Washington DC public school chancellor Michelle Rhee is none-too-popular among members of the District's teachers union. As noted today on 'Morning Edition' by NPR's Claudio Sanchez, Rhee is attempting to take the school system in a boldly different direction, one which may be infringing upon the union's collective bargaining rights. Pay-for-performance and an elimination of tenure are just some of the reforms the chancellor has sought to put in place and the union has taken to the streets against her.
Friend or foe, unions are a staple in American business and, in their purest form, protect the rights of those individuals who would be otherwise taken advantage of by those with the clout to do so. Publicly, Rhee hasbeen accused of union hatcheteering through her policies. She says she merely wants to improve the system, members of the union say her efforts are to bend the system to her will and push out anyone who opposes her.
The situation is complex. DC's school system are in a state of absolute crisis and something has to be done. The changes Rhee outlines I find myself support of, but admit that I do not know nearly enough—particularly from the teachers' point of view—to make a judgment. Both sides make compelling arguments about the other, and I find myself mulling the following question:
Would a chancellor be wrong to break a union in the service of bettering public education for our young people?