Report By Richard Geno
Dr. Terry Moe, an expert on education and public policy, started his presentation by looking out at the audience, and stating "I didn't know that there were this many conservatives in Silicon Valley." As far as education is concerned, he pointed out the dilemma that the Democrat Party has when it comes to public education, torn between poor urban schools provided to one of its core constituencies and public school reform, which is anathema to its most powerful constituency - teachers' unions.
With the substantial diminishing of influence of unions in the private sector over the past half-century, unions have put their efforts into government employee efforts, and none are more powerful with the Democrat Party than teachers' unions. Dr. Moe strongly recommended that we check the website www.followthemoney.org. Not wanting to promote any reforms, the teachers' unions have become experts at blocking any reforms that would impact the occupational benefits of teachers.
Even when legislation gets passed, they do everything to water it down to the point where it is not effective. For example, when it comes to accountability, which all legislators have difficulty opposing, recently enacted accountability systems are more known for what they do not do. They do not get rid of bad teachers. They do not measure teacher performance. They do not allow for pay-for-performance. It is very difficult to do anything about poor performance. The teachers' unions block all of these efforts.
Two types of programs that help poor children and those in bad schools, vouchers and charter schools, are strongly opposed by teachers' unions. Vouchers offer the opportunity for a child to use educational funds for private schools, and charter schools offer public education independent of existing public schools. Teachers' unions are absolutely opposed to testing teachers.
At the conclusion of his talk, Dr. Moe gave us a great deal of hope with the idea of having technology offer many opportunities for distance learning. He predicted that through technology, schools and children are going to be educationally liberated. He also told us that for the first time in history, technology is replacing the teacher by substituting technology for labor. He indicated that this would revolutionize education.
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