Outgoing Manchester school superintendent Thomas Brennan spilled the dirty secret of the city's public school system last week: The machine operates for the benefit of the staff, not the kids.
Anyone who has paid close attention to the way the school system functions could have reached this conclusion independently. The bureaucracy and the employee unions are brazenly self-interested, while the school board tends to bow to the political pressure brought by the well-organized and obstreperous unions. The trick, though, is that no one ever actually admits this. Until Brennan spoke at a Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce event last week.
"We should be an organization dedicated to the advancement of children, not the adults who work in the system. And we are not an organization about children. It's all about the principals and the teachers, and which teachers are getting along with which principals," he said.
This is not to say that there are not many dedicated teachers and administrators who go to work every day with the goal of educating children. It is to say that the system itself functions so that it protects the personnel first and serves the kids second.
Brennan said the system is geared for job preservation. That is evident to anyone who has observed the ongoing disputes over teacher contracts, extended learning initiatives, charter schools and redistricting. Doing what is best for the kids often is hindered by the institutional protections created to preserve union jobs. Kudos to Brennan for pointing out that the government school system is not all, or even primarily, "for the children."