Education

Democrats Can’t Take the Union Vote for Granted

May 5, 2014
By Alan B. Lubin

In our political world, there are trends that must be noticed and action taken if Democrats and moderate Republicans wish to remain in or achieve elected positions. The same goes for organizational leaders in union and civic groups.

I see a dangerous coalition growing in this state and across the country that can cost entrenched Democrats support and even elections if they don't do something now to reverse a growing hostility in reference to the Common Core, as it has been rolled out across this country as well as in New York.

Supporting the status quo will not work well for government officials or union leaders across the country. Tests that are not viable for evaluating children are not viable for evaluating teacher performance.

Don’t get me wrong: Teachers and their unions do not oppose a fair and equitable evaluation of performance. What they strongly oppose is the race to implement poorly developed programs that do nothing but create headlines attacking the profession, and steer qualified people away from a career in public service. Now is the time to bring teachers to the table and hammer out a legitimate system of evaluation and skills development for our educators.

The conservative Republicans get it. And while they failed to gain much traction on Obamacare due to the fact that they picked on a program that positively affected millions of Americans, they are successfully moving towards victories by attacking the Common Core and APPR programs.

Common Core gives them a potential coalition which includes working Americans, parent groups across the country and educational experts. The truth is, that while they cannot pick up support from America’s liberal organizations, due to other major issues that they espouse, they can pick up support from large groups of the union memberships, parents and other Americans who can reject incumbents on one or two major issues such as Common Core and evaluations which very few believe to be fair.

The entrenched electeds can no longer take union support for granted, assuming that workers have nowhere else to go. In local, state and national elections, working people are turned off by the status quo attitude, both within their organizations and in the electoral field.

Parents and educational leaders across the country are speaking out. Parents are taking steps to protect their children in ways unheard of in the past. They have mobilized thousands to “opt out” of high-stakes testing (a position, no parent can take lightly.) Communities will be voting for school boards soon with this issue front and center. Coalitions with like-minded groups are forming across the country, and many electeds are beginning to wake up to the issue. Unfortunately many of these are from the conservative right, using the public outcry as a tool to gain support in an issue that shouldn't even be on the table.

No longer can those we put in office point fingers at others, remain silent and take no action, not if they want to stay in office.

Now is the time for action on the part of those entrusted to protect us through legislation and leadership in our organizations.

Alan B. Lubin is the co-chairman of the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY) and former executive vice president of New York State United Teachers.

May 2, 2014

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