Congressman David Obey is trying to save the jobs of tens of thousands of public school teachers who have received pink slips. As chair of the House Appropriations Committee, he proposes to shift money from President Obama's "Race to the Top" program to keep teachers employed.
Specifically, the Obey plan would keep teachers working by diverting money that is now going to be spent on charter schools and merit pay.
The Obama plan is called "reform," but it really represents the wish list of the Republican Party, which has long supported charters, vouchers, and merit pay.
The Republicans and some of their allies in the Democratic party have raised an outcry against the Obey plan, claiming that it will "gut" what they call "reform" if money is taken away from privatization and merit pay.
But there can be no school reform of any meaning if tens of thousands of teachers lose their jobs. Class sizes will soar, especially in hard-pressed urban districts, and education will suffer a serious setback for our nation's most vulnerable children.
Research and national scores have repeatedly demonstrated that charter schools in aggregate do not perform better than regular public schools. Merit pay has been tried and has failed repeatedly since the 1920s. Why should these dubious ideas, with little or no evidence to support them, take precedence over the continued employment of teachers?
The pro-privatization crowd should put their agenda on hold for a bit and support Congressman Obey's sensible plan to use every possible discretionary dollar to keep our schools fully staffed. This is the first obligation of our federal government. Thank you, Congressman David Obey for supporting the nation's hard-pressed educators!