(Guest post by Greg Forster)
In the great Flypaper debate over whether unions are an obstacle to reform, Robert Costrell has what can only be considered the last word on the subject. Little Ramona started the argument by asserting that Massachusetts has strong unions and yet it accomplished some reforms, therefore unions are not an obstacle to reform, QED. (I paraphrase, but not by much.)
Costrell offers a very striking post on his real-world experience in Massachusetts. Excerpt:
It is indisputable that the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) was the largest obstacle to implementing key elements of the reforms, most notably the MCAS exit exams, which were the main driver of Massachusetts’ success. Diane seems to minimize “the current effort to show that teachers’ unions were no help to education reform in Massachusetts,” as if this were some sort of recent revisionist history. But the “current” effort simply reiterates the well-documented history that was established at the time. The fight against MCAS featured lawsuits, boycotts, demonstrations, and, most famously, the MTA’s $600,000 fear-mongering ad campaign (the ads showed a ticking clock with nervous students, despite the fact that the exams were untimed).
Here’s the game changer:
My own contribution to this history was solicited by Diane for her last annual Brookings conference….At the time, Diane thought my piece was “great.” So I was surprised to read that the lesson Diane now draws from Massachusetts is that “unions do not block academic improvement.” Well, it was certainly not for lack of trying.
Back in the early 1990s, we videogamers used to call that a “finishing move.”