.
Baltimore educator Alan Rebar offered a solid synopsis of why thousands of folks are gathering in DC this weekend:
We're looking for solutions that really involve teachers, parents and students, including teachers' union members. We don't see the solution in the demonization of teachers' unions, or high stakes testing, for-profit charter schools, or unrealistic laws such as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, which are based on these methods. Real reform has to be based on democratic participation in education policy decisions, and sufficient funding.
The march and rally is happening today, after a two-day conference where some of the most respected advocates for teachers have offered their assessment of the current educational and political landscape.
She reiterated her opposition to merit pay for teachers, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top measures and school vouchers. On teacher tenure, Ravitch lampooned critics who view educational work protection rules as lifetime employment guarantees: “[Teachers have] a right to a hearing if someone wants to fire [them] … it’s not so onerous ,.. it’s due process.”
Ravitch provided a handful of policy prescriptions, beginning with electing “a whole lot of different people.” She also urged teachers, parents and activists to participate in the recall efforts underway in Ohio and Wisconsin — two states that have aggressively curbed public sector wage protection laws and public service expenditures.
One hopes this is the start of a movement that rekindles the climate of respect afforded to teachers for decades, after a brief darkness where Republicans (and an unfortunate contingent of labor-bashing Democrats) tried to make teachers the fall guys for all educational ills.