June 10, 2014

"A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution."

The NYT reports. It's a lower court decision, and it's only California law, but it's radical and, notably, it was "enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan." The old Wisconsin protests chant springs to mind: "What's disgusting? Union busting!" I didn't realize the current administration was so anti-union:
“We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of American’s finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education,” said Joshua Pechthalt, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.”
Who are the "us" toward whose goal the president of the teachers' union wants the ball moved? The teachers and the students or just the teachers?

In the ruling, Judge Treu agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that California’s current laws make it impossible to get rid of the system’s numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of their skills.

Further, Judge Treu said, the least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students. The situation violates those students’ constitutional right to an equal education, he determined....

But lawyers for the states and teachers’ unions said that overturning such laws would erode necessary protections that stop school administrators from making unfair personnel decisions. 
Just the teachers.

Here's the old "What's disgusting? Union busting!" as recorded by Meade at the Wisconsin Capitol on February 16, 2011.



I'm calling attention to this because Wisconsin's Republican Governor was reviled for what was only a budget managing inroad on the teachers' interests. If that was disgusting, how much worse is this deprivation of job security, and yet Arne Duncan — Obama's choice for Education — is all for it.

36 comments:

BigFire said...

Not going to stand. Not with the CTA's fully paid for Democratic legislators who have a super majority.

You can take it to the bank this will be overturn.

Mark said...

No suprise here. Obama made a comment how he would put on comfortable shoes and support the teachers when needed.

His absence and silence in 2011 was clear. As was his buddy Rahm's actions when becoming mayor.

John said...

Who are the "us" toward whose goal the president of the teachers' union wants the ball moved? The teachers and the students or just the teachers?

One of the things that many people lose sight of and the teacher's unions obfuscate is who pays the unions.

Unions are paid for by their members. They have a fiduciary responsibility under the law to represent those members as best they can. This includes more pay and benefits, better job security and so on.

Failure to do so would leave them open to lawsuits by their members.

They do NOT represent the students or anyone else nor should they.

As Albert Shanker once said (or maybe not): I represent teachers. When the kids start paying Teachers Federation dues, I will start representing them."

I am surprised there could even be a question about who the "us" is when a union leader is speaking.

John Henry

The Drill SGT said...

Hoist on the Petard of Disparate impact?

cassandra lite said...

Several times last year United Teachers of Los Angeles organized rallies, during the school day, and dragged their students outside to help them protest for the cameras. UTLA advertises frequently on radio (maybe TV too) about how they're all about the kids. But when there's an inarguably hideous teacher, even one who's criminally hideous, they line up to protect him/her. I'd file RICO charges.

Birkel said...

Tenure in two years and then a teacher is all-but unfireable? The only way that rule was adopted was if there is complete regulatory capture. And the customers - students - get screwed.

This is the one time I will support Crack's blaming of white folks. After all, California's Democrat party is rightly called out by this judge for hurting children and they are largely white people. I am sure the party of Jefferson, Jefferson Davis that is, is shocked SHOCKED! to learn of its own racism.

garage mahal said...

I'm calling attention to this because Wisconsin's Republican Governor was reviled for what was only a budget managing inroad on the teachers' interests.

It was never about the budget.

tim in vermont said...

"unfair personnel decisions"?

Ha ha ha. You mean like firing somebody for getting a fake doctor's note after dodging work and forcing the school to hire a substitute? Like that?

That word "fairness," people use it all the time but I don't think they know what it means.

Bobber Fleck said...

The teachers union is a collective bargaining unit. The union is looking out for the interests of its teaching employee members. The union's purpose has nothing to do with to do with the best interests of the students or the taxpayers.

With that in mind, consider the real meaning of the WEAC slogan "every kid deserves a great school".

Alex said...

How's Scott Walker doing? Union busting isn't a recipe for electoral success in Wisconsin.

SteveR said...

Somehow the problem is a mystery to some. Like how could the VA top management do the things they were doing? Job security doesn't mean what it should.

EDH said...

Further, Judge Treu said, the least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students. The situation violates those students’ constitutional right to an equal education, he determined...

Disparate impact (unintentional) or intentional?

Sounds intentional in Chicago: MONUMENTS OF GENTRY LIBERALS IN CHICAGO: WHITE STUDENTS DOMINATE THE TEST-ADMITTANCE PUBLIC SCHOOLS .

In an attempt to keep white families from fleeing Chicago, the second Mayor Daley came up with a plan: test-admittance-only public high schools. This was a reasonable solution for gentry liberals who pay high property taxes but didn’t want to leave the city or couldn’t afford to send their children to private schools. These select public high schools produce college bound students while “limiting” gentry liberal’s children from being exposed to children from “troubled backgrounds”. This is a sensitive subject because Chicago’s Public School System is only 9.2% white, while being 39.7% African-American.

Republicans, if they were smart, should make this issue the cornerstone of their minority outreach, not amnesty.

All of which means they probably won't.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


Gotta love the "Hoist with his own petar" aspect of this one.

If the Left is going to insist that "IQ in = IQ out" is both false and racist, then let them be fired in droves as they fail to close the achievement gap.

Steven said...

Well, you know, who cares how many incompetent teachers are destroying vulnerable children's chance of a good education, what we really need from our school system is to protect adults from the chance that their boss might make an unfair decision.

FullMoon said...



I have met 2 grade school teachers who were seriously incompetent.

I really hope this holds up.

The downside is rating teachers. A good teacher could get a bad rating due to personality conflicts with superiors.

Also, I was surprised to learn that teachers are not required to take a course that educates them on the mechanics of actually "teaching".

Anonymous said...

Remember that the average new teacher is *average* -- from the lowest part of her undergraduate class, put through education programs which have been politicized, and stamped "good enough." That means half of the new teachers are *below average* in intelligence. These are people who have put up with mind-numbing bureaucracy to gain a sinecure, and in their first assignment, if they are any good they will wangle a transfer to a better school or district. The worst schools in the worst districts -- where little education occurs because so much energy goes to keeping order -- are stuck with most of the worst teachers. Which then get tenure almost automatically. Which leaves good school districts (with very high housing prices keeping the poor folks out) with seemingly okay schools, and bad districts (where you can afford to buy or rent) with dreadful schools. Which means people with little power get schools that do very little for the kids that could actually use good teaching.

While I think the judge is onto something, these problems can't be fixed by fiat from on high -- they need local control and parental involvement in teacher selection. California's laws are a million miles from where they'd need to be, and no judge can fix that.

Ann Althouse said...

"It was never about the budget."

What? Do you think it was about the recycling of union dues through the Democratic Party for political favors, the campaign finance/bribery scam?

The Drill SGT said...

The downside is rating teachers. A good teacher could get a bad rating due to personality conflicts with superiors.

Welcome to the real world and the private sector...Think any mid sized firm in the US that doesn't have some form of performance evaluations. Workers need to please the boss or get fired. Deal with it. As for a teacher, they all interact a lot less with a boss than every other worker.

PS: I'm the son of a CA teacher, brother of a CA teacher, and Brother in law of a CA teacher. Oh and I taught math for 3 years, though in the Army.

~ Steven said...

Back in the day when I practiced law in SoCal I had a few cases before Judge Treu when he was a municipal court judge. Firm but fair. Before that he did family law.

FleetUSA said...

Bravo for a brave judge.

We all know it won't stand in CA, but nationally it will become another touchstone of progress in education like charter schools.

Other judges will adopt the logic of this judge and the unions will not be able to stop the onslaught.

YoungHegelian said...

Do I support a reduction in the powers of public sector unions, including teachers? Yes.

But, this is like the recent overturning of gay marriage bans -- Is this really a matter for the courts, or should it be handled by the voters, or the local executives, or legislators?

Of course, the lawyers will claim that "well, disparate impact blah- blah-blah", but I'm sorry, lawyers never see complex situations & say "Well, this conundrum can probably be resolved better in the long term without our help."

If conservatives want to bitch about "legislating from the bench", then we've got to bitch about judicial activism when it goes our way, too. And this strikes me as judicial activism that I just happen to agree with.

holdfast said...

@YoungHegelian

I agree with you in theory, but in practice unilateral disarmament is rarely smart.

exhelodrvr1 said...

The next few weeks will show who the Democratic politicians really represent - the money donors, or the constituents.

YoungHegelian said...

@holdfast,

I agree with you in theory, but in practice unilateral disarmament is rarely smart.

But, the judiciary isn't on "our" side or on the "other" side. They're on their own side, and, they, like every other human institution like to tweak the system over time so that it aggrandizes their power.

cubanbob said...

YH the issue is education not job security.

The Godfather said...

Here in North Carolina, the Republicans, who in the last couple of elections have taken control of both the legislature and the governorship after almost a century or Democrat dominance, have been pushing to limit teacher tenure, most recently by offering a raise to teachers who give up tenure protections. The liberals have been unanimously opposed to this right-wing extremist policy.

So it's interesting that there's a left argument against tenure.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be one of those "disparate impact" findings that the administration is fond of.

Much as I think tenure is bad for education, having had several extremely poor teachers along the way, logically this judge appears that he could just as easily find that school districts need to transfer staff constantly to make sure the best staff are more evenly distributed, or that students have to be reassigned to make sure there's a better chance of being assigned good teachers.

Gahrie said...

Which leaves good school districts (with very high housing prices keeping the poor folks out) with seemingly okay schools, and bad districts (where you can afford to buy or rent) with dreadful schools. Which means people with little power get schools that do very little for the kids that could actually use good teaching.


1) It's easy to gain political power, especially on schoolboards, if the parents are motivated.

2) Teachers aren't bigots, or anti-poor. Most of them are flaming lefties. The reason why good teachers leave bad schools is teaching conditions. The principals are tinpot dictators and the kids are barbarians.

3) The main problem facing education today isn't crappy teachers...it parents and kids who don't give a shit and lawyers out to make a buck.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it was about the recycling of union dues through the Democratic Party for political favors, the campaign finance/bribery scam?

Yes Professor, that is the only reason public sector unions exist in our country. They serve no valid purpose, and lucky for us Governor Walker saved our state from those scumbag teachers who were stealing and laundering the taxpayer's money.

Hopefully after being reelected the Governor can just get rid of all the state workers once and for all.

tim in vermont said...

"The principals are tinpot dictators"

Ha ha ha! I wonder whose ox is getting gored here?

Ever have a real boss in a real job with two weeks vacation and at will job security with a boss that often makes different decisions than you would?

Well the vast of the people paying for these 9 month a year jobs with lottery winner scale retirement benefits have.

Freeman Hunt said...

If a constitution includes the right to an education, it invites judicial interpretation.

Curious George said...

"madisonfella said...
Yes Professor, that is the only reason public sector unions exist in our country. They serve no valid purpose, and lucky for us Governor Walker saved our state from those scumbag teachers who were stealing and laundering the taxpayer's money."

The scumbad WEA was stealing tens of millions of tax payer dollars through their WEAC insurance. That's a fact penguin.

gerry said...

I'm looking forward to garage's retort to the Professor's question.

Anonymous said...

The scumbad WEA was stealing tens of millions of tax payer dollars through their WEAC insurance. That's a fact penguin.

You're right, crow! Teachers are nothing but thieving scumbags and hopefully Gov. Walker will fire all of them after being reelected.

Peter said...

Abolishing teacher tenure and seniority rules is a start. (Or better yet, just abolish all union work rules- why should the union and not the People's elected representatives on the school board decide what's expected of teachers working in a public school?)

But once tenure and seniority (and perhaps all union work rules) are gone, it's time to work on alternate paths to teacher certification.

Schools of education attract some of the least intelligent students on any campus that has one, and the ed. schools are nearly as politicized as some of the "studies" programs. It's to be expected that few bright students will be willing to tolerate the ideocy that's found in these schools. After all, private schools don't require certified teachers; indeed, many seem to prefer non-certified ones.

So (once again) the regulated have captured the regulators, and why is anyone surprised? Although this ruling is encouraging, ultimately reform to public education will require a broad political constituency; it can't just be mandated by courts.

This does seem to be something Democrats in at least some places (but not Wisconsin, obviously) are beginning to learn: that fealty to the teachers unions will cost them public support, as parents become disgusted at how bad "their" public schools are, and realize that the unions (and the politicians who support them) are part of the problem.

PeterJ said...

In the judge-ocracy which our polity is becoming, expect revolutionary rulings like this in all fields-- not just gay marriage & other caused de jour. Every judge-- even the local JP! -- can reform society as he or she wishes.