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The National Education Alliance (NEA) has lost 234,000 members, or 8 percent of its membership, since 2010-2011, due to political and economic forces. Over 200,000 of those lost are classroom teachers, said NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle during the organization’s 2013 Representative Assembly, which was held in July.

Parents from Desert Trails School

Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif. has been on the federal watch list for failing schools for six years, with only one-third of sixth-graders at grade level in reading and math. But come next August, it will be transformed into a charter school, thanks to a small group of parents who for the first time enacted major reform under the state’s controversial parent trigger law.

Though the Chicago Teachers Union approved a new contract in September, the aftermath of their eight-day strike has led to debate over the role of teacher unions in education reform; specifically, whether unions should be allowed expansive collective bargaining and striking rights under state law, or if these rights impede reform.

Superintendent Jim Brown

Critics of failing systems often ask the same chicken-or-egg question: Do educators and environment cause kids to fail, or do failing students weigh down the teachers and districts around them?

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

On March 9, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees and thus reversed an era of organized labor in the state. But it didn't stop there. Other states--Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, to name a few--jumped on the bargaining rights bandwagon proposing and, in many cases, passing similar provisions. It's no wonder, then, why the appointment of Paul Kreutzer, a Wisconsin superintendent who was an outspoken supporter of Gov.

District administrators in Wisconsin would appreciate greater management leeway in negotiations with teachers' unions, but many say the collective bargaining restrictions crafted by Gov. Scott Walker and the republican-controlled legislature go too far. On March 9, the GOP senators of Wisconsin abruptly passed a stripped down version of the budget repair bill. The financial proposals were eliminated, although they kept the language ending many of the collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

What a difference a year can make.

You can't walk away from the movie Waiting for Superman and not be convinced that public education in the United States is a dismal failure, that it's the sole fault of the teacher unions, and that the only solution to this obvious crisis is more charter schools. Wrong on all counts. The film depicts the classic "simple solution to a complex problem" by featuring a few examples of successful charter schools. It delivers a huge but unwarranted condemnation of the nation's public schools.

With public school districts under more pressure than usual in today’s recessed economy to boost revenue and reduce operational expenses, health benefits have become a prime target in union contracts.