Steve Perry, CNN education contributor and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, pillories teachers’ unions as the major culprit for schools failing poor kids. Teachers’ unions are the system. Controlling everything from the length of the school day to the salaries paid. “Education is the antidote, and great teachers are the syringe through which the antidote is delivered.”
This interview is worth a read. It comes from a place of sincerity –getting the students most in need the best education possible. But Perry ultimately misses the mark. Perry is overly selective in his facts. Choosing to see only those that point the villainous dagger at teachers while excusing a host of other realities. He denies disparities in spending. Though your naked eye might be enough to allow you to see the difference in spending from a wealthy suburban district to a poor urban district, you can also depend on significant data. The OECD’s study on brick and mortar spending in public education to within district disparities in spending to inter-state spending – money matters.
Perry illuminates the problem we face in “fixing” education. He’s in the schools and fed-up. He advocates for vouchers because he sees parents and kids stuck in bad schools. He knocks teacher unions because they may be the main force he encounters day to day when trying to “fix” his school. This is not how good public policy should be made. It’s akin to having victims of violence set death penalty policy. They know a great deal about violence, but may not see the big picture. That’s where federal policy must have a broader view. One that can take Perry’s passion to fix schools and channel it beyond vouchers to a system designed to meet the needs of all students.