Unfireable

It’s hard and costly enough to fire a tenured teacher in New Jersey for drug crimes or hitting students, says the Trenton Times. It’s impossible to fire teachers who are merely incompetent.

New Jersey law dictates that any school district can ask for state approval to fire an employee with tenure on charges of “inefficiency, incapacity, unbecoming conduct or other just cause.”

But a review of state records by The Times shows the chances of that happening to one of your child’s teachers . . . are virtually nil – regardless of how incompetent he or she might be.

In a state with 106,000 teachers and thousands more tenured employees, the state Department of Education has decided only 114 tenure cases in the past 7 1/2 years, records show.

Often districts cut a deal to get rid of bad apples cheaply — but without anything on the record to warn another district against hiring that teacher.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. The problem with tenure is it leads to articles that focus on a handful of teachers, instead of the administration. Administrators have lots of tricks for dealing with teachers they don’t want. They load them down with oversized classes, disruptive students, and they target teachers they don’t like with lawsuits by spreading unfounded gossip to parents. I know administrators who make a practice of keeping teachers on staff who corraborate false testimony. I know administrators who offer parents grades and admission to programs in exchange for testimony. They also favor substitute teachers who are easy to munipulate into a position of advocacy. Administators perfer energetic kids just out of college with small paychecks to experienced, high salaried staff that may disagree. The idea that tenure causes corruption is unfounded. I would really like to see the numbers that prove that simply removing tenure reduces corruption.

    Corruption is cause by intentional criminals and by criminals who believe they have done the best thing under the circumstances. In hierarchical systems that rely on authority, it is the authority who bears the responsibility for setting the standard of honor and community perception. When that standard is tarnished because there are problems or because authority is disconnected from the community it serves, everyone decays.

    I don’t really support tenure because it makes teachers distant from the issues that plague the rest of the working public. I do believe most teachers do a service to the community and find it hard to believe that tenure prevents us from procsecuting criminals.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    It seems to me the real bad guys in New Jersey are the administrators who lack the backbone to deal with the incompetent teachers.

    As Bluemont pointed out, and as I have stated before, administrators who are not always kind, benovelent leaders and some can even be positively vindictive against employees who disagree with them.

    This is a typical slanted presentation against teachers: Here is a quote directly from the article, buried waaaaaay down in the article of course since it detracts from the point the author was trying to make.

    >In Hamilton, school officials decided to launch tenure charges against Shinkle even though police never charged him with a crime and a Superior Court judge dismissed an indictment handed down after a state investigation because of inconsistent testimony.

    In other words, the police and a judge did not believe he was guilty.

    This is the teacher the article starts out talking about. Too bad I had to read nearly the entire article to find that little tidbit.

    Also buried deep down in the article:

    >Ed Richardson of the New Jersey Education Association, the state teachers union, said tenure is necessary to protect teachers from losing their jobs for political or personal reasons.

    Here in Texas we don’t have tenure but for your first year (with that district) you can be released without reason. I have seen teachers fired in their first year for refusing to raise grades of a star athlete. After your first year the district must demonstrate incompetence through your evaluation.

  3. Andy Freeman says:

    Yup, it’s never a teacher’s fault.

    It’s nice to learn that the education failures in Texas are limited to football players.

  4. Mike in Texas wrote:

    It seems to me the real bad guys in New Jersey are the administrators who lack the backbone to deal with the incompetent teachers.

    Gee, at $200,000 a pop if I were an administrator I made be tempted to prioritize a bit.

    Mere incompetence hardly seems to justify the expenditure of $200,000, does it? After all, 48% of the population of New Jersey is at a level one or two literacy proficiency so incompetence is clearly not an important enough criteria by which to judge, or fire, a teacher.

    And of course, that money doesn’t guarentee firing a teacher. That’s just the going rate for trying.

    Here in Texas we don’t have tenure but for your first year (with that district) you can be released without reason.

    And if you’re not a teacher, or most flavors of government employee, you can be released without reason for your entire tenure at any employer for a wide range of reasons, at any time. That’s probably why the whole tenure issue is soft-pedaled. There might be a distinct lack of sympathy if the injustice of the tenure system were more widely understood. I imagine most job-holders would love to have a job in which the management is all but incapable of firing anyone.

    42 tenured teachers fired in seven years out of 106,000. Six tenured teachers a year are bad enough to warrant canning.

    I can understand why a union official isn’t moved by that number, after all, the kids don’t pay union dues. I can understand why administrators don’t pursue lousy teachers more vigorously. I can understand why the people of New Jersey are willing to put up with this situation. But the fact that the situation makes perfect sense doesn’t make it any the less horrible.

  5. I’m a tenured teacher in CA and my experience has been that this is a myth.

    It just as easy to fire a tenured teacher as it is to fire an engineer at Intel, a checker at Albertson’s or a librarian at the county library.

    You have to show just cause. However, with a year’s time, some paperwork, and willingness to fabricate charges, it can be easily done.

    I’ve seen it done several times.

    I know of several good teachers who were fired simply because they spoke out in public in disagreement with the educational positions of their administrators.

    Sure, there’s an “academic freedom” clause in the union contract, but teachers can be fired easily or pressued to resign on trumped up charges.

    My friend was “written up” once for having too much chalk dust in his chalk tray and another time for calling his students “guys,” as in, “I hope you guys do your homework tonight.”

    His classroom was visited every day by the principal and in just a few months his file was thick.

    The superintendent asked the board to fire him and they did. After all, he was written up over 20 times. It didn’t make a difference that the charges with either petty or fradulent. They board was struck by the number of violations.

    Another myth is that the union will protect teachers. They are very money conscious and lawyers are expensive. The union will pressure for a settlement and try to get $20K to $100K for teacher, but the teacher still must resign.

    I’ve know about 10 teachers who have been fired. A few deserved it; most didn’t. None of them were fired for the reasons given.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > It just as easy to fire a tenured teacher as it is to fire an engineer at Intel, a checker at Albertson’s or a librarian at the county library.

    Actually, it’s a lot easier to fire the Intel engineer, and most everyone else. It doesn’t take a year – it takes the time necessary to arrange the last paycheck.

    > You have to show just cause. However, with a year’s time, some paperwork, and willingness to fabricate charges, it can be easily done.

    “Just cause” is only for union employees and folks with employment contracts (at most 30 non-union people at Intel have one).

    Everyone else is “at will”. They can be fired for wearing the wrong color tie.

    I used to be surprised how little public school employees knew about the outside world.

  7. “In other words, the police and a judge did not believe he was guilty.”

    Or, just as likely, they did not believe there was sufficient evidence to PROVE he was guilty.

  8. John Thacker says:

    Often districts cut a deal to get rid of bad apples cheaply — but without anything on the record to warn another district against hiring that teacher.

    Or, my favorite, the good schools with competent principals, rich parents, and political pull get the bad teachers transferred to the worse schools. It’s an extra burden that those schools and their students don’t need, either.

  9. Mad Scientist says:

    When I lived in NJ, there was a teacher who got fired for cross derssing in public. The only reason the firing was allowed to stick was that he (she?) was 3 months from getting tenure.

    Hell, in NJ it was common practice for the taxpayers to foot the bill for sexual harassmant lawsuits (defense and hush-money – er, settlement) for politicians who were allowed to keep their positions. McGreevy is only resigning because his administration was too corrupt, even for NJ standards. The gay/sexual harassment thing has close to nothing to do with it; it is a story put out there for sympathy.

    For what it’s worth, NJ is a very friendly state when it comes to unions. Perhaps it has to do with the alleged ties to organized crime. But when there are over 600 individual school districts in a state that size and the state itself is renown for corruption in all levels of state, county, and municipal government (including school boards), it is no surprise that it is damn near impossible to fire a tenured teacher.

  10. Think again…..I had a coworker say some bad things about me – when I was pregnant – just because I did not support his ideas. My administrator, at the time, was not a very bright or compassionate person. He took the words of that coworker to heart and began a five month ordeal of harrassment toward me, again, while I was pregnant, that was increasingly harsh and ridiculous. It was so bad that my doctor called and spoke to him, regarding what was going on. Also, the doctor wanted to remove me on disability leave 7 months before I was due to give birth. Looking back, I, in my stupidity, insisted I had a right to work in peace and persisted with my job, being called into the office every week or two for some trumped up charge. The union lawyer was my only salvation. I had, when I finally went out on disability after 5 months, a fifty page file on all my troubles. At the time, I was a 13 year employee of the district. The worst of the charges was brought to me on a Friday, the last day before Christmas holiday, stating that I was arguing on the phone during class time with my husband and taking out my anger, once I hung up, on the class. (An impossibility, as my husband is an elevator repair man and is unreachable by phone during the day – and they knew this fact.) I was told that the phone records of the school would be investigated to see if I was lying in my claim that this was not true. If I were a new teacher my ass would have been out the door…..thank the good Lord(!) for tenure. I’m still at the job and that rotten administrator is long gone – and the mean coworker is now battling cancer, among other ailments. It does pay to do work, think good thoughts and be a good person. And be grateful for tenure – and the union lawyers. Anyone who thinks otherwise, just doesn’t know the score, and needs to keep still. We do need protection – all we can get – to guard our livelihoods.

  11. Chris, sounds like you had a really rough time. Here’s a question for everybody: is there something about the nature of the educational system that causes this kind of abuse to happen *more frequently* than in the private sector or in other government jobs? For example (Chris) have any of your husband’s co-workers in the elevator repair field ever encountered anything like this?

    I’m aware that abuse of employees encounters in all kinds of places, but some of the levels of malevolence reported by teachers seem to indicate that something special is going on here…

    Just thinking out loud.

  12. Yes, a typical private employee can be discharged for any reason whatever, except for a few listed in civil rights acts. However, arbitrary firings do not happen very often, because they are bad for business. It takes money to hire a replacement, then they have to be brought up to speed on the particulars of the company and their job. Knowledge is apt to be lost, and customer service suffer as the new hire tries to learn what each customer expects as well as all the on-going deals. Also, arbitrary firings give the other employees a reason to check on how hard it would be to find another job – and the best ones are likely to find better jobs when they do this! And the boss has to work harder, both finding replacements and trying to fill in the gaps. Therefore, smart small businessmen don’t fire arbitrarily (stupid ones don’t stay in business long) and large corporations have policies that discourage unnecessary firings.

    For teachers, these factors should weigh even more heavily than in most commercial enterprises – the “customers” (children) will certainly suffer as substitutes try to figure out the lesson plans while getting to know a roomful of children. But in the public schools they don’t have the option of taking their money elsewhere, substitutes may cost less than full-time teachers, and I haven’t heard many stories of principals being fired from non-performing schools.

    As for the administrative stupidity and venom: perhaps it just proves the truth of, “those who can’t teach, administrate.”

  13. Anonymous Coward says:

    I’m a staunch Republican, and I’ve been teaching mathematics at the K-12 and post-secondary levels for more than ten years.

    It is an unfortunate fact of life in academia that unenlightened administration seems to be far more common than enlightened administration.

    Because of shared governance, this is less of a problem in the post-secondary world than it is in the K-12 world, which typically operates under what I would describe as the “mount Olympus” model.

    For the sake of brevity, I won’t advance any theories as to why the excrement seems to float to the top so much better in academia than it does in the real world, but float it does. In the years I have been teaching, I have come to regard tenure and the faculty unions as unfortunate necessities.

    If I was offered a fat raise and a renewable five-year contract in exchange for tenure, I’d probably take the offer, because I do believe competent performers would be better off under such a system. But I’m not holding my breath; the union– here in CA, the teacher’s union is just behind the trial lawyers assn. in terms of political muscle– would never permit the free market to intrude into their little paradise.

    No system devised by humankind is perfect. Tenure has both costs and benefits, and at this point I think that the arguments over tenure are analogous to fighting over how to best re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  14. To answer why this happens so frequently in education? Because teaching is a “GIRL’S SPORT!” Teaching is women’s work – and the people in it are treated as women, not as respected professionals. Often the people promoted to the administrative areas are of personalities that are cruel and abusive. They are often shallow and will climb over any back to get where they want to go. The real caring people are in the classroom, plugging away until they retire.

  15. Anonymous Coward wrote:

    For the sake of brevity, I won’t advance any theories as to why the excrement seems to float to the top so much better in academia than it does in the real world, but float it does. In the years I have been teaching, I have come to regard tenure and the faculty unions as unfortunate necessities.

    Oh please, advance away. Typically the sort of discussion you get when the subject is public education come from practiced union flacks, outraged teachers or outraged parents. Everyone’s got such a self-centered agenda that there’s hardly ever any inspection of the system from any other prespective but “what’s in it for me”.

    Disagree on tenure and faculty unions being unfortunate necessities. I think they’re predictable outcomes given the players and the stakes.

  16. Richard Nieporent says:

    Often the people promoted to the administrative areas are of personalities that are cruel and abusive. They are often shallow and will climb over any back to get where they want to go.

    Unlike industry where only the most enlightened and reasonable people are promoted to management.

  17. Andy Freeman says:

    In another thread, teachers thought it unreasonable to test children to determine teacher success because other factors might affect the outcome. They seem to think that they shouldn’t be held responsible if they can blame the failure on someone else.

    Grow up.

    The world is littered with companies that died because a supplier didn’t come through. The world is littered with companies that died because their customers made the wrong choice. When either one happens, folks lose their jobs. They lose the money they invested.

    BTW – One of the reasons that administrations can treat teachers “badly” is that they know that most teachers won’t go elsewhere. The common “we’re owed” attitude suggests that many teachers can’t make it elsewhere, at least not without picking up an understanding of the outside world that they seem to have missed.

    Vouchers would work to the advantage of good teachers here – vouchers give teachers “where to work” choices that the public school monopoly won’t, choices that would significantly reduce some of the administration hell that teachers accept to avoid reality. (Competent people with choices don’t have bad managers because they can choose good managers. Managers who can’t keep employees lose their jobs.)

  18. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy wrote:

    >Vouchers would work to the advantage of good teachers here – vouchers give teachers “where to work” choices that the public school monopoly won’t,

    You don’t provide any facts to back up this assertion. However, there are plenty of studies to show that private school teachers make significantly less money than public school teachers.

    What a nice choice vouchers bring me!! Stay where I am and endure the BS from admin and politicians or take a 40% pay cut.

  19. Mike in Texas wrote:

    What a nice choice vouchers bring me!! Stay where I am and endure the BS from admin and politicians or take a 40% pay cut.

    Yeah, well, it is all about you, isn’t it Mike?

    It’s the public education system, not the public employment system. It’s only due to the political power of the teacher’s unions and the affluence of this nation that you’re paid more then your worth. That, by the way, is the real meaning of the pay differential between public and private school pay scales.

    If it’s any consolation, as the private education business starts to elbow the public education system aside the pay scale for private schools will start to rise.

  20. In another thread, teachers thought it unreasonable to test children to determine teacher success because other factors might affect the outcome. They seem to think that they shouldn’t be held responsible if they can blame the failure on someone else.

    Grow up.

    I’d change that to SOME teachers. Most teachers (that I know) have no fear of accountability, as long as it makes sense — unlike what my state of Delaware is proposing.

    In addition, I believe your analogy to private industry and “a supplier not coming through” etc. is flawed. Wouldn’t a late supplier be the one who would ultimately lose out for screwing up, not the co. that needs the supplies? And a business would go belly up if a supplier is late one time? In industry, the incentive is there for ALL segments of a particular business to meet their goals, otherwise they can go kaput.

    How do teachers control their production factors, especially in tougher schools? The sad answer is they don’t and can’t, yet folks want us to be completely accountable for children’s educational success.

  21. Andy Freeman says:

    >> Vouchers would work to the advantage of good teachers here – vouchers give teachers “where to work” choices that the public school monopoly won’t,

    > You don’t provide any facts to back up this assertion.

    I’ll rephrase in small words so MiT might understand.

    If there’s only one place in town to do a particular job, the choices are:
    (1) work at that place
    (2) move
    (3) do something else
    (4) create a new place to do said job

    The public school monopoly is an obstacle to (4).

    It isn’t surprising that public school teachers are often treated badly by the administration – there’s no down side to doing so. It’s not like they can easily quit and work somewhere else.

  22. Andy Freeman says:

    > In addition, I believe your analogy to private industry and “a supplier not coming through” etc. is flawed. Wouldn’t a late supplier be the one who would ultimately lose out for screwing up, not the co. that needs the supplies?

    Thanks for yet another anecdote demonstrating a lack of understanding of the real world.

    When a company dies or is hurt because a supplier didn’t come through, said company, its employees, or its investors don’t benefit from the failure of the supplier.

    > And a business would go belly up if a supplier is late one time?

    Who said anything about being late one time?
    Of course, one-time delays can be fatal – a new toy company that misses its first Christmas doesn’t see a second one.

    And no, goods from another supplier aren’t necessarily adequate or interchangable within a reasonable period of time.

    Time is money is actually an important fact about the world.

    > In industry, the incentive is there for ALL segments of a particular business to meet their goals, otherwise they can go kaput.

    Huh?

    Yes, there are incentives to meet goals, but that fact doesn’t imply that goals will be met or that a business controls all relevant factors.

    > How do teachers control their production factors, especially in tougher schools? The sad answer is they don’t and can’t, yet folks want us to be completely accountable for children’s educational success.

    As I pointed out, NO ONE “control[s] their production factors”, yet most everyone else is completely accountable for what they’re being paid to do.

  23. Andy Freeman says:

    > What a nice choice vouchers bring me!! Stay where I am and endure the BS from admin and politicians or take a 40% pay cut.

    Umm, MiT, this is how the real world works. Perfection isn’t one of the alternatives. You get to choose between different sets of costs and benefits.

    In this case, why shouldn’t admin treat you badly? You’re not going to do anything about it AND you’re going to fight to keep them in power.

  24. Boy Andy you sure are “impressing” everyone w/your “understanding” of the real world.

    Huh?

    Yes, there are incentives to meet goals, but that fact doesn’t imply that goals will be met or that a business controls all relevant factors.

    Here, I’ll explain it to you in as many words of one syllable as possible:

    Chrysler production line obviously needs numerous supplies from myriad suppliers. Chrysler depends on these suppliers, and the suppliers depend on Chrysler. Missing a deadline won’t “kill” either co. and if a supplier constantly is deficient meeting deadlines or outright missing ’em altogether, then Chrysler goes elsewhere and said supplier has no one to blame but themselves. But the point is, everyone involved, based on profit motive, has a clear incentive to meet their responsibilities.

    How does this compare to [public] education? The incentive, such that it is, can be non-existent for the biggest factor of production — the student. “I don’t care.” What does a teacher do about that attitude? (There’s plenty he can do, actually, but doesn’t suit our purposes here.) Does a factor of production actually do that in your “real” world, Andy? If they do, they’re history. In public ed., the production co. — teachers — get blamed. If one of Chrysler’s suppliers said “I don’t care,” they get the blame and Chrysler merely gets another supplier. Do public school teachers get to get students who care?

    Nope.

    Was that sufficiently monosyllabic for you, Andy?

  25. So Hube, what you’re saying is that if only the public education system had a better class of students then we’d see better performance?

    If the excuse for poor performance is poor raw materials then let’s just shut the whole operation down. I mean, if we can’t get good performance, all those kids stupified from too much MTV or TV or computer games or drugs or whatever, then why pay for bad performance?

  26. Andy Freeman says:

    Hube is looking desperately for a win.

    > Missing a deadline won’t “kill” either co.

    Interestingly enough, no one claimed otherwise. I’ll quote myself.

    >> The world is littered with companies that died because a supplier didn’t come through.

    Note that I didn’t say anything like what Hube’s argument requires.

    Back to Hube.

    > if a supplier constantly is deficient meeting deadlines or outright missing ’em altogether, then Chrysler goes elsewhere

    Yup, and during that time, Chrysler may end up paying workers who aren’t building cars or workers may get their hours cut. Even if neither one happens, Chrysler incurs additional costs which come out of the same pockets.

    And these bad things happen to Chrysler employees and investors even though they did nothing wrong, which is exactly what I wrote.

    > How does this compare to [public] education?

    I’ll quote myself again.

    >> As I pointed out, NO ONE “control[s] their production factors”, yet most everyone else is completely accountable for what they’re being paid to do.

    To be more blunt, we don’t care why you’re failing.

  27. What I am saying is that teachers do NOT have control over the factors of production as standard businesses do. Over the decades, the “hoops” that teachers have to go through to get rid of the most disruptive influences in the classroom have increased by magnitudes. My school last year refused to seek expulsion hearings on a student who hit a cop. Yet, we have to “teach” this kid (who was in his 3rd year at a two year middle school).

    Would you say that the poor performance of many inner city public schools is due to the teachers or the SES/lack of parenting? Or, school/district administration? I know you are very anti-union allen, and I sympathize to a large degree. But you need to understand that a huge portion of public school teachers are wary of the unions too, and want to some fundamental change.

    Tearing down public ed. as we know it may not be a bad idea, I must say. But as virtually any teacher will tell you, w/o discipline and an avenue to get rid of the disruptive kids, it’s pretty damned hard to teach what you’re supposed to.

    And again, the point I’m trying to make is that public school teachers HAVE to teach all kids that come through their doors. Only the most violent and disruptive have any chance of actually getting expelled. This leaves a whole bevy of bad influences that still remain in the building. You just cannot compare this to regular business. If you have suppliers that constantly dick you over, you get rid of them, right? You just can’t do that in public school. Should we be able to? You bet. Try telling that to lawyers, for starters.

  28. LOL. Ah, Andy…so taken w/your own “arguments” that you feel others are trying to “win?” Hardly.

    To be more blunt, we don’t care why you’re failing.

    Oh, I know you don’t. You think I’m actually going to be hurt by your comments, but as I noted above, public ed. IS in need of some major restructuring. You’re so blinded by your dogma that you see every public school teacher as a union minion, and we’re all lazy and whiners. There’s no POSSIBLE way I could agree that you (and allen) have a point in advocating such a restructure, right? Take off the “What’s My Line” blinders, huh?

    I stand by my analogy as reiterated in my post to allen. Your above rebuttal assumes a complete breakdown of the business structure — one which is nigh unlikely. That, and businesses tend to pass off costs to the consumers, if anything else.

    The bottom line is that while Chrysler may have a temporary setback due to a supplier dicking them over, the supplier will suffer the most as Chrysler will go elsewhere, leading, likely to said supplier’s demise. Neither you nor allen have told us all here what one must do to a supplier that says I DON’T CARE — and STILL remains a CONSTANT supplier because you’re told you MUST keep them no matter what!!

  29. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote
    >It’s only due to the political power of the teacher’s unions and the affluence of this nation that you’re paid more then your worth.

    Once again you provide me with a good laugh! How would YOU know what I’m worth?

    And believe it or not I do have a choice. Here in Texas every little wazoo town big enough to get their name on the map has its own school district. There are about 5 small school districts and 1 fairly good size one in the county I work in.

    Like Andy you are placing the blame for the problems you perceive American education as having on the wrong people. You should be looking at the politicians and educrats for what the root cause of these problems may be.

  30. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    >I can understand why a union official isn’t moved by that number, after all, the kids don’t pay union dues.

    You should’ve read the article Allen. Here are some more tidbits from the same union official: Looks like the political hack/union lackie set you up and you feel for it 🙂 He swings, its going, going, gone!

    “Everyone would probably agree, in instances where people have proven to be impervious to a support system, there should be an expedited way to move them into some other career choice,”

    “Richardson said the NJEA supports more stringent evaluations and other efforts to strengthen teacher performance. ”

    “He’s in favor of developing a faster way to remove tenured employees”

  31. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy wrote:

    >I’ll quote myself again.

    You’re going about it all wrong Andy. What you need to do, instead of quoting yourself, is to invent some kind of accountability systems that just happens to support all of your views. Give it some big fancy name like “”Teachability Index” or “Education Productivity Index”. Don’t forget to throw lots of charts and graphs in too.

  32. Mike in Texas wrote:

    How would YOU know what I’m worth?

    You belong to a union. Of course you’re paid more they you’re worth. Why else join a union?

    Like Andy you are placing the blame for the problems you perceive American education as having on the wrong people.

    If you’d read what I write you wouldn’t write what you wrote.

    I’m not putting the blame on anyone. What teachers and administrators and parents do is largely governed by the situation they’re in.

    I expect teachers to want to get paid more. Self-interest and the interests of those who depend on you mandates that you get every dollar you can squeeze out of the system regardless of your worth. That’s not something to be proud of but neither is it blame-worthy. It just means that teachers are quite mundanely human.

    I don’t expect teachers to work any harder or perfect skills beyond what the employment situation and your personal pride demand.

    Since the public education system clearly places so little importance on skill – when was the last time you heard of a bidding war for the services of a teacher of the year? – the only factor impelling a teacher toward excellence is personal pride. Unless teachers are genetically distinct from the general run of humanity, that means a few teachers will strive toward excellence, a few won’t give a good God-damn and the vast bulk will be distributed Bell-curve fashion in between.

    Here are some more tidbits from the same union official:

    A union official who speaks glowingly of the need to need to remove unfit teachers. Well, ya got me there pardner. I guess that when a union official talks to a reporter you can take their words to the bank. Yup, that’s the official union position. No doubt about it, the union is now committed to relentlessly hounding anyone out of the profession who drags down the quality of teachers state-wide.

    Mike, I don’t know whether you’ve voluntarily given up a significant number of I.Q. points or whether you think I have but what the union official says has little to do with their actions. There’s a six-figure amount associated with just trying to dislodge a tenured teacher and that isn’t just an accident or some basic law of physics.

    This union, like any union, will make it as difficult as possible to fire a member and any union that doesn’t have that as one of their goals, eyewash blabbed to some reporter not withstanding, is a union that isn’t long for this earth.

  33. Andy Freeman says:

    > What I am saying is that teachers do NOT have control over the factors of production as standard businesses do.

    So what? Few businesses have the power to insist that folks buy from them. My point being that NO ONE has the sort of control you think that you’re entitled to.

    If you can’t do the job, why are we paying you? Do you really think that the reason that you can’t do the job justifies paying you?

    If the job can’t be done, why are we paying ANYONE? Do you really think that the reason the job can’t be done justifies spending money to not get it done?

  34. Andy Freeman says:

    > And again, the point I’m trying to make is that public school teachers HAVE to teach all kids that come through their doors.

    That’s because they insist on a monopoly. Give up the monopoly and that problem, among others, goes away.

    This is one of the choices that demonstrates that the monopoly is one of the most important things to public school advocates. They’ll put up with almost anything to protect the monopoly, even things that make failure extremely likely.

  35. Andy Freeman says:

    > The bottom line is that while Chrysler may have a temporary setback due to a supplier dicking them over, the supplier will suffer the most as Chrysler will go elsewhere, leading, likely to said supplier’s demise.

    And, as I’ve pointed out, said demise doesn’t make Chrysler whole, that being the relevant point. Bad things happen to Chrysler for reasons outside their control.

    Hube seems to think that there shouldn’t be negative consequences if she does nothing wrong or doesn’t have completely control over whether she succeeds or fails.

    I’ve pointed out that no one else is in that position. Hube disagrees. Perhaps she’ll provide a couple of examples.

    I’ll start – Chrysler employees and investors get hurt when some bone-head designs and ugly Chrysler. (Surely the workers aren’t to blame for that, and none of the investors are in a position to change things.) Those same folks get hurt when a supplier screws up. They’re also hurt when someone designs a more appealing car.

  36. Any teacher can be fired in 24 hours. All that needs to be done is a voice vote in closed session by the board.

    The more documentation they have to justify the vote, the less they will have to pay in legal and settlement costs.

    The protection of tenure for a public school teacher is very flimsy. It’s really no more protection than most employees have.

    The tenure that college professors have, now that’s tenure. What public school teachers have, it’s nothing like it.

  37. “It’s really no more protection than most employees have” and “…the less they will have to pay in legal and settlement costs.”

    Most employees don’t get *anything* when they get fired, Robert. There are no “legal and settlement costs.” That’s huge protection for teachers.

    Hube: Over the decades, the “hoops” that teachers have to go through to get rid of the most disruptive influences in the classroom have increased by magnitudes.

    No doubt. And who’s responsible for that? The same politicians who are regularly supported by teacher’s unions. Perhaps said unions should, instead of supporting the candidates that promise to back them in their quest for higher pay and lifetime job security, support candidates who are willing to hold students to standards of accountability. Don’t support politicians who talk about the “right” of “disabled” (read: disruptive) students to be “mainstreamed.”

  38. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    >You belong to a union. Of course you’re paid more they you’re worth. Why else join a union?

    1) I don’t belong to a union (I forgot to turn my paperwork in)

    2) My salary is set by the politicians of Texas. They are the ones who determine the salary schedule for teachers. Local school boards can decide to pay more than the amount stipulated if they feel they have to be competitive with other districts.

    >There’s a six-figure amount associated with just trying to dislodge a tenured teacher and that isn’t just an accident or some basic law of physics.

    You’re correct and there is a reason for it. It’s to provide protection against politicial and personal vendettas. Remember, this isn’t a factory line as Andy has been arguing. It’s children we’re talking about and believe it or not, many administrators would fire a good, effective teacher in the middle of the year just as vengeance for something the teacher said or did that they didn’t like. The arguement that schools can be run like a business are one of the boneheaded ideas the reform movement has. All you have to do is read Dilbert for a few weeks and within a year whatever practice he is making fun of will appear in school administrations. If you think some of these practices are good then tell me exactly what purpose a mission statement has ever served?

    >a few teachers will strive toward excellence, a few won’t give a good God-damn and the vast bulk will be distributed Bell-curve fashion in between.

    This is nothing more than your opinion and in my experience and my opinion it is wrong.

  39. Mike in Texas says:

    Andy wrote:

    >Few businesses have the power to insist that folks buy from them.

    In this case Andy, the public schools are obligated by law to provide anyone with an education who wants it.

    That is a big difference from trying to convince people to buy your product.

    Schools are not businesses and they shouldn’t be run like they are. You should be frightened of people whose bottom line will not be the education of your children but how much profit their company can make in the process.

  40. David: No doubt unions have some responsibility for the “hoops” teachers must jump through. And the politicians in their pocket. But I’d say it’s less than you think. The union (at least where I am) is pretty darn vocal about getting rid of dangerous students and streamlining said process. IMO, it’s lawyers and so-called “child advocates” that have made the process so cumbersome. Ever heard of a 504 Plan? It’s an “accomodation” plan for a child’s [apparent] disability. Disruptive behavior can be a consequence of the “disability,” so removing this child from class is nearly impossible. Schools and districts will acquiesce to lawyers’ demands b/c they can’t afford the cost of litigating trying to remove a disruptive student.

  41. Hube seems to think that there shouldn’t be negative consequences if she does nothing wrong or doesn’t have completely control over whether she succeeds or fails.

    Nowhere have I said any such thing. For someone who claims virtual omniscience about “how things work,” you’re sure off the mark here! Negative consequences happen to teachers all the time whether they want them or not, Andy.

    Perhaps we’re arguing two different things in our Chrysler example. I’ll try to make it short and sweet as to what I’m saying:

    Chrysler can control for its factors of production, whether it’s its workers or suppliers. If workers suck, they can be axed (I know, I know, they have unions to deal with too, which I won’t argue b/c I have little regard for them almost as much as you do) or the labor even moved overseas. If suppliers suck, Chrysler can get another supplier. IOW, Chrysler can do what it needs to do to ensure a quality product. Of course, breakdowns in the whole process can and do occur, but this is beside the point.

    OTOH, public school teachers have to accept the biggest factor of production for their trade. They have to. It is extremely rare for a teacher to be able to excise a bad FoP. Does Chrysler have to tolerate workers just sitting on the assembly line saying “I don’t care?” Nope. Does Chrysler have to tolerate suppliers who say “I don’t care?” Nope. Do public school teachers have to tolerate students who say “I don’t care?”

    Yep. All the time.

    And we’re “accountable” for the results these students produce, if any results at all. We cannot just say “You’re out” if they fail to produce. Chrysler and other cos. can. Private schools can. Catholic schools can. Charter schools can.

    Public schools cannot.

    Now, I am not “whining” about my personal situation. Hardly. If I didn’t want to remain a teacher where I am, I’d move elsewhere. It’s real simple. I am, though, pointing to public school reality. Do I favor changing this reality? You betcha.

    And, I’m all for teacher accountability — as long as it makes sense. Let me ask you if my state’s teacher accountability system (proposed) makes sense:

    20% of all teachers’ evaluations will be based on students’ state test scores … in reading, writing and math. I teach Spanish. But 20% of MY evaluation will be based on my students’ reading, writing and math scores! If implemented, why even bother to teach Spanish at all? Why not just use my class time to tutor my students in those subjects?

  42. Andy Freeman says:

    > Remember, this isn’t a factory line as Andy has been arguing.

    Andy has done no such thing.

    Hube thought that Chrysler would be a good example. I then used Chrysler to demonstrate my point that NO ONE has the sort of control that teachers think that they should have before being held accountable.

  43. Andy Freeman says:

    > Schools are not businesses and they shouldn’t be run like they are.

    Really? We shouldn’t expect schools to deliver what we pay for? We shouldn’t take our money elsewhere when they fail?

    I’ll ask again. If you can’t succeed, why should we pay you? If a job can’t be done by anyone, why should we pay anyone to do it?

    > You should be frightened of people whose bottom line will not be the education of your children but how much profit their company can make in the process.

    Right. Teachers work for free and maintaining the monopoly is not among their highest priorities.

  44. Mike in Texas wrote:

    1) I don’t belong to a union (I forgot to turn my paperwork in)

    So what? The point is, always was, and always will be that a union exists to get you more they you’re worth regardless of the consequences to the organization that’s supposed to make sure the payroll checks don’t bounce.

    2) My salary is set by the politicians of Texas.

    Again, so what? If you find the situation is sufficiently unpleasent, well, I don’t believe that those Texas politicians can keep Texas teachers from becoming Arkansas teachers or New Mexico teachers or any kind of teachers but Texas teachers.

    If the situation isn’t unpleasent enough to cause you to leave Texas then all you’re doing is whining about the amount of money you make. I’ll go see if I can find my violin.

    You’re correct and there is a reason for it. It’s to provide protection against politicial and personal vendettas.

    Aw yes. The Morlock administrators who, taking time out from feasting on dead bodies, draw a gore-encrusted sleeve across their fanged mouths and pursue their personal and political vendettas against innocent teachers. Makes for a pretty good Wes Craven movie, hey?

    The arguement that schools can be run like a business are one of the boneheaded ideas the reform movement has.

    Oh sure. Industry has a lot to learn from the business practices of the public education system:

    The only results that matter are the one’s that can’t be measured.

    The word “enough” should never show up in the same sentence as the word “budget”.

    Accountability is for people who can’t keep their story straight.

    This is nothing more than your opinion and in my experience and my opinion it is wrong.

    And there, in a single sentence, the problem is encapsulated.

    There are different kinds of people. Some have opinions that are valuable, some don’t. Some care about children, some don’t. Some stand four-square for equality, some don’t. Some people are just better then others and, really, isn’t it ridiculous to give weight to the opinions of people who aren’t important, or compassionate or committed to a just society?

  45. **And if you’re not a teacher, or most flavors of government employee, you can be released without reason for your entire tenure at any employer for a wide range of reasons, at any time.

    **Most employees don’t get *anything* when they get fired, Robert. There are no “legal and settlement costs.” That’s huge protection for teachers.

    What? As a small business owner, I can assure you that you CANNOT fire anyone at anytime for any reason. In fact, even if you have a huge file of documented reasons for letting them go, they still get unemployment. (And, yes, the business has to pay that, too – the money doesn’t come from La=La land!)

  46. None of which even remotely compares to the impediments to firing that a school administration faces when trying to fire an employee who’s behavior warranted immediate discharge.

    The teacher in question was having sex with a 16-year old student which I think is just a trifle beyond the bounds allowed by professional ethics. The school board has spent $735,000 trying to unload this guy and may not succeed. It costs about $200,000 just to get a good start on firing a New Jersey teacher with no guarentee of success and the truth of that is amply demonstrated by the number of teachers who’ve been fired: 42 out of a population of 106,000 over a 7 year period.

    Comparing the relatively minor impediments to firing that private industry is saddled with to the all-but-impossible situation that the public education system labors under is ludicrous.

  47. Andy Freeman says:

    Note that a single bad employee can cause a small biz to go under if said employee isn’t encouraged to go elsewhere in time. When that happens, even the bad employee loses hisher job, along with the innocents.

    Meanwhile, a public school can fail for decades, the bad surviving with the good. (Although, they’re clearly not good enough. And, if no one is good enough, that’s reason enough to stop throwing good money after bad.)

  48. I was annoyed at Martin Wolf’s comment that he had taught thinking skills vis-a-vis 9-11 and the Iraq war. One of his students commented that she didn’t know that Iraq wasn’t involved in 9-11. That is misinformation plain and simple. We know now that a portion of the “Oil for Food” program money was siphoned offto Al Qaida.

    He failed his student if he allows her to continue to think that Saddam Hussein did not support 9-11. It’s an historical axiom that “money is the sinews of war.”