Teachers’ unions are facing a tough lesson

Jun 18, 2014 by

Teachers unions and their political puppets are said to be preparing for lawsuits like the one in California that slashed tenure protections. They’d better gather their sandbags and dig a bunker because the bombshell suits are coming their way.

New York reformers, inspired by the Los Angeles ruling that protections for bad teachers violated student educational rights under the California constitution, are eager to test New York laws. The sooner, the better.

The idea is the flip side of suits that hit New York and other states a generation ago, demanding vastly more money. Under the banner of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the cases used per-pupil spending data to show that city schools lagged behind suburban counterparts because funding disparities caused everything from shabby facilities to poor student performance.

The suits succeeded in dramatically driving up the cost of education — but did not meaningfully improve student performance.

One change since is that the best charter schools, free from the union stranglehold, are proving that nonwhite students can succeed under different leadership. That evidence is fueling the conviction that union work rules, including tenure and those that put seniority ahead of competency, are a major reason American education has stalled.

Because the unions bought off so many politicians, turning to the courts to put students first is a logical next step.

The LA case offers a road map. In his ruling, state Judge Rolf M. Treu cited “compelling” evidence that union protections “disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.” He said the impact “shocks the conscience.”

Treu even compared the tenure battle to the 1954 desegregation case of Brown vs. Board of Education. While the Supreme Court used that case to establish blacks’ fundamental right to “equality” of education, Treu said the same principle could be applied today to the “quality” of education.

That is a missile aimed squarely at the union racket, which effectively argues there is no such thing as a teacher who deserves to be fired. Any attempt to bounce the worst of the worst is met with years of litigation that, the California case showed, is always expensive and rarely successful.

New Yorkers have known for years about the “dance of the lemons,” where bad teachers shuffle around the system because administrators know that trying to fire them is hopeless. The unions are proud of defeating attempts to get rid of perverts, criminals and nut jobs.

The development presents Mayor de Blasio with a dilemma. He promised to improve education, but embraces the union. In fact, the new contract he negotiated took away student tutoring time, and his chancellor, Carmen Fariña, adopted a blatant policy of social promotion. The contract also makes it less likely lousy teachers will be fired.

Fortunately and surprisingly, the Obama administration is taking the other side, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan giving two thumbs up to the California ruling, which is being appealed.

“Equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher,” Duncan said in a statement.

“The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems.”

Randi Weingarten, head of the national American Federation of Teachers, responded to Duncan with a red-hot letter. “You added to the polarization,” she fumed, claiming that “stripping” teachers of due process won’t help students.

She deliberately misstated the case, but then again, what options does she have? The facts are stacked against her, and now the courts and a Democratic president are breaking free of her control.

Like a lawyer with a guilty client, all she can do is pound the table. Feel free to ignore her.

by Education News
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via Teachers’ unions are facing a tough lesson | New York Post.

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