To the Editor:
The Aug. 6, 2014, Commentary by Leslie C. Francis, “The Teachers’ Unions Must Embrace the Future,” is a well-crafted effort to portray unions as the enemy of reform. Mr. Francis, who works as a professional in communications, perpetuates the lie that “teacher quality is the single biggest factor in how well students learn.” He ignores contrary evidence (and it is abundant). He prefers to caricature and ridicule teachers.
He wants teachers to support, not question, the latest management fads from corporate consultants, tech companies, and billionaires who are clueless about teaching. He implies that innovations—gadgets, gizmos, and new and well-marketed management or delivery systems—are inherently superior to anything happening in real schools.
Mr. Francis is determined to blame teachers’ unions for policies and practices they do not control. Unions do not recruit, train, and license teachers. They do not hire. They have no authority to fire teachers. Unions do not assign teachers to classes. Unions don’t decide on the length of the school day and school year. Unions are not the designers of “egg crate” schools.
Mr. Francis repeats the myth that teachers are responsible for the fate of the nation’s economy, as if the policies of Congress and Wall Street did not matter.
As an expert communicator, Mr. Francis presumably knows how to use innuendo, how to spin survey data, and how to omit data.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than two-thirds of states are providing less per-student funding for K-12 education in 2014 than they did in 2008. In 14 states, budgets have been slashed by more than 10 percent, and in two states, by more than 20 percent.
Mr. Francis skillfully distracts attention from this funding issue. He is a Democrat in name only.
Laura H. Chapman
A version of this article appeared in the August 27, 2014 edition of Education Week as Recent Commentary Draws Criticism From Readers Author ‘Caricatures’ Teachers, Distorts Unions’ Role