Thursday, May 20, 2010

RI AFT GIves RttT App the Thumbs Up

I can't muster much more than a shrug in response, but Bottom Up Education does a good job:

Today the RI AFT President Marcia Reback announced that she and the majority of AFT locals will be endorsing RIDE’s RTTT round two application. This is a huge political victory for Commissioner Gist and places RI in a better position to win the $75 million in federal RTTT grant money that it’s applying for in round two. So, why do I remain skeptical? ...

In any case, the federal money grab and application circus that the Obama administration has created through RTTT has held hostage debates about educational policy and reform for months now. The narrow RTTT reform agenda that further entrenches our culture of over-testing young people, demystifies teaching by deskilling it, and encourages the opening up of public education coffers to private interests, won’t do much to improve the educational lot of those most disadvantaged and underserved by our racist and classist educational institutions.

What it has done, however, is put education in the news, and at least in RI more and more people are talking about these headlines. This is a good thing. What I hope we can do moving forward as these reforms begin to take shape and we begin to sense that the change they promise may, in fact, not be on its way, is to at least use this new, more widespread engagement about education reform to build our ideas for what education should look like from the bottom up. To do this we will need information outlets that do not merely serve as mouthpieces for RIDE and local district officials, union leaders, politicians, and the self-important psuedo-reformers who have entered the education arena because it’s the new sexy thing. I hope that the dialogue that we see these folks having can be challenged by those who are actually most affected by all of this: students, parents, and grounded community members.

I'd add that I'm still completely in the dark about how the fundamental legal questions about RIDE's authority and the new limits of collective bargaining will play out in the medium term, and how that influences the entire sequence of events. That is, if the union expects to lose the relevant pending and future lawsuits in the end, they may be choosing to play nice and hope for collaboration in a situation where the only alternative would be a much higher level of confrontation and action than they seem prepared for. Or, if they think they're actually going to win legally, maybe they figure they'll take the PR win now and then stand more firm once they've got the law clearly behind them. Or something. Or maybe they're betting on having a more cooperative governor soon. I really don't know.

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