Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recession and School Reform

It will be harder to squeeze out money for school budgets, to be sure, but let's think about how this is going to play out vis a vis current school reform initiatives. As unemployment goes up and in particular jobs disappear in financial services, does the logic behind Teach for America continue to make sense? I mean, is TFA still something you do for two years before going to work at Lehman Brothers? Perhaps staying in teaching is a better idea now. Perhaps it will be easier to just permanently fill those teaching jobs with qualified candidates who have deigned to take some professional training first.

A bad economy really endangers the grand bargain for teachers to give up their work rules and job security for higher pay. People forget that in many cases, like Providence, those work rules were introduced when teachers were getting lousy pay to start with, inflation was high, and the city was flat broke. The only thing the city had to offer was work rules and job security, and if they hadn't relented on those, well, I'm not sure who would have bothered to try to teach in Hope High School circa 1978. By the time Bush is out of office, all the money may be gone.

We talk about the generational divide between young and old teachers in attitudes about job security and tenure. Let's not forget that the young teachers probably can't remember a severe recession. Older teachers can.

Also, let's not forget that we've got a better shot at substantive labor law reform than we've had in a generation. The AFT and NEA may be to sclerotic to organize new charter schools, but someone else may be able to step in. Perhaps Wendy Kopp could start her own union. We'll all need to adapt.

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