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Teachers' Job Security More Important than Kids' Futures?

June 25, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Having organized a labor union at a Boston candy store when I was 15, during the Depression — where students worked nights and weekends for 35 cents an hour — I am not anti-labor union. Threatening a strike as Christmas business neared, we won our 50 cents an hour.

But in recent years, as a reporter on education, I have found teachers’ unions bullishly and contractually protective of their members’ jobs, most commonly at the expense of low-income and minority students.

For one example, “The dismissal process for grossly ineffective teachers in California is so complex and costly that it does not work; many districts do not even bother trying” (“A historic victory for America’s kids,” Campbell Brown, New York Daily News, June 11).

The “historic victory” was in Vergara v. California, a case brought by nine student plaintiffs, decided on June 10 (“Historic Victory for Students in Vergara v. California: Court Strikes Down Five Provisions of the California Education Code as Unconstitutional,” studentsmatter.org/victory).

This decision, from Judge Rolf M. Treu of the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, is not final. He had to order a stay pending an appeal — inevitable in this case.

Nonetheless, as news of this potentially huge setback for other states’ teachers’ unions spreads, many parents of public school students are organizing to bring this life-changing equal-protection reform to their children.

A June 11 New York Daily News editorial put it bluntly:

“It adds up to a glaring equal-opportunity violation that’s been ignored for decades — a gaping wound that’s been treated like a common rash” (“Justice for students,” New York Daily News, June 11).

Said Judge Treu in his ruling: “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience …

“Plaintiffs have proven … that the Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”

In its summary of the case brought by the student plaintiffs, the Students Matter organization — which was vital in the plaintiffs bringing the case to court — demonstrates how California’s current Permanent Employment Statute (other states have similar laws) makes it hard to dismiss a grossly incompetent teacher:

“(It) forces administrators to either grant or deny permanent employment to teachers after an evaluation period of less than …read more

Source: OP-EDS