On Sunday (5/3/09) The Los Angeles Times had a major front page article by Jason Song detailing the job security teachers have in California once they obtain tenured status. This article is a must read for every adult in the state.
For parents the article pulls back the curtain showing some of the bureaucracy which controls your children six or seven hours a day, one hundred eighty days a year for thirteen years. It reveals the lack of control over the teachers by you a parent, and by your representatives elected to your local school board. Most basically it shows once again how important is your vote in school board elections to ensure independent members of your community are elected to represent you, the parent, and thwart any efforts by your local teachers union or the state organization to control your school district.
For elected school board members it is a wake up call to get stronger rules for dismissal in their contracts with their teachers' unions. Reading the Times article detailing case after case of incompetent, or worse borderline sexual predator, teachers retaining their jobs for years while districts go through the process to dismiss them one wonders why we even have school boards at all. If an employer cannot take measures to ensure the safety, physical and emotional, of its charges from its employees then the system is broken. School boards across the state need to restructure their contracts to eliminate most of the process needed to dismiss teachers currently being protected by their unions and they processes installed in their collective bargaining contracts.
For members of our State Legislature this article is a wake up call that the gig is up. The relationship between the teachers' unions across the state and by the huge statewide umbrella to which most of the locals tithe, the vaunted California Teachers' Association, and funds funnelled from teachers' paychecks to the Democratic Party, its candidates and propositions it supports is evident. And thanks to the Los Angeles Times article, many parents will begin to see the correlation to the candidates supported by the unions and the inept teacher who may be teaching their child. Voters will begin to connect the dots between the over-protective laws handcuffing their district administration preventing them from firing the teacher making lewd and lascivious comments and actions to their daughter. As part of the upcoming process to break down and untangle the relationships and spending mandates that have led our state to a financial abyss, pressure should also be put on the legislature to change the laws restricting the ability of bad teachers to be dismissed.
As for teachers, this article begins to crack the veneer they have ably constructed that has held them as a protected class above criticism because of the noble profession in which they engage. The connection between their unions and the buying of officials enacting laws protecting bad teachers at the expense of our children is fully exposed. Millions and millions of teachers' salaries have been collected through automatic payroll deductions and syphoned to candidates and propositions without any real input for the majority of teachers. And the results are disastrous for those in the profession as evidenced by the budget cuts throughout school districts throughout the state. Propped up by millions of dollars every election the large majority in Sacramento has spent, spent and then spent some more until we arrived at our current budget crisis. Every school district budget cut can be laid at the feet of the number one contributor to those currently in office in Sacramento: teachers' unions. Spending millions to elect anyone with (D) next to their name. Los Angeles Unified is looking at laying off perhaps a thousand teachers or more--whose fault is that? The same people whose elections to office in Sacramento were paid for by those teachers being laid off.
The average teacher when asked about their political contributions or their local union politics typically replies, "I don't get involved in that." And they don't, they just blindly tithe to the apparatus that has screwed them with budget cuts and allows bad teachers to be in the classroom next to theirs. The system is broken, and it was broken by those who are supposed to look after the best interest of all teachers and work with our communities to instruct our children. It was broken by organized labor in conjunction with their political allies who cared more about the power of the whole instead of the good of the community.
Our teachers' unions have way to much power in our state. Voters need to stand up and take back their school boards and insist their elected officials protect their children first and teachers' second. There is no excuse for a pedophile or totally incompetent teacher standing in front of your child for six hours a day--and s/he will remain there as long as the CTA and its locals retain the control they have on our state political systems.
Should a local school board hold firm in negotiations at contract time to make it easier to dismiss those teachers who clearly need dismissal you can count on the local union to spend significant amounts of funds in a public relations campaign vilifying the school board. They will spend the funds of the many, many, many quality educators who are their members to protect the few who deserve no such protection. Vocal members of the local will campaign on campuses and at meetings pulling out the "woe are we the teachers" argument, and many of those voices will be from some of those being protected.
As a parent of children in the Long Beach Unified School District I am willing to undergo some short term pain for long term gain. If the LBUSD board draws a firm line in negotiations demanding easier resolution to dismissals that save time and needed funds for the district and more quickly eliminates bad teachers I will support them. If the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the local union, makes this a strike point and threaten to walk out over the issue I say: let them. Let the union take the position of closing down the district to spare the jobs of a few teachers. Let them show the public, their members and the students they would rather every student suffer than allow a few bad teachers be eliminated from the classrooms.
It is time for parents and the voters to take back control of the education of our children and wrest as much of that control away from Sacramento where control has been usurped by the CTA. Contact your local school board representative and tell him or her: I support you, change this insidious process.