How Teachers Unions Lost the Media

By RICHARD WHITMIRE AND ANDREW J. ROTHERHAM
The Wall Street Journal
October 1, 2009

Quick: Which newspaper in recent editorials called teachers unions “indefensible” and a barrier to reform? You’d be excused for guessing one of the conservative outlets, but it was that bastion of liberalism, the New York Times. A month ago, The New Yorker—yes, The New Yorker—published a scathing piece on the problems with New York City’s “rubber room,” a union-negotiated arrangement that lets incompetent teachers while away the day at full salary while doing nothing. The piece quoted a principal saying that union leader Randi Weingarten “would protect a dead body in the classroom.”

Things only got worse for the unions this past week. A Washington Post editorial about charter schools carried this sarcastic headline: “Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased.” And the Times weighed in again Monday, calling a national teachers union “aggressively hidebound.”

In recent months, the press has not merely been harsh on unions—it has championed some controversial school reformers. Washington’s schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, who won’t win any popularity contests among teachers, enjoys unwavering support from the Post editorial page for her plans to institute merit pay and abolish tenure.

Editorial pages of major papers nationwide have begun to demand accountability for schools, despite objections from vested interests. Since the Obama administration took an unexpectedly tough line on school reform, the elite media response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“All the reforms unions oppose—charter schools, testing, accountability, No Child Left Behind, performance pay—have been around for a while now and the disasters the unions predicted have not come to pass,” said Richard Colvin, who runs the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media in New York. “The unions are out of touch and are courting irrelevance.”

The article continues.

Comments are closed.