Lately, government has been trying to fix our budget problems by severely curtailing the bargaining abilities of public unions. This new legislation, proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, would restrain union workers’ collective salary bargaining rights. Supporters of Walker’s bill say that they don’t have a choice. The state is in a financial crisis. However, thousands of union workers and other protesters beg to differ. As a result, teachers and students alike are leaving class to protest the bill. These protests have gone on for several days. Of course, it’s nothing new for legislation involving education to be a hot topic of dispute.
Race to the Top has been another widely disputed piece of legislation. Called the replacement to No Child Left Behind, in 2009, President Obama initiated the Race to the Top so schools could compete for a federal funding grant. California was one of the states in this race. As a Los Angeles resident, initially this seemed like a good idea. After all, California’s education budget is stuck in a trench with a seemingly dismal future. Yet, looking more closely at the bill, people soon started questioning it.
The bill’s premise was to reform education with the incentive of receiving money. Not everyone would get the money but there would only be some winners. Some of the main points of the bill were implementing “rigorous standards,” having “great teachers,” using data to improve teaching, and working hard to transform low performing schools.
This bill seemed to place a lot of importance on test scores. The bill required that student test scores be linked to teacher evaluations. Similar to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top placed great importance on standardized tests. Another problem with the bill was the idea of giving money to a winner rather than giving money to schools in need. Furthermore, it threatened to turn low performing schools into charter schools. While there are good charter schools out there, there are also bad ones. Simply turning a school into a charter school will not fix anything.
What was the outcome of race to the top? The winners of round 2 were “Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.” Thus, in the end, California, or any other school on the “losers” list, did not benefit from this program.
California’s budget woes will continue and will not benefit from continued budget cuts. For that matter, neither will Wisconsin or any other state where education is under siege. Jack O’Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, says this: “Education is very much a part of California’s long-term economic recovery from this recession, but if we’re not willing to invest in it then our state’s future will continue to remain shrouded in instability and uncertainty.” Perhaps Gov. Scott Walker should take a closer look at this quote. After all, many union workers are the backbone of this country.
U.S. News Staff Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Right About the Unions? usnews.com
Justin Snider Race to the Top’s Biggest Losers huffingtonpost.com
Diane Ravitch Obama’s Race to the Top Will Not Improve Education huffingtonpost.com
Chris Baylor University students and staff walk out of class to protest bill weau.com