Teachers unions launch assault on common sense reforms in Colorado

Oct 1, 2014 by

Michael Gonzalez –

The campaign by teachers unions to block common sense school reform has made its way to Jefferson County, Colorado, triggering an education policy fight with national implications. Board members there who are standing up for what is right deserve the support of conservatives as they face traditional labor intimidation tactics and media blowback.

Here’s what’s happening: Earlier this month in Jefferson County — one of the largest school systems in the country with 85,000 students — a newly elected school board voted to set up a new performance-based compensation package for teachers. It also proposed setting up a 10-member review committee that would advise the board on different curricula, including the Advanced Placement U.S. History Course known as APUSH, which after a recent rewrite, has become controversial.

In response to this, 32 of the 72 teachers at Stanley Lake High and 18 of the 47 at Conifer High staged a “sick-out,” not turning up for class. Some students followed suit.

Their union insists that it is not responsible for the illegal strike, but it issued a statement saying that the Board was “disrespecting the community’s goals for the students” and that the review panel amounted to “censorship.”

Board President Ken Witt told me that a significant number of the teachers in the illegal “sick-out” were union members and that the action “was certainly organized.” He went on a student website where the protest was being organized and found that it named the teacher student’s should see to get information on the issue. Said Witt: “the students are being manipulated.”

Both of the board’s reforms are no brainers. Teachers, like everyone else, should be paid according to performance. It’s the approach used for nearly all professions, but teachers unions oppose it because it takes away their control over compensation.

Board members note that the evaluation system they used has room for improvement. The Board-approved compensation package raises salaries for 98 percent of teachers, meaning that its evaluation system found only an incredibly low two percent of teachers to be under-performing. “Do we have some work to do with our evaluation system? Yes we do,” Witt told me.

Although the union continues to push back against a performance-based system, notably, the proposed new compensation structure would include an immediate increase of $5,000 in teachers’ base salary, coupled with annual performance-based raises.

As for APUSH, it is simply a further step in the decades’ long march by many of our leading institutions to denigrate our country. This time, it will impact AP students who will go to our best universities and become the nation’s future leaders.

According to the American Principles Project, the APUSH curriculum teaches that the early colonies had a “rigid racial hierarchy,” that the colonists harbored a “strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority” and that the westward expansion was fueled by a “belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.” The roles played by Franklin, Washington, Jefferson and other founders are also minimized.

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at APP, and Larry Krieger, a retired AP history teacher, have emerged as leading critics of the APUSH framework. They have summarized their concerns this way: “The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of the nation’s past…. The Framework ignores the United States’ founding principles and their influence in inspiring the spread of democracy and galvanizing the movement to abolish slavery.”

Their last point is important. Slavery is a stain and no one wants it whitewashed, least of all the Jefferson County board. But what makes America exceptional is not a history of slavery and racism, since it shares that with every other country on the U.N. roll list. It is, rather, that sometime in the 1770s incredibly enlightened men came together and created upon this earth a hitherto unheard experiment in liberty and prosperity, based on the proposition, “all men are created equal.”

Some key educators, against the better judgment of classroom teachers who know better, have fought teaching this history. So with the usual assist from the national media, they have mounted a rear-guard action in Jefferson County.

Witt is one of three conservatives on the five-member board. All three know what may be coming their way, but vow they will hold fast come what may. “Absolutely,” Witt said defiantly.

They’d better. If America’s youth are taught to see only their country’s fault, and not its greatness, little else — including other policy victories — matters much. This is no hyperbole. One is tempted to say that Jefferson County is a modern day Lexington, but generations of American students have been so miseducated about their own country’s history that the majority would miss the reference.

via Teachers unions launch assault on common sense reforms in Colorado | Mobile Washington Examiner.

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