Today, the much-talked-about film Waiting for Superman will make its premier.
The movie, produced by David Guggenheim, reveals the gridlock created by school district bureaucracy, apathetic teachers, and teachers’ unions.
According to reviews, the movie graphically displays how a broken school system is failing America’s children, leaving them in failing schools with little hope for a promising future. Reports William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal:
It’s one thing to talk about “failing schools.” It’s another to see a man standing in the hallway of Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School in south Los Angeles, noting that 40,000 of the 60,000 children who came through here since it opened in 1967 failed to graduate.
In another heart-wrenching scene, viewers watch students compete in a lottery for a spot in a charter school, hoping for a chance to escape the poor-quality public school that will in large part determine their path in life. McGurn notes:
And you ask yourself: How is it that, in the richest nation in the world, a child’s shot at a decent education comes down to a numbered ball plucked from a tumbling basket?
The answer: education unions. Educational reforms that would open up opportunities for children to leave failing schools have largely been stifled by union opposition. In a constant attempt to protect their own interests, the unions fight to sustain the broken public school system, demanding more taxpayer dollars for failing public schools. Yet these dollars have failed to improve student achievement. They have served only to maintain a dysfunctional status quo and line the pocketbooks of union leaders.
Ironically, as McGurn points out, the film is being released at the same time the career of an effective school reformer, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is put in jeopardy. During her tenure, Rhee has come down hard on unions that have blocked meaningful education reform in the nation’s capital for decades. Consequently, D.C.—one of the worst school districts in the nation—has started to see student test scores increase. Yet teachers unions have fought Rhee every step of the way.
Union opposition is also largely responsible for the attempt to phase out the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program has provided scholarships to low-income students in the nation’s capital and has contributed to significantly higher graduation rates for these youth.
Even more disturbing are statements from union bosses that blatantly admit they’re about money and power, not about serving students. Years ago, the late President of the American Federation of Teachers said: “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
And at last year’s National Education Association (NEA) convention, President Bob Chanin, stated:
Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not … because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.
The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year.
The educational system in the U.S. is in need of reform, as Waiting for Superman depicts. Such reforms will come, however, only when the needs of children are placed higher than the demands of unions. Unless this happens, the opportunity for academic success for all children in the U.S. is about as likely as a visit from Superman.