That truth, recognized by anyone who has spent even a few hours in say, a KIPP charter school, is an inconvenient one to the teachers’ unions, which the film rightly identifies as a big chunk of kryptonite standing in the way of a dramatic rescue for the children of America.
The teachers’ unions have resolutely opposed efforts to pay good teachers more than mediocre ones, to fire the worst performers, and to shut down schools that consistently fail to deliver a decent education. This, coupled with underfunding in poor areas, has resulted in a shortage of good schools; so the few that are worth getting into are hugely oversubscribed with places allocated by the public lotteries which provide the grim climax to the movie… the fact is teachers’ unions are the primary obstacle to reform…
Schooling in America
SIR – It is true that teachers’ unions protect bad teachers from being fired and that reform is needed (“Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”, October 2nd). However, unions also protect effective teachers from arbitrary punishment by school administrators who may be opposed to innovative ideas that come from the teaching staff. Furthermore charter schools are not the panacea that you and some school reformers claim. Charter schools such as KIPP and the Harlem Children’s Zone do a wonderful job of educating poor children in rough areas, but the vast majority are no more effective than a typical public school. And one of the best charter-school companies, Green Dot, which runs schools in Los Angeles and New York City, has a teaching staff that is fully unionised. American schools are in desperate need of improvement, but the assertion that unions are uniformly bad and non-unionized charter schools are always good is too simplistic.