No choice

Photo: Back to Philly schools.  Yes, we need more money from Harrisburg but to turn the schools around there are other reforms needed as well.

About Joanne


  1. Far too many of us aren’t going to be able to choose our doctors; many are going to a concierge (cash only) practice, retiring or employed by a large hospital/clinic which will dictate how the practice runs.

  2. palisadesk says:

    This cartoon is seriously misleading. Seniority definitely determines priorities in layoffs, transfer procedures and other matters, depending on local regulations. However, I’ve never yet worked in a district where seniority had any significant impact on classroom assignments (elementary). These are jealously guarded administrative privileges. The cartoon would have been more accurate if the last box had read “whichever teacher the principal decided to assign to the class.”

    • It would have been most accurate if it ended “…and I don’t give a shit who his teacher is.”

      • Yeah but how many principals would be honest enough to say that anywhere outside the teacher’s lounge?

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Joanne, you have sunk to a new low in teacher bashing.

    • I wasn’t aware it was a competitive sport. Where do I stand in the rankings?

      • Mike in Texas says:

        Clueless, as always.

        • …and the usual resort to name-calling.

          Oh wait, your original post was an example of name-calling, wasn’t it? Well, I’m sure you hold yourself to a lower standard then you insist on in others. After all, you’re special and the rules that apply to “ordinary” people don’t apply to you.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      It seems to me the cartoon bashes the system of teacher assignment, not the teachers themselves. In fact, the cartoon implicitly says that there are good teachers, which the protagonist has no way of getting for her child. She will get whoever the system assigns to her child.

      I suppose it implicitly says that if parents could choose teachers, the quality would generally be higher, so it is implicitly bashing the lower quality teachers. But if teachers really are important, isn’t it good for people to not want bad teachers?

    • How is it teacher bashing? It’s down on the Philadelphia public school system for not allowing the parent to choose the best teacher for her child and it’s down on the parent for accepting that limitation even when it could result in her child getting an arbitrarily-assigned teacher who would not be the best for him.
      You’re the one reading teacher bashing into it. I’d be curious as to why.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        I agree with CT. This isn’t teacher-bashing at all. It’s not even remotely close.

        It’s not teacher bashing to admit that some teachers are better than others. That’s true of any area of human endeavor. Even some fast food workers are better than others.

        And it’s not teacher bashing to point out that you don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to selecting from among the necessarily varied pool of teachers.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        Because it’s not the teachers fault if the Philly schools do not let parents request certain teachers. In every school district I’ve worked parents were allowed to request. If this is the case then the parents should vote different people onto the school board and change things.

        Plus there is the subtle hint that the veteran teacher is the worst teacher available. The real issue is the privatizers, whose agenda Joanne helps pedal, want to get rid of veteran (more expensive) teachers to maximize their profits, so they use propaganda like that above to try and make the veteran teachers look bad.

        • My kids attended schools in three states; two large county-wide districts and two local districts. The first three specifically stated that parent requests would not be accepted/honored. Unstated was the likelihood that if the parent was a teacher in the system, their kid could be assigned to the teacher’s choice of school (the zoned school, the school in which the parent taught and some of the special programs) and the teacher could also choose teachers. One set of rules for most parents and another, unacknowledged one for teachers.

          Some veteran teachers look bad because they are bad. Despite it being a high-performing school in a high-performing affluent suburb, my son’s fourth-grade teacher was senile and everyone knew it. She couldn’t even remember the kids’ names and the year was wasted; kids spent their time finding her glasses, pen, book etc Because of the years-long appeals process and the cost of it (estimated cost of removing a teacher, lacking felony charges, was 600k and that was 30 years ago), the district refused to do anything – since she was within a couple of years of her max retirement. She wasted a year of more than 100 kids’ academic lives. They there was the (literally) paranoid HS English teacher; same song, different verse. Both were very senior teachers but they were kept because the district didn’t want the hassle and expense of removing them and the union protections were a significant factor. A number of lawyer parents had that documented. In the case of the last district my kids attended,I don’t know if parents could request teachers, since my DD was in all APs and there was only one section of each.

          • Mike in Texas says:

            Then its the school districts fault for not doing what’s right. But don’t blame the veteran teachers, especially the ones you are not referring to just b/c the local elected school board lacked the cojones to do the right thing.

        • Michael E. Lopez says:

          It’s “peddle.”

          And no one said it was the teachers’ fault.

          If any one person or group is being directly attacked, this cartoon seems to be poking fun at parents for accepting this strange state of affairs.

    • Come on you guys. You know as well as I do that the charge of “teacher-bashing” is thrown around promiscuously to try to shut down criticism of the public education system and no one’s more guilty of the practice then our own Mike in Texas.

    • The cartoonist’s daughter is a public school teacher in Philadelphia.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    If any of you are actually teachers you would know that seniority is not how students are assigned to classes.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      No, but seniority is how it is decided which teachers will be left after layoffs.

      And students can only be assigned to the classrooms of those who remain.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        Then why aren’t you out there demanding an end to budget cuts? I get that fact that politicians, mostly Republicans but some Democrats, are anti-teacher, anti-public school because their owners are drooling over the prospects of getting their hands on K-12 money. But utlimately its the parents to blame for accepting this state of affairs.

        In my own state of Texas the legislature is sitting on a $10 billion surplus “Rainy Day Fund” but yet continues cutting funding to schools.

        I’m not sure who said it but the quote is, “Whatever you’re willing to accept is what you’re going to get”

        • Hmmm, in the first paragraph funding’s so great that all those wicked capitalists you dream of beggaring are “drooling” at the prospect of getting a slice and in the second paragraph funding’s terribly inadequate.

          I’d ask which one it is but my daily quota of trite, self-centered replies has already been filled.

          I haven’t bothered to review the cartoonists previous works so I don’t know which way the cartoonist leans politically but wouldn’t it be great if the artist were a rabid lefty?

          Well *I* think it would be great.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          I agree that some of the recent reform is objectively anti-teacher. It penalizes teachers for not doing the impossible: turning unprepared, unmotivated students into scholars.

          Unfortunately, for decades, the organized education profession has said that is very possible. With the right training, you can make your classroom a place where students enter eager to learn and exit full of knowledge.

          It is bull bleep and now some politicians are trying to hold us to it–or at least to a watered down version where all students achieve “proficiency.”

          More honesty all around would be nice.

  5. PhillipMarlowe says:

    I didn’t know that I can go to the government to get a roofer or doctor.
    Where does this happen? Do they give out dryers?
    Mine just died.

    • Mike, I don’t blame individual teachers, or even the principals ( in these cases): I blame the bloated bureaucracy and the union which enables it. Public sector unions should be banned; they are fundamentally corrupt; they fund the politicians who then give everything the bureaucracy wants. The taxpayers paying the bills have no seat at the table. As far as school funding is concerned, the large districts have plenty of money, but large amounts are wasted. Even after 50 years of ever-increasing rivers of money, there’s no correlation with academic achievement.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        they fund the politicians who then give everything the bureaucracy wants. The taxpayers paying the bills have no seat at the table.
        How did these politicians get to be where they can give everything?
        Oh yeah, they received more than 50% of the vote.
        Did you forget to vote mumoffour?

        • No, I didn’t – despite the fact that the system here makes it very easy to have downright-awful voter turnout (~10% last time). The school board election is a stand-alone, with no other items on the ballot, the voting sites are different than for any other elections and all public school employees may vote where they work. It’s a perfect storm to create the results the ed establishment wants; the union-endorsed candidates win.. There are FAR to many uncaring and/or low-information voters – and that’s a problem across all elections.

        • So then since charters and vouchers and teacher accountability and school grading, to mention a few ideas, are being enacted into law by those same politicians they must be pretty good ideas as well, hey?

          The importance of those policies is that they represent a rising awareness on the part of the voting public of the inherent shortcomings of the public education system. They’re efforts to plug the hole in the side of the Titanic and before too very long it’ll be evident to everyone but the forcefully self-deluding that there’s no saving the S.S. Public Education.

        • One thing I’ll keep in mind when picking the next home is not to live in a rural district where almost everyone has a family member that is an employee of the district and lives in a very nice residence with at least a 50% school tax exemption.

          If you are a parent of a school child here, likely you live in poverty. You won’t be spending what little you have on gas to drive ten miles to the school to vote, that is if your employer will give you the time off.

  6. I read this as teacher-bashing too.

    My experience has been, the longer you’ve been doing something – the better you are at it. If I had to choose between my child having a 1st year teacher and a 10th year teacher – I’d go with the latter if I knew nothing else about them. I see two fliers: Piano teacher A: has been taking piano for a year and is now teaching… Piano teacher B has been taking piano for 10 years and is now teaching… Two fliers: Electrician A has been in business a year and wants to train an apprentice… Electrician B has been in business 10 years and wants to train an apprentice. Heart surgeon A has successfully performed 100 surgeries in a row. Heart surgeon B has successfully performed 1 heart surgery in a row.

    I also worry about administrators faced with budget cuts pushing out veteran teachers – making them look bad – because they can bring in an inexperienced teacher and save a lot of money.

  7. I think the cartoon is actually pretty nonsensical. I can’t imagine a system where all parents can literally choose their child’s teacher all the time, for so many reasons – what criteria are parents using to make an informed decision? What about new teachers with no track record? What if 50 kids want in on one class? What if the parents of all the kids with special needs like the same teacher and they can’t load the class that way?

    With a roofer or doctor, you may go for the best you can get (or afford), although that’s still limited by your information (is it the best doctor according to your neighbor? A magazine? Bedside manner? Mortality rates?) and by access – presumably roofers don’t accept more work than they can actually perform.

    That’s setting aside the issue of how roofers are welcome to pick and choose jobs they feel they can do – so your really rotten roof will cost you far more than the missing shingles. Or the part where if you live in a small town there may not be multiple roofers or doctors to choose from.

    It just doesn’t hang together as a statement or as an idea for a policy position…

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “I can’t imagine a system where all parents can literally choose their child’s teacher all the time, for so many reasons …


      With a roofer or doctor, you may go for the best you can get (or afford), although that’s still limited by your information and by access…”


      Since the cartoon isn’t suggesting that “all parents can literally choose their child’s teacher all the time,” I don’t thing there is a problem.


      I interpreted the cartoon as suggesting that teacher selection was even more limited than that of roofers … and that this was bad and strange because the selection of a teacher was more important. The limitations you mention are present … but are present also for roofers.