Education Reform Is Change the Left Refuses to Believe In

Matthew Sheffield
By Matthew Sheffield | February 29, 2012 | 3:03 PM EST

Reforming our nation's schools is perhaps the greatest issue that demonstrates how the modern "progressive" movement is not about helping the poor. Time and time again, the "progressives" heading up teachers unions have shown that helping disadvantaged children must come second to union power politics.

Unions in two poor Southern California school districts demonstrated this point quite clearly by using a variety of thuggish intimidation tactics to turn back an effort by parents to wrest control of their children's failing school away from the teachers union.

A new California law passed in 2010 gives parents whose children are stuck in failing public schools the right to shake things up - if more than 50 percent sign a petition, they can force a school closed, change its administration, or turn it into a charter school.

When parents tried this in two schools recently - McKinley Elementary School in Compton and Desert Trails Elementary in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto, the unions fought back, as David Feith reported in the Wall Street Journal:

"Immediately, McKinley teachers began leaning on parents to rescind their signatures—first at a PTA meeting, then by pressuring their kids during school. Soon the school district insisted that parents validate their signatures by appearing at McKinley with official photo identification—naked intimidation of those who were undocumented immigrants and a violation of the First Amendment, said Los Angeles Superior Court. Yet the district persisted, soon rejecting every parent's signature on technicalities that are still tied up in court a year later."

The most recent battle is happening in Adelanto, where 450+ parents signed a trigger petition after two thirds of the school's sixth-grade students failed state exams in English and math last year.

"At a public meeting, the Adelanto school board announced that, upon review, the trigger petition represented only 48% of parents—not the 70% that petitioners claimed when they filed last month. The loss of nearly 100 signatures, it turns out, was the result of a systematic and legally questionable pressure campaign waged against parents. 'About two weeks ago, the California Teachers Association flew in a cadre of paid operatives from Sacramento,' says Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, the liberal activist group that conceived of parent trigger and has supported the campaigns in Compton and Adelanto. 'Suddenly parents were accosted in the parking lot by CTA operatives blocking cars from moving until the driver agreed to take a flier plastered with lies.' Operatives also went door-to-door across Adelanto. Mr. Austin says many parents were told that if they didn't rescind their signatures, Desert Trails would be closed within days. Others heard that all the teachers would be fired, and still others had their picture taken for refusing to rescind."

It's odd to see the unions - reliable members of the Left - demanding photo IDs. After all, the Left has been saying for years that asking voters to show a photo ID is racist intimidation. It isn't, of course, anymore than an airline asking for a photo ID to board a plane is racist.

But pointedly taking photographs of parents who won't support the union is most definitely a form of intimidation, an implied threat, particularly since the picture-taking was not authorized by any public official.

The unions have resorted to race-based intimidation as well, Feith reported:

"In early 2010, Spanish-language fliers surfaced in several L.A. neighborhoods warning parents that if they voted to convert a public school into a charter, they 'might be deported'."

The unions' tactics may violate state law, Feith explains, but it will require a lawsuit to prove it.

What is already proven is that the teachers unions will stop at nothing to retain power. Deception, intimidation and fear are their tools, and they know how to use them. If only they knew how to teach the kids of Compton, Adelanto and countless other towns and cities across America where the schools are failing and the teachers unions are clinging to power.

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