War appears to be imminent. A California judge has ruled that tenure, seniority rights and other core provisions of the typical teachers’ contract are unconstitutional in the state, because they subvert students’ constitutional right to competent teachers. The teachers will, we presume, appeal. On the other side is a determined and very well funded coalition that sees an opportunity to critically weaken if not completely eviscerate the unions, not just in California, but nationally. In their eyes, the unions may be the single most important obstacle to real education reform.
The opponents have the inestimable advantage of being able to frame the issue. Traditionally, democrats and liberals have been dependably in the camp of the unions. But, in this case, as the judge pointed out, they have to choose between the unions and poor and minority children. Faced with that choice, they are bolting to the children, leaving the unions isolated.