• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Superman v. Education Unions

    Today, the much-talked-about film Waiting for Superman will make its premier.

    The movie, produced by David Guggenheim, reveals the gridlock created by school district bureaucracy, apathetic teachers, and teachers’ unions.

    According to reviews, the movie graphically displays how a broken school system is failing America’s children, leaving them in failing schools with little hope for a promising future. Reports William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal:

    It’s one thing to talk about “failing schools.” It’s another to see a man standing in the hallway of Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School in south Los Angeles, noting that 40,000 of the 60,000 children who came through here since it opened in 1967 failed to graduate.

    In another heart-wrenching scene, viewers watch students compete in a lottery for a spot in a charter school, hoping for a chance to escape the poor-quality public school that will in large part determine their path in life. McGurn notes:

    And you ask yourself: How is it that, in the richest nation in the world, a child’s shot at a decent education comes down to a numbered ball plucked from a tumbling basket?

    Good question.

    The answer: education unions. Educational reforms that would open up opportunities for children to leave failing schools have largely been stifled by union opposition. In a constant attempt to protect their own interests, the unions fight to sustain the broken public school system, demanding more taxpayer dollars for failing public schools. Yet these dollars have failed to improve student achievement. They have served only to maintain a dysfunctional status quo and line the pocketbooks of union leaders.

    Ironically, as McGurn points out, the film is being released at the same time the career of an effective school reformer, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is put in jeopardy. During her tenure, Rhee has come down hard on unions that have blocked meaningful education reform in the nation’s capital for decades. Consequently, D.C.—one of the worst school districts in the nation—has started to see student test scores increase. Yet teachers unions have fought Rhee every step of the way.

    Union opposition is also largely responsible for the attempt to phase out the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program has provided scholarships to low-income students in the nation’s capital and has contributed to significantly higher graduation rates for these youth.

    Even more disturbing are statements from union bosses that blatantly admit they’re about money and power, not about serving students. Years ago, the late President of the American Federation of Teachers said: “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

    And at last year’s National Education Association (NEA) convention, President Bob Chanin, stated:

    Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not … because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.

    The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year.

    The educational system in the U.S. is in need of reform, as Waiting for Superman depicts. Such reforms will come, however, only when the needs of children are placed higher than the demands of unions. Unless this happens, the opportunity for academic success for all children in the U.S. is about as likely as a visit from Superman.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Superman v. Education Unions

    1. Laura, Quincy IL says:

      My friends who taught school both in California and here in Quincy, IL say here we support the children and in California the teachers are supported. Isn't this a disconnect? Without support for the teachers (something the unions were founded to do but are they living up to this expectation) the children suffer. Funding through community support is also key. This, from a community that has not passed a single tax referendum favoring our schools – and they wonder why our community isn't growing?

    2. Bobbie says:

      The first video brought tears to my eyes. I just can't believe those in charge could take part from the start of this retardation in public education .The second wanted me to puke. How sad these people we were forced to put our trust in,, exploit our children and neglect their minds at OUR COST. What happened to the human conscience? This is extortion of money and minds.

      There is a reason for this dummying down. And it's not a good one.

    3. Pingback: Superman v. Education Unions | BIG Propaganda

    4. CommonSense says:

      Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and Oprah, and even myself, are for unions being destroyed. However, the three, unlike, myself know that the almighty test are destroying the children. When WE take out the unions and the test we will have a better day in schools in America, until then, I tell all my friends to homeschool, find the elite public school that values individuality or don't have children.

    5. Gail, Beverly, MA says:

      This failure of public schools has been building up for decades. It has finally come to a head because financially, traditional public schools are no longer sustainable. All the money being poured into them by the Federal government is only to appease the unions. Choices must be mandated by the people: more charters, vouchers, and the demise of the unions. Otherwise, the future of these children does not look promising. When parents are given choices, everything will change. A school with no students cannot remain open. Good teachers will go elsewhere and bad teachers will not be hired.

    6. Spikeygrrl, San Dieg says:

      Where is/will the entire film be available for viewing or purchase?

      • Brandon Stewart Brandon Stewart says:

        If you visit the movie website (http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/), there is a section on the website under the trailer to enter your zip code and find out if there is a screening in your area. I haven't heard any plans to sell the video just yet, but stay tuned.

    7. Joe, Tennessee says:

      Unfortunately the NEA person's comments are taken out of context and misinterpreted. There are actually good teachers who are members of the NEA. He does say NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates due to their power, which does not come simply due to the merit of being a teacher or the teachers' concerns for students. But if you're truly concerned as I am, become a teacher like I did nearly a decade ago. That's right; I changed careers. See what it's like to teach in a classroom. It's a rewarding experience, despite administrative policies that do not empower teachers to teach effectively.

      My students have high test scores, but that alone does not make me a good teacher. In fact those scores are to education like Enron was to business. What makes a good teacher is whether or not students are engaged in the learning process and provided with effective instructional strategies. An over-emphasis on test scores alone will not accomplish this goal.

      So if you're really concerned like I am, change careers, take a pay cut, and become a teacher. Since they know so much about it, perhaps Bill Gates, John Legend, Oprah, Arne Duncan and a bunch of "education" politicians should go to the "worst" classrooms of the "worst" performing schools so they can show the "bad" teachers how it's done. They should spend at least a week planning instruction, teaching students, and grading assignments in one classroom. But let's not make a media event out of it. That way they'll really get a sense of what it's like, and not embarrass themselves in the process.

      So how about it? Get off the sidelines and join in. Become a teacher.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×