The Cycle | August 24, 2012
>>> we get our schools up to standard. by the way, that means putting our kids first.
>> the sad thing is education should not be a democratic or a republican issue. it's an american issue.
>> it's popular to talk about on the stump but if elected what would the presidential candidates actually do to fix our failing education system ? quick review here. we spend more money than any other developed nation on education yet we consistently rank far lower across the board in reading, science, and math. from the school house to the white house the obama campaign ace the romney and ryan ticket will make things worse with budget cuts. the gop says that's just hallway gossip and the latest in a string of, quote, misleading and hypocritical attacks. joining us now to help us sort all of this out and tell us how some teachers are taking matters into their own hands is randy winegarden president of the american federation of teachers . thanks for being with us.
>> great to be with you.
>> the president's sort of signature education system achievement has been race to the top encouraging states to compete to improve their schools.
>> i think it is safe to say we're short on details on exactly what a romney administration would do in education. how do you rate the two candidates thus far?
>> look. you know, president obama wants to actually help all kids succeed. and mitt romney has been spending a lot of time saying that he would use the department of education to actually be a club against teacher unions. so it's more of the divisiveness that you're seeing on the campaign trail as opposed to rolling up our sleeves and actually helping all kids. at the end of the day we have to help all kids and the countries that out compete us that's what they're trying to do. it is not that our country is not doing better than it's ever done. we had the highest scores and graduation rates but some of the other countries like finland and singapore have actually jumped over us because what they do is they focus on all kids whether they're poor or rich. and they focus on preparing teachers, great curriculum, leveling the playing field for poor kids, and real collaboration. that's what my union is now trying to do. we're trying to figure out what kind of solutions we can bring to the table. how we can share responsibility to help all kids like this new digital filing cabinet that we have created to make sure teachers can share materials and practices with each other.
>> you know, you talk about the obama administration's record on education. the signature achievement is the race to the top program and if there is news on that recently it's that the education department has now set criteria that will allow individual districts across the country to compete for a share of this money.
>> i wonder. this is sort of a massive program, lots of money involved here. you basically have the education department in washington now passing judgment on a random district in kansas or georgia or kentucky and saying hey. we've set these standards. are you living up to them or not? is that really the most efficient way to be reforming education in this country from washington to the individual district level?
>> well, you know, look. i have, there are pluses and minuses about the top. part of what is an issue is you can't create winners and losers when the bottom line is we have to help all kids. at the end of the day local communities want to help want to help k ids. this new poll shows that 3 out of 4 americans still believe that the investment in teachers is vital. so the bottom line is, washington can help. we need to have washington help with kids who have been left behind. but we need communities to work together on the things that we know work. and that's what we hope will happen in the next administration. but the other thing the obama administration's done in the last few weeks is they have rightfully showed how these rightfully hurt kids. we've had 300 layoffs of teachers, we've seen the cutting of art and music and the things that engage kids. at the same time poverty is spiking and even enrollment in our public schools is spiking. so what i would plead for is that everybody has to take more responsibility, everybody just like we've tried to overhaul tenure, just like we've tried to say let's do evaluations in a much better way and if teachers can't teach, they shouldn't be there. but we have to roll up our sleeves and not vilify teachers, but help them help kids in classrooms around america.
>> randi, we only have a short amount of time. i want to ask you. right now, we have a system where frequently the poorest teachers, lowest achieving teachers who are in the poorest communities. how do you change that so that the kids who really need the most help are getting the best help?
>> well, let me say this. in new york city , before bloomberg and klein, we had the chancellors district. we turned around those low-performing schools. we got high-performing teachers into those schools. what we did is we supported them. we paid them more, they worked extra time , we made sure the class sizes were lower. we helped engage parents, we had guidance counselors. and what happened is every single one of those schools turned around with two years. we need to actually focus on who's teaching, what we're teaching, leveling the playing field for poor kids and collaborating. and when you do that. like we're doing in cincinnati now. you see that turn around. but it starts with working together.
>> all right. great to hear your perspective. thanks so much.
>> thank you.