Jane Chastain is a Southern California-based broadcaster, author and political commentator. Despite her present emphasis on politics, Jane always will be remembered as the nation's first female TV sportscaster, spending 17 years on the sports beat. Jane blogs at JaneChastain.com. She is a pilot who lives on a private runway.More ↓Less ↑
The bumbling vice president who was put in charge of:
touting the administration’s record on transparency (his speeches are often off-limits to the press);
ensuring that the $787 billion stimulus spending was done wisely (cost taxpayers $278,000 per job);
holding fundraisers to help the Democratic Party keep control of the House of Representatives (GOP now holds a 48-seat advantage);
reaching a budget compromise last winter (veep got rolled, Bush tax cuts were extended);
getting a solution to the debt-ceiling crisis (don’t hold your breath);
finally won one!
On Sunday, Joe Biden addressed the National Education Association. The next day the nation’s most powerful union decided to – surprise, surprise – endorse Obama for president in 2012.
What a shocker! That ranks right up there with these headlines:
“Florida is hot and humid this summer”
“Parking is expensive in New York City”
” California is earthquake-prone”
“Prayer increases in times of trouble”
So, how did the vice president woo the teachers’ union and get it to support his boss in his re-election bid? By breathing. Seriously, there is nothing Biden could have done or said that would have changed the outcome. Where else is the NEA going to go?
The Democratic Party has proved to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the nation’s unions, big and small. It has shamelessly supported taking away a worker’s right to cast a secret ballot in union elections. It has shamelessly carved out a tax exemption for union workers’ Cadillac heath-care plans, which it abhors for other Americans. It has passed laws requiring the government to hire union workers for jobs at two and three times the going rate in a given state or community. And, in the state of Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers even fled the state in an attempt to prevent a vote on a bill to help level the playing field between the private sector and the unionized public sector.
Most Americans now realize that the big reason our education system is 14th – not first – in the world is teacher tenure and the NEA. Obama tried to capitalize on the growing opposition to the union’s lock on education by appearing to support real education reform. He has opposed a voucher system that would enable private schools to compete with public schools but has given some lip service to student testing and teacher accountability. This caused some minor consternation among the NEA faithful. Not anymore!
On Sunday, the vice-president gave the NEA a coded message as to how to get around the administration’s call for accountability. Biden said, “It’s your obligation to tell us how we make sure we have the best (teachers).” Did you get that? Biden wants to put the fox in this chicken coop.
On Monday, the union took his advice and, for the first time, affirmed a policy to allow school districts to evaluate teachers. However, the NEA made clear that it opposes “high-stakes, test-driven evaluations.” All tests currently being used are deemed by the NEA to be unacceptable.
To be valid in the eyes of the union, the test would have to measure both “student learning and a teacher’s performance.” Now, how in the world would you do that? Ask the student taking the test how hard his or her teacher tried? Get serious! Either a student knows the required material or he doesn’t. If the student knows the material, the teacher did a good job. It’s as simple as that.
Yes, the teachers’ union is now willing to lead the discussion on how to evaluate teachers. Isn’t that nice? It, in effect, wants to shape the policy that determines what success in the classroom looks like. If a school district is required to give the union the job of doing the evaluation, we will be back to square one.
In his opening remarks, Biden tried to identify with classroom teachers and touted his wife’s teaching experience. He said, “When you are an educator … you hang out with, you’re friends with … you raise your children with … other people involved in education.”
What the veep conveniently left out is this: If you are a teacher your kids may play with other teachers’ kids, but they aren’t going to public schools. Public-school teachers are more likely to send their kids to private schools than the population as a whole because most public-school teachers understand that the system favored by the NEA protects bad teachers and failing schools.
Most public-school teachers are dedicated individuals, but the crowd shaping national NEA policy is, for the most part, a radical bunch, and they are only out for themselves.