Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Peter Goodman, long-time observer of Néw York politics, predicts that local and state politics will play a large role in the anti-tenure case that was recently filed in Staten Island. Why Staten Island? It was chosen because it is the most conservative borough in Nee York City. But it is also home to large numbers of public employees.

Follow Goodman as he goes through the politics of Vergara East.

He ultimately concludes that the California decision will be overruled, and the Néw York case will be dismissed. I hope he is right.

The judge overseeing the anti-tenure lawsuits merged the two that had been filed, over the protests of parent activist Mona David’s of the New York City Parents Union.

“Outside the court, Mona Davids, the lead plaintiff in the first case, Davids vs. New York, made it clear that she wasn’t interested in forging a unified effort as she passed out fake $100 bills bearing the grimacing face of Campbell Brown, the news-anchor-turned-activist who spearheaded the second lawsuit, Wright vs. New York.

“It’s our lawsuit,” Davids said. “We filed first.”

“But inside the courtroom, Justice Phillip Minardo decided they were similar enough to combine, and neither lawsuit filed an opposition to the motion. He also decided to let the United Federation of Teachers intervene as a defendant, which will allow the city teachers union to take an active role in defending the current job protection rules. (Minardo deferred a decision about whether the state teachers union could intervene as well because of a paperwork issue.)”

The cases were filed in Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough, in hopes of finding a sympathetic judge who would rule against tenure.

Davids went after Campbell Brown with a vengeance. Davids said:

“Campbell Brown is is trying to reform her image and make herself relevant on the backs of black and Hispanic children, our children. This is our lawsuit,” Davids said at a press conference where members of her group held up fake $100 bills with Brown’s screaming face in the middle and signs that read “Campbell Brown does not speak for NYC parents.”

“Davids claims Brown discouraged Gibson Dunn, the prestigious law firm that helped secure victory for the plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California, from helping Davids’ case. Gibson Dunn said in early August it would be providing legal support to Davids’ case, then abruptly dropped out several weeks ago, citing conflicts of interest.”

Good news for teachers in Missouri.

The group seeking a constitutional amendment to eliminate teachers’ right to due process (aka “tenure”) has decided to abandon its campaign for now. Called Teach Great, the organization hoped to make test scores the key factor in all decisions about teachers.

“The proposed amendment will still appear on the ballot. It seeks to end tenure and require that decisions around the hiring, promoting, firing and laying off of teachers be determined by at least 51 percent on student performance measures.

“Teach Great took on the task of gathering petition signatures and promoting the ideas that are championed by St. Louis financier Rex Sinquefield.” Sinquefield is a billionaire libertarian.

In an earlier post, I wrote that Sinquefield had put up $750,000 to launch the campaign to eliminate teacher tenure.

I wrote at that time:

“Conservative billionaire Rex Sinquefield does not believe that teaching should be a career. He doesn’t think that teachers should have any job security. He thinks that teachers should have short-term contracts and that their jobs should depend on the test scores of their students. He has contributed $750,000 to launch a campaign for a constitutional amendment in Missouri to achieve his aims.

“The campaign, in a style now associated with those who hope to dismantle the teaching profession, has the duplicitous name “teachgreat.org” to signify the opposite of its intent. The assumption is that the removal of any job security and any kind of due process for teachers will somehow mysteriously produce “great” teachers. This absurd idea is then called “reform.” This is the kind of thinking that typically comes from hedge fund managers, not human service professionals.

“Sinquefield manages billions of dollars and is also the state’s biggest political contributor.

“The “Teachgreat.org” initiative would limit teacher contracts to no more than three years. It also requires “teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted, and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system,” according to the summary on the group’s website.”

See? Never give up hope. Bad ideas come and go, and they go away faster when teachers and parents work together.

In case you missed, here is my interview with Tavis Smiley from September 8. It is about 12 minutes. Tavis asked about the Vergara decision and teacher tenure, about the attacks on teachers and public education, about the goals of the current “reform” movement, Common Core, and my judgment of Race to the Top.

All in 12 minutes!

By the way, if you wonder why I was holding my head in last minutes of show, I should explain that I didn’t have a toothache. My earpiece with the audio feed was falling out, and I was holding it in my ear.

I was interviewed by Tavis Smiley a few minutes ago for a show that is airing tonight. Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy follows me. I whack the Vergara decision, he praises it.

Tavis and I talked about Vergara, Race to the Top, the “reform” movement, and why there is so much blaming of teachers for all the ills of society. I gave it my all. It was my first media gig since my knee accident last spring. Working on the blog, listening to readers from across the nation keeps me in tip-top shape, mentally if not physically

I enjoy talking to Tavis Smiley. He asks good questions, and he is very simpatico.

Check your local PBS station.

Mercedes Schneider reports the latest twist in the evolving drama in New York state’s education scene, where Campbell Brown is trying to push erratic parent activist Mona Davids off the stage. Davids was quick to file a lawsuit and thought that Brown and Students Matter would support her, but they pulled the plug and told her to go away. Davids has been pro-union and anti-union. She was featured in “The inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman.” And, as we say in Texas, she has become a burr under Campbell Brown’s saddle. And Brown wants Mona to go away.

In a much-awaited decision, Governor Jerry Brown has appealed the Vergara decision.

LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s teachers, setting himself apart from leaders in some other states who have fought to end such protections or at least raise the standards for obtaining them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal late Friday in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.
The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

Republicans had urged state leaders not to appeal the ruling and criticized his decision to do so Friday.

“A federal court ruled that the State of California is depriving minority children their constitutionally guaranteed right to an equal education and the governor decides to appeal? Unbelievable,” Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in a written response.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Schools in California, issued a statement today declaring his decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara decision. Torlakson is a veteran educator. His opponent Marshall Tuck immediately attacked Torlakson. Tuck, a former investment banker, was active in the charter school movement. Tenure is not the only or the most important issue that divides them. Tuck’s penchant for privatization would undermine public education across the state.

I know Tom Torlakson well. He is humble, knowledgeable, and understands schooling. I hope the voters of California are wise enough to re-elect him.

Tom Torlakson said today:

Friends,

Earlier today I issued a statement regarding my decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara case, which has drawn considerable public attention in recent weeks.

Here is the complete text of my public statement:

“The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.

“No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.

“In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.

“While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review.”

Best regards,

Tom

Paul Horton continues to provide a historical context for issues of our time. In this post, he shows how the birth and growth of the black middle class was integrally related to the union movement and public sector employment.

Horton writes:

“The biggest lifeline that middle class blacks could grasp was public sector employment. The last thirty years have seen an increase in the employment of blacks in city, county, and state government. Teachers, firemen, police, water and sanitation workers make up the backbone of the black middle class today. It is not surprising, given the history cited above that blacks are very active in seeking the job protections offered by union membership.

“In fact, in a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last year (“Union Members Summary”), “black workers were more likely to be union members than white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.” The average weekly earnings for union members was $950 and $750 for non union members.

“Not surprisingly, the two states with the largest union membership are the first two states targeted by Campbell Brown’s group anti-tenure group: California (2.4 million) and New York (2 million).

“The pattern that I am trying to describe is that the attack on teacher tenure is, in part, an attack on the black middle class. In Chicago, for example, several rounds of school reform between 2000 and 2010 decimated black teachers employed by CPS (Chicago Public Schools: 40% 2000, 30% 2010). When I attended an activist parents meeting and gave a talk, the parent on the panel to my left expressed outrage that another public school was being closed and that “the community was losing more black teachers.” (Huffington Post, “CPS Racial Discrimination Lawsuit: Three Teachers, Union Sue District Over Losing Their Jobs”) In a recent Ebony expose’, Rod McCullom reported that 43% of those laid off in the wake of the 2013 school closings were black. (Ebony, September 2013) According to CTU (Chicago Teacher Union) President Karen Lewis, “Entire faculties are fired and must reapply for positions in turnarounds. These situations have been extremely challenging on Black middle-age faculty members who often have advanced degrees or seniority.”

And he adds:

“While there is much evidence to support the targeting of black teachers by anti-tenure lawsuits supported by Ms. Brown, Ms. Gibbs, and now, superstar lawyers David Boies and Laurence Tribe, the impact of the loss of tenure will demoralize teacher’s unions and allow school administrators to hire and fire at will. The immediate objective for education reformers is that a victory in the tenure fight will allow big city school districts to rif out senior teachers who are expensive and replace them with young, less costly teachers recruited from such organizations as Teach for America. TFA teachers are typically just graduated college students who undergo a five-week intensive training course that does not adequately prepare them for the classroom, especially the inner city classroom. Although increasing numbers of TFA teachers are staying on for a third year, they rarely stay in the classroom longer.

“The irony of Ms. Campbell’s anti-tenure campaign is that by making the teacher workplace a less secure place to be, fewer of our brightest young people will want to work in schools where administrators “are forced by their district level bosses “to take the kid gloves off.” An absence of tenure will drive salaries even lower, making the teaching profession even less attractive to most bright young people who might want to buy a house or start a family. Teachers who live in cities where salaries are comparably high often cannot afford to live in neighborhoods that are considered “safe.” Yet another irony is that those states that are the most heavily unionized are, almost without exception, those that have the highest standardized test scores.

“One can certainly understand why Campbell Brown, who is married to a Republican bundler, would support an end to tenure for teachers, but it is more difficult to understand the motivations of Gibbs, Boies, and Tribe who claim to be Democrats.

“The weakening of teacher tenure will create legal precedents for the elimination of due process for all remaining public sector jobs. This would allow cities to hire and fire all of its employees at will and easily jettison expensive pension and health care packages, ala’ the Chicago School of Economics privatization schemes applied to Chile and Argentina by the “Chicago Boys.”

Paul Horton here attempts to understand why the Obama administration is waging war on teachers. He reminds us of Central Falls, when the Obama administration supported firing the entire staff of the high school. He remembers when the administration was neutral during the Chicago teachers’ strike, and Arne Duncan’s support for the noxious Vergara decision. He could have mentioned many other instances of the administration’s hostility to teachers, such as Duncan’s support for the L.A. Times story releasing the names and ratings of teachers. Or the administration’s silence during the large demonstrations against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or its silence as vouchers spread.

He writes:

“In sum, the war on teachers and due process for teachers is presented by many Democrats as a new war on poverty, and, somewhat obscenely, “the Civil Rights Movement of our time.” Last year Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C. Schools, made speeches at southern civil rights museums that proclaimed that supporting charter schools and making teachers accountable was the key to creating a more equitable America. Closing the achievement gap and not the excuse of poverty was the new focus of the new Civil Rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum—Lorraine Motel in Memphis recently recognized Geoffery Canada, a Harlem charter school operator and the star of the anti-pubic school documentary, “Waiting for Superman” as a “Civil Rights Hero.”

It was cheaper to wage war on teachers than to wage war on poverty. But that leaves so much unexplained. Why did President Obama embrace the Republican agenda of testing, accountability, and choice? Why did President Obama turn against one of the most reliable members of his party’s base? Horton doesn’t explain.

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