President Obama spoke last night about the need to “win the race to educate our kids” and asked if we as Americans are “willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.” He highlighted one school in particular—Bruce Randolph School in Denver. “Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado; located on turf between two rival gangs,” Obama said. “But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to college.”
What Obama failed to mention is how Bruce Randolph turned its situation around: firing teachers at will after being granted an exemption from union rules.
Here’s what the ABC affiliate in Denver reports:
Bruce Randolph was a middle school when it opened in 2002. In 2007, Denver Public Schools gave Bruce Randolph School permission to operate autonomously. It was the first school in the state to be granted autonomy from district and union rules.
Each teacher then had to reapply for his or her job. A published report said only six teachers remained.
Praising a school that fired almost the entire faculty without input from the local union probably doesn’t sit well with national teachers unions, who gave the Democrats nearly $5 million total in 2008.
On a related note, Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman introduced legislation today that would reinstate the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. The program, which began in 2004, was a federally funded school voucher system for low-income students in Washington, allowing them to attend D.C.-area private schools. But in 2009, Congress and the Obama administration chose not to renew the program. Here was Boehner today about the program:
“We need to start by making America’s education system itself more competitive. There’s only one program in America where the federal government allows parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in D.C. The D.C. program provides a model that I believe can work well in other communities around the nation – it should be expanded, not ended. If we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, then this bipartisan education bill should be the starting point.”
One more item from the state of the union: Obama encouraging young people to enter the teaching profession. “If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child—become a teacher,” he told young people. “Your country needs you.” According to Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute, however, there’s actually a surplus of teachers.