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Just when it seemed the Fordham Foundation might be shifting ever so slightly from its staunchly conservative views (its president, Chester Finn, recently questioned the effectiveness of vouchers) the influential group has swung hard to the right in promoting a laughably reactionary tract on labor union contracts in public education.

It’s not worth reading but it’s worth seeing the cover of the The Leadership Limbo, which has a caricature of UFT Prez Randi Weingarten, dressed as a union thug, forcing former NYC Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew to dance low and backward under a limbo stick. It’s probably actionable. It’s certainly nasty.

This big new study, which must have involved dozens of hapless junior researchers in a truly cynical enterprise, rates the 50 largest school districts on how much freedom its administrators have from “restrictive” union contracts.

We can proudly say that NYC was 36th of 50, putting it in the “bottom 15″ and meaning the UFT insists on such draconian measures as equal pay, pay for overtime work, and reasonable protections against arbitrary administrative actions.Other signs that the book is exploiting race: one of its featured findings is that “nearly 10 percent of the nation’s African-American K-12 students population attend school in the 15 lowest-scoring districts–making these contracts major barriers to more equal educational opportunity.” Aside from the fact that African-Americans mostly live in large urban districts, making believe that labor contracts are barriers to equal educational opportunity is despicable.

Today, in its weekly Education Gadfly, Fordham dispelled any lingering doubts about its rightward turn by proposing that Mike Huckabee be the next secretary of education, under a president John McCain. This is a guy who seriously wants the schools to teach creationism and disavows evolution.

This is an extremely troubling sign of what to expect should John McCain become president, and it should scare every Democrat into campaigning for the party’s candidate. As to the anti-labor screed, it’s hard to imagine that it will have real influence over anyone other than those who already hate teachers and labor.

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