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6 - Teachers Unions and American Education Reform

The Power of Vested Interests

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

Terry M. Moe
Affiliation:
Stanford University
Jeffery A. Jenkins
Affiliation:
University of Virginia
Sidney M. Milkis
Affiliation:
University of Virginia
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Summary

Shortly after taking office as President Barack Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan was blunt in assessing the nation’s public schools. “It’s obvious the system’s broken,” he said. “Let’s admit it’s broken, let’s admit it’s dysfunctional, and let’s do something dramatically different, and let’s do it now. But don’t just tinker about the edges. Don’t just play with it. Let’s fix the thing”.

Such calls for major change in American education are hardly unusual. The consensus among policymakers – Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative – is that the public schools are not providing the nation’s children with the quality education so necessary for a modern, competitive world.

This consensus has been the norm, however, for over a quarter century. A Nation at Risk warned in 1983 of a “rising tide of mediocrity” in America’s schools, convincing policymakers of the imperative for action – and the result, in the decades since, has been a whirlwind of reform bringing change upon change to the laws, programs, structures, and curricula of public education, as well as countless billions of extra dollars.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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