Earlier this week Politico‘s Ben Smith reported on how tough economic times are leading politicians from both parties to start attacking government unions. Smith writes:
They’re the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.
But politicians are not the only ones questioning their old labor allies. Hollywood, who has long been ally of teachers unions (witness the 1998 Rob Reiner funded Proposition 10), is also beginning to notice. Over the past year, three new documentaries The Cartel, Waiting for Superman, and The Lottery have all taken critical looks at our nation’s public school system and produced damning indictments of teachers unions.
Bob Bowden, who produced and narrated The Cartel says in the movie:
Those good teachers deserve our respect. Wanting lousy teachers out of the classroom doesn’t mean you’re against all teachers. A point so obvious, I can hardly believe it needs to be made. This absurd idea that you have got to support every teacher, or else you hate all teachers, has been an effective myth put forward by the union for years.
Her initial aim was simple. “Going into the film I was excited just to tell a story,” she says. “A vérité film, a really beautiful, independent story about four families that you wouldn’t know otherwise” in the months leading up to the lottery for the Harlem Success Academy.
But on the way to making the film she imagined, she “stumbled on this political mayhem—really like a turf war about the future of public education.” Or more accurately, she happened upon a raucous protest outside of a failing public school in which Harlem Success, already filled to capacity, had requested space.
“We drove by that protest,” Ms. Sackler recalls. “We were on our way to another interview and we jumped out of the van and started filming.” There she discovered that the majority of those protesting the proliferation of charter schools were not even from the neighborhood. They’d come from the Bronx and Queens.
“They all said ‘We’re not allowed to talk to you. We’re just here to support the parents.’” But there were only two parents there, says Ms. Sackler, and both were members of Acorn. And so, “after not a lot of digging,” she discovered that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had paid Acorn, the controversial community organizing group, “half a million dollars for the year.” (It cost less to make the film.)
And in Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim, who directed and produced An Inconvenient Truth is “is harsh on teachers’ unions, board of education bureaucrats and politicians who give lip service to change.”