Most people who have ever taken a physics course know Newton’s law, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Similarly, most people who follow state and local politics recognize that every governmental action has (typically) negative unintentional consequences.
As an intern at the Yankee Institute in the summer of 2012, I wrote an article which predicted the unintentional consequences of a New Haven “turnaround” school being administered by its own teachers union. I wrote:
While most will agree that a more individualized education is in the best interest of children everywhere, the fact that the New Haven Federation of Teachers will have so much discretion in this education is a topic of contention… [At other union-run schools, rather] than improving efficiency, increased union involvement has made it more difficult to run these schools effectively. Is it too late to turn this decision around in New Haven?
A recent article in the New Haven Independent seems to answer this question in the affirmative.
Melissa Bailey notes that union leader Dave Cicarella, the effective chief of New Haven’s High School in the Community, is seeking changes which have “sparked some tension, confrontation, and distrust between the union president and his membership at HSC.”
Experimental schools are most likely going to become a larger fixture in American education. Magnet schools, charter schools, and voucher programs are all potentially positive school reform efforts. However, schools run by teachers unions, with vested interests and no political accountability, are not.
As my article noted, similar union-run schools in New York City experienced problems long before the New Haven proposal was adopted, with one teacher comparing a school to a union “dictatorship”.
And now, the High School in the Community and the New Haven Federation of Teachers union are facing the same issues as those New York schools: a hijacking of school administration by an unaccountable union head and teacher-leaders who are caught between the best interests of the school and union directives.
After only one school year, my predictions seem to be coming to fruition.
If this story did not involve the education and future of so many young students, I might savor the “I told you so” moment. Unfortunately, however, the situation is no laughing matter. With every failed “school reform” movement or union power struggle, the school children suffer. For every wasteful government attempt to retool education without first examining similar failures in neighboring states, Connecticut taxpayers suffer.
So, perhaps the most important “turnaround” would be a 180 degree turn away from union meddling and government incompetence. That would be a reform in everyone’s best interest.