George Parker is a brave man, perhaps a visionary. The former president of the Washington Teachers' Union, he negotiated a forward-looking teachers' contract with Superintendent Michelle Rhee in the spring of 2010, winning his teachers a 21% pay increase in a disastrous economy, in exchange for loosening their job security. And like Mayor Fenty and Superintendent Rhee, he too lost his job (although he has since joined StudentsFirst as a senior fellow).
During the months of their negotiations, they were not so chummy, and Mr. Parker once said, "You can't fire your way into a successful school system." He was right; and the same can be said about firing principals and closing failing schools. If such were envisioned as some sort of solution, merely closing schools would mean longer commute times for students and larger, more impersonal schools, the kind likely to leave our most troubled student populations at even greater risk.
Without attracting, developing, and retaining more professional teachers, competent school managers, and innovative, promising schools, our employment problems are unlikely to go away, and we will be unable to "win the future", in President Obama's terms.