Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Money Influences Education Policy In New York

This article describes the battle between the teachers union in NYC and lobbyists who have a different agenda for education  in NYC and the state level.  The teachers union, of course, has an interest in defending programs that benefit its teachers.  One of the lobbyist groups is called StudentsFirst.  It is funded at the national level, and at the local level in NYC.  It has contributed heavily to Governor Cuomo and it helped to create a Republican majority in the State Senate.  Its name implies that it promotes the interests of students.  The programs that it supports, including the expansion of charter schools, and changes in the teacher evaluation process, assume that its programs will improve the education of students.  There is little evidence to support their assumption.  It is clear, however, that some outside interests who fund the group would benefit from its programs.

Everyone would like to improve the public education system.  It would appear, however, that the battle for political control over the school system is not about determining the best way to improve public education.  The teachers union has not placed the improvement of public education at the top of its agenda.  One the other hand, the outside groups that are pushing their agenda, are funded by individuals who might benefit from privatizing the education system and, or, those who have an ideological commitment to privatization and a distaste for public sector unions that tend to vote for democrats.  It is unfortunate that the battle for control of public education is more about politics than it is about improving education.  Reforming the complex education system does not lend itself to easy solutions.  We have a large number of public schools in our country that work very well when they are well funded and when most of the students do not suffer from financial and family hardships.  Making them work, when those conditions do not prevail, has no easy solution.  Teachers probably know more about the problems and potential solutions than most groups.  They have been put on the defensive by lobbyists who blame them for the problems, and who claim to have simple solutions which are not supported by educational research.

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