Teachers Unions Should Not be Ignored

Published October 29, 2010

Your otherwise excellent editorial on education and the election (“Fixing Illinois schools,” Oct. 21) got off to a stumbling start when first you suggested Illinois may have lost the so-called Race to the Top, partly for failure to bring teacher unions fully on board. Then you advised voters to beware politicians “who parry school reforms with a nervous glance at the powerful teachers unions.” So which should it be: appease the unions or battle them?

It is certainly true that the Obama administration’s convoluted 500-point scoring system for RttT applications favored states that cut compromises with teacher unions to achieve the illusion of reform. That is why some states won money from Arne Duncan’s stimulus slush fund without deserving it. In the long run, Illinois could win by “losing” because its reforms will be unencumbered by the federal red tape gift-wrapping the dozen RttT grants. Yes, by all means, lift the lid on charter schools and open the door to private scholarships. But rely on local initiative and avoid the federal snares.

— Robert Holland, Chicago