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Columnist Nicholas Kristof: Students Should Be Considered First

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof is calling for the focus to be returned to students in the midst of the Chicago teachers' strike. Kristof also points out that the critical battle we must wage against poverty is fought in schools, making education reform of the utmost importance:

America’s education system has become less a ladder of opportunity than a structure to transmit inequity from one generation to the next.

That’s why school reform is so critical. This is an issue of equality, opportunity and national conscience. It’s not just about education, but about poverty and justice.
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How Michelle Rhee Is Taking Over the Democratic Party

Leading Democrats are adopting key policies proposed by StudentsFirst and other organizations advocating for education reform.

The Atlantic says:

"Across the country, Democratic officials… are shifting the party's consensus away from the union-dictated terms to which it has long been loyal. Instead, they're moving the party toward a full-fledged embrace of the twin pillars of the reform movement: performance-based incentives for teachers, and increased options, including charter schools, for parents.

The inroads made by the education reformers go all the way to the top -- to President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the "Race to the Top" initiative that required states to make reforms to get federal education funds -- and they amount to a major shift for the Democratic Party on one of its signature issues."

Read the full article.

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Teachers' Unions Donate To Republican Candidates Against Abortion, LGBT & Immigration Rights

The Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovits points out the hypocrisy of the teachers unions guilt-by-association tactics given their support of “groups and candidates that call homosexuality and abortion sinful; authored voter suppression laws; tried to classify abortion as homicide; critiqued teaching evolution; and called Democratic leaders like President Barack Obama "Obummer" and socialist.”

Resmovits reports:

“[B]oth national and local teachers' unions have recently made endorsements and donations to some Republicans who speak and vote against their values…

[T]he union has supported groups and candidates that call homosexuality and abortion sinful; authored voter suppression laws; tried to classify abortion as homicide; critiqued teaching evolution; and called Democratic leaders like President Barack Obama "Obummer" and socialist…

This spring, when Alabama considered passing a law that would allow the creation of charter schools, the Alabama Education Association (AEA), the state's teachers' union, attacked the legislation. At the same time, Randy Brinson, the chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama (CCA), wrote an email to his group that tied charter schools to Shariah law. ‘Education policy is one of the major efforts by such radical groups as the Muslim brotherhood to radicalize more secular countries,’ Brinson wrote. In newsletters to CCA membership, the group has also called abortion and homosexuality ‘horrible sins.’

The AEA donated $2,500 to CCA in 2010, and the AEA's PAC gave Brinson $5,000.

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Unions Seeking Control of Schools Benefits Members, Hurts Students

A new alliance of labor unions has formed under the name New Yorkers for Great Public Schools in direct response to the launch of StudentsFirstNY. New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, which is primarily funded by teachers unions, threatens to not support any politician who supports StudentsFirstNY.

The New York Post points out that this new group has no intention of putting the interests of students first:

The unions, and their hydra-like “nonprofits,” feed off taxpayer cash and then turn around and buy off the pols — in an effort to control New York schools and school policy, for the benefit of their members. At the expense of students.

As New Yorkers today celebrate labor’s long, proud history and offer thanks for its hard-won triumphs, they might also consider what the movement has become, particularly in New York. And wonder whether, on balance, it remains a force for good — for everyone.

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Seeking Allies, Teachers' Unions Court G.O.P. Too

The New York Times uncovers a number of the “strange bedfellows” teachers unions across the country have recently started supporting. More than just run of the mill Republicans, in Ohio the teachers union was the top supporter of a state legislator who is a member of ALEC, while one of the top recipients of Illinois teachers union support is a tea party-er.

The New York Times reported:

Over the past few years, even as Republicans have led efforts to thwart unions, lawmakers previously considered solid supporters of teachers’ unions have tangled with them over a national education agenda that includes new performance evaluations based partly on test scores, the overhaul of tenure and the expansion of charter schools.

As these traditional political alliances have shifted, teachers’ unions have pursued some strange bedfellows among lawmakers who would not appear to be natural allies.

In Illinois, the top two recipients of political contributions from the Illinois Education Association through June 30 were Republicans, including a State House candidate who has Tea Party support and advocates lower taxes and smaller government.

William Seitz, a Republican state senator in Ohio who is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business-backed group, has received more money this year from the Ohio Education Association than from any other donor. Teachers’ organizations in Georgia and Texas have also donated to numerous Republicans.

In all, teachers’ groups donated $1.23 million to Republican state candidates through June 30, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

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NY Daily News: A Lesson for the UFT

Despite the efforts of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to encourage politicians to shun StudentsFirstNY, its parent organization, the New York State United Teachers, has endorsed Jeff Klein. Klein, a Bronx senator, ironically accepted recent donations from StudentsFirstNY.

According to the New York Daily News, this should be a lesson for the UFT:

If Democrats are to win back the Senate in November, they’ll need the support of Klein and his allies. The New York State United Teachers understand that and gave him its endorsement.
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UFT is Threatened by Formation of StudentsFirstNY

The United Federation of Teachers is refusing to accept any campaign donations from StudentsFirstNY. The UFT also recently published a report to encourage their supporters not to associate with StudentsFirstNY that incorrectly refers to the organization as a conspiratorial tool in the Mitt Romney campaign.

According to New York Daily News, the UFT does not acknowledge that StudentsFirstNY is pro-student and pro-achievement, but refer to the organization as:

“Fueled by a mix of big corporate money and an education-reform industrial complex run amok, shadowy groups are now pushing policies to punish teachers and take resources away from some students to give to others.”
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New Teachers Union Front Group Pops Up

The formation of New Yorkers for Great Public Schools is just the teachers unions’ latest effort to derail meaningful reform in our schools. The group is attempting to paint reform groups, and specifically StudentsFirstNY, as republican movements tied to corporate money.

An op-ed published by the New York Post makes it clear that New Yorkers for Great Public Schools only has the interests of its members in mind:

But cut out all the group’s silly, alarmist, partisan rhetoric and here’s what you’re left with: a far-left rant that schools shouldn’t be subject to the kind of accountability common in the private sector.

Unions are what they are: Their members come first. But that means kids come second — or, all too often, last.

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New Movie Emerges as the Latest Front in the Education Reform Battle

The soon-to-be released movie, “Won’t Back Down,” has emerged as the latest front in the education reform battle between unions and union critics. The movie, depicting a single mother who tries to turn around her daughter’s public school, was met with harsh criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

In a New York Times op-ed, Frank Bruni sends the message that we need to re-focus this battle and consider what’s most important:

Nothing — nothing — is more important than the education of our children, and while various interests will make competing claims about whether it’s improving or slipping and how best to measure that, education certainly isn’t at the level we want or need it to be. Public education, that is.
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Former CNN Anchor Adds Her Voice to the Debate Over Teacher Misconduct

Campbell Brown, former CNN anchor and mother of two young sons, began to add her voice to the conversation surrounding teacher misconduct in classrooms in late July. Her opinions on the matter, vocalized both online and off, drew the attention of many including the American Federation of Teachers and sparked further debate.

Brown told the New York Times:

“I don’t think it’s fair that we cannot guarantee every child in this country a great education and that, in New York City, in some cases, your child is at risk in some part because of the policies the union endorses,” Ms. Brown said in an interview. “It is impossible to not see that we have a broken system that is in need of change.”
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