Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools

Terry Moe’s new book has just been released by Brookings Institution Press. Sadly there is no Kindle edition. From the Brookings blurb:

Why are America’s public schools falling so short of the mark in educating the nation’s children? Why are they organized in ineffective ways that fly in the face of common sense, to the point that it is virtually impossible to get even the worst teachers out of the classroom? And why, after more than a quarter century of costly education reform, have the schools proven so resistant to change and so difficult to improve?

In this path-breaking book, Terry M. Moe demonstrates that the answers to these questions have a great deal to do with teachers unions—which are by far the most powerful forces in American education and use their power to promote their own special interests at the expense of what is best for kids.

Despite their importance, the teachers unions have barely been studied. Special Interest fills that gap with an extraordinary analysis that is at once brilliant and kaleidoscopic—shedding new light on their historical rise to power, the organizational foundations of that power, the ways it is exercised in collective bargaining and politics, and its vast consequences for American education. The bottom line is simple but devastating: as long as the teachers unions remain powerful, the nation’s schools will never be organized to provide kids with the most effective education possible.

Moe sees light at the end of the tunnel, however, due to two major transformations. One is political, the other technological, and the combination is destined to weaken the unions considerably in the coming years—loosening their special-interest grip and opening up a new era in which America’s schools can finally be organized in the best interests of children.

The obvious challenge to any reform is that the unions are the single most powerful political block. Legislation that is contrary to the interests of the union leadership is never going to pass.

The Brookings announcement page contains some fine jacket praise:

E.g., Joel Klein, former Chancellor of New York City Public Schools

“America’s public schools are broken, and Terry Moe sets out to explain why. In a bare-knuckled and brilliant account, he shows how the teachers unions use their unmatched political power to control virtually every aspect of educational policy and practice. The result, not surprisingly, is a system that protects the interests of employees at the expense of our kids.”

E.g., Eric Hanushek

“Moe shines a bright light on perhaps the most under-researched topic in all of education policy. This is a theoretical and empirical tour de force, revealing what makes the teachers unions tick and why they are absolutely central to any discussions of education reform. Along the way, it makes a persuasive case that the unions are often misunderstood, even by seasoned observers—and that this is encouraged by a rational union strategy. Moe’s perspective on union power is bleak, laying bare its iron grip on the schools, but he offers hope that we are entering a special time that allows for significant change.”

How is it possible to publish a 2011 book with no ebook edition? Was the book scratched onto parchment with a quill?