Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lieberman Jumps on Teacher Bashing Band Wagon

According to the CT Mirror, Joseph Lieberman is drafting legislation that would require states to use student test scores to evaluate teachers and to use these evaluations when making staffing decisions, thus overriding seniority rules. The law would deny Title I funds to states that fail to implement the new rules. (Title I is the largest source of federal dollars, but only a fraction of school funding, the bulk of which comes from property taxes).

Lieberman is not really a new player in the assault on public education. As recently as January he introduced legislation (with John Boehner) to revive D.C.’s voucher program, according to the Washington Post. Lieberman has long supported vouchers. He even threatened to cut off federal funds to D.C. schools if they didn’t accept the voucher plan.

Lieberman’s latest leap into the Ed Deform fracas comes as Congress debates a rewriting of NCLB. Lieberman was (and still is) a big supporter of NCLB, the CT Mirror quotes him saying NCLB “helped turn the corner in American education policy.” Now he wants to reinforce it, echoing Obama and other’s calls to bolster teacher training and retention, without offering any new funding sources to pay for these things. In fact, his bill will have the opposite effect by weakening teachers’ job security and remuneration. Tying evaluations and retention to student test scores is a good way to drive people out of the profession, and away from the low income schools most in need of high quality teachers.

Lieberman is nearing the end of his senatorial career. Perhaps his recent fevered attacks on education have been an attempt to leverage himself for a post-congressional career working for Rhee’s Students First or Democrats for Education Reform?

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