Perhaps those years of association with Fox News have finally driven Juan Williams to the political dark side. But what, you may ask, makes me think that Mr. Williams has gone irrevocably around the political bend? In his Wall Street Journal column today, he commits the unthinkable. He takes it to the education unions. Mr. Williams writes,
Gov. Jindal is part of a surprising development in American politics this past year: Elected officials from both parties are so fed up with the status quo of failing schools that they're abandoning the politics of left-right polarization and challenging the entrenched power of teachers unions. Republicans like Mr. Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are fighting for school reform on parallel lines with Democrats like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
As a side note, I would just say that the most surprising thing about these developments is learning that there are actual living, breathing Democrats who are taking on the unions. Who would ever have imagined? But I digress.
On the other side are the teachers unions, which have proven to be formidable opponents willing to fight even modest efforts to alter the status quo. With one hand, they dangle a carrot before politicians in the form of campaign money from union dues, which are mandatory in many states. With the other, they threaten them with strikes, protests, negative ads and litigation that will make them—especially Republicans—look like enemies of public schools.
As a result, politicians from both parties are too often cowed into accepting a status quo that produces one million high-school dropouts a year and a graduation rate of less than 50% for black and Hispanic students.
Not only is Mr. Williams applauding the political leaders who are willing to go up against the teachers unions, he appeals to the business community to step up their commitment to the fight.
Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools, frequently reminds people that "charter schools are public schools." Ms. Rhee is now CEO of Students First, a nonprofit working to improve education by helping politicians across the nation increase teacher accountability and school choice. Her group gets major funding from business leaders.
This investment signals that some members of the business community are willing to wade into the political arena and support challenges to the power of teachers unions. But more needs to be done at the local and state level. It's time for the business community to shake its fear of being branded anti-union and get into this fight.
In his column Juan Williams introduces “A Tale of Two Missions” — a film that tells examines Chicago schools to tell a story of the competing cultures in American education. The film was created by Mr. Williams and Kyle Olson who is the Founder and CEO of Education Action Group Foundation.
I haven't seen the film yet, but I will.