The Obama administration says it wants to remake public education around the principle that the best teachers should be promoted and rewarded, regardless of seniority.
And a brawl over just that idea is now playing out in the shadow of the White House.
The chancellor of Washington’s school system, Michelle Rhee, is wrestling with one of the most expensive, worst performing school systems in the country. The dropout rate has hit 40%, and the cost per student is $14,000 a year. Buildings are crumbling and thousands of parents have abandoned the system, which serves about 45,000 students.
Ms. Rhee is trying to reduce what she believes to be a bloated school management and wrest more control over the district’s affairs from the powerful local teachers’ union. She has replaced principals, laid off teachers and closed underperforming schools.
She has also challenged what she feels is one of the biggest impediments to improvement: tenure, or strong job protections for teachers. The idea is to promise teachers much richer salaries, as well as performance bonuses, if they give up tenure. Good performers would be rewarded, poor performers gotten rid of.