Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task

Big Don

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Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task

The LA Times Excerpt:
A Times investigation finds the process so arduous that many principals don't even try, except in the very worst cases. Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare.
By Jason Song

May 3, 2009

The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.

He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after an attempt at suicide.

Polanco looked at the cuts and said they "were weak," according to witness accounts in documents filed with the state. "Carve deeper next time," he was said to have told the boy.

"Look," Polanco allegedly said, "you can't even kill yourself."

The boy's classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery, according to the witnesses.

"See," Polanco was quoted as saying, "even he knows how to commit suicide better than you."

The Los Angeles school board, citing Polanco's poor judgment, voted to fire him.

But Polanco, who contended that he had been misunderstood, kept his job. A little-known review commission overruled the board, saying that although the teacher had made the statements, he had meant no harm.

It's remarkably difficult to fire a tenured public school teacher in California, a Times investigation has found. The path can be laborious and labyrinthine, in some cases involving years of investigation, union grievances, administrative appeals, court challenges and re-hearings.

Not only is the process arduous, but some districts are particularly unsuccessful in navigating its complexities. The Los Angeles Unified School District sees the majority of its appealed dismissals overturned, and its administrators are far less likely even to try firing a tenured teacher than those in other districts.
END EXCERPT
Tell me again how wonderful unions are...
 

Makalakumu

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This is about the same everywhere else. It's incredibly hard to fire a bad teacher and one of the reasons our schools suffer is because they simply cannot get rid of the dead weight.

There are positives to teacher's unions, however. Collective bargaining has raised the average salary for teachers above what teachers would be paid if schools were completely private.

That's a good thing if your a teacher and its a good thing if you are trying to keep competent individuals interested in teaching...which is good for everyone.
 

Marginal

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It's a shame that tenure has absolutely no benefits, and only exists to give inept people jobs for life. A real shame.
 

Thesemindz

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Tell me again how wonderful unions are...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with unions, or the idea of unionization.

Unions just groups of people who voluntarily coordinate their efforts towards a common goal. That isn't evil or bad at all.

The problem is when these unions either engage in fraudulent activity, or use the combined strength of their members to achieve selective goals not commonly desired. But even then, the fault is not in the union itself, but in the individual members who choose to participate in that union.

Here, you have pointed out a problem with teacher's unions. Although I think the example used is a little weak, the teacher said a horrible idiotic thing, I'm not sure he should be fired for it perhaps if this is an isolated incident for this teacher suspended without pay and officially reprimanded would be enough, but the overall point is valid. In California, and New York, and many other parts of the country, teacher's unions have made it very difficult for incompetent, unqualified, or dangerous people to be removed from teaching positions.

However, this is not the fault of unions in general. This is the fault of specific unions, who have decided to protect evil or incompetent people instead of standing with everyone else and decrying their behavior. The schools are also partly to blame, because they agree to contracts with these unions knowing this sort of thing goes on. The individual union members are also to blame, because they choose to voluntarily associate with this organization, again knowing these things occur.

But blaming this on unions is like blaming pedophile preachers on religion. Just because some people are evil, and some other people choose to hide their evil instead of standing against it, doesn't mean that the organizational structure those people operate within is inherently evil, or that everyone else who operates within it is either.

Yes. Some teachers who deserve to be fired, or even deserve some type of legal repercussion have managed to use they system to their advantage and avoid that fate. I completely agree. But blaming voluntary association for their actions is a logical disconnection. Blame the individual for his actions, blame the school for agreeing to union contracts which protect him from the consequences of those actions, blame the union bosses for being more interested in self aggrandizement and power then serving their members, and blame the members for voluntarily belonging to an organization that allows this kind of protection to occur.

But don't blame voluntary association as a concept.


-Rob
 

cdunn

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Once a union shop/school is established, unionization often ceases to be voluntary. But this does not cease to make them a critical bulwark against the overpowering strength of the employer, in the proper situations.
 

Thesemindz

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It's still voluntary. No one is forcing you to work there. You can always get another job. That may suck, but it's still an option.


-Rob
 

arnisador

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This is about the same everywhere else. It's incredibly hard to fire a bad teacher and one of the reasons our schools suffer is because they simply cannot get rid of the dead weight.

And, because it removes some of the incentive to work hard, do extras, stay up-to-date...

There are positives to teacher's unions, however.

Some teachers are pressured for having standards, teaching unpopular material, etc. So, some protections are good...but it's swung too far.
 

arnisador

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It's a shame that tenure has absolutely no benefits, and only exists to give inept people jobs for life.

There are benefits. It lowers salaries (hence taxes) because people see it as a significant benefit (usually estimated as being worth at least $10k/year). It protects those teachers pressured to lower standards so little Johnny can pass, or who teach things like evolution or Tom Sawyer and are pressured by community groups to stop doing so. It gives teachers more freedom to innovate in their teaching without fear that one bad class could be the end of their careers. It encourages people to major in teaching Latin in college despite the fact that if they lose such a job when they're 50 years old they're in sad shape. It allows teachers more freedom to criticize the administration when it is lowering standards or the like, or to stick up for students (as when a school newspaper's student editor is being punished by the principal).

That having been said, it absolutely needs to become easier to fire tenured teachers.
 

CoryKS

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It's still voluntary. No one is forcing you to work there. You can always get another job. That may suck, but it's still an option.

Unless you can't find another job, in which case you do have to join the union if you want to work.

That's a pretty specious definition of the term 'voluntary', by the way. Something that is truly voluntary should not include repercussions if you choose not to participate.
 

Thesemindz

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Unless you can't find another job, in which case you do have to join the union if you want to work.

I'm not going to downplay the hardships of looking for work, I've been engaged in that activity for months, but no one is forced to take a job. They choose to. There are alternatives. You may feel pressured to take a job by outside forces, family, responsibilities, budgetary concerns, but the choice is still yours. And many people make choices not to participate in a union because they don't agree with it's practices. Those people may suffer for it, but just like people who choose to pay more to not shop at WalMart because they don't agree with their business practices, that is a sacrifice they accept on principle.

That's a pretty specious definition of the term 'voluntary', by the way. Something that is truly voluntary should not include repercussions if you choose not to participate.

That's just silly. There are always consequences of our actions. If I choose not to go to church, I have made a voluntary decision, but some would argue that there are repercussions for that. If I choose not to go to a concert, I have made a voluntary decision, but I have also lost an opportunity to have an experience. And here, if I choose not to join a union, I have to work someplace that isn't closed to non union members.

Our actions, and inactions, have consequences. Those consequences should be considered before we act. The difference between voluntary and involuntary association isn't the lack of consequence, it's the lack of coercive force in the decision making process. You may suffer if you choose to participate or not, but the choice itself is your own.

According to your definition, there is no such thing as voluntary exchange or association, because choosing to act or not would always carry with it some repercussion.


-Rob
 

terryl965

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As a teacher I find this to be just stupid the teacher in question should be removed if it is true plain and simple.
 

arnisador

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As a teacher I find this to be just stupid the teacher in question should be removed if it is true

If this was the only time, it may be just good managerial and business sense to warn now, create a paper trail, and fire later if it repeats.
 

arnisador

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There's absolutely nothing wrong with unions, or the idea of unionization.

Unions just groups of people who voluntarily coordinate their efforts towards a common goal.

Well, that wouldn't be so bad if the law didn't mandate recognizing them and negotiating with them. But they don't coordinate their efforts alone--the law forces employers to work with them if sufficiently many people want to unionize. It's not like voluntarily associating with the Freemasons.

However, this is not the fault of unions in general. This is the fault of specific unions, who have decided to protect evil or incompetent people instead of standing with everyone else and decrying their behavior. The schools are also partly to blame, because they agree to contracts with these unions knowing this sort of thing goes on.

Can the schools simply refuse to enter into negotiations with unions, and just hire teachers individually? I don't think so. Once they're unionized, the employer's choices diminish...and the law mandates that school be taught. You can't close the high school for a year until you get a good contract with the teachers' union, and you can't fire underperforming union employees who "work to rule" or institute a work slowdown or sickout.

When working with unions is completely optional for the person paying the bills, I'll buy this argument. Until then, it's problematic. (I recognize that early on the unions stopped lots of abuses by factory owners and that that had strong positive value. Most of the needed protections are now in place, though.) The voluntary actions of a majority of workers can make all other workers there join or quit (based on the actions of others) and make the business owners have to change how they handle things.

But blaming this on unions is like blaming pedophile preachers on religion.

Not only is that an unnecessarily extreme example, the success of the lawsuits against e.g. the Catholic church shows it's an ill-chosen one.

But blaming voluntary association for their actions is a logical disconnection.

I just don't see what's "voluntary" about it. As I understand it, in a typical state all teachers must join the union, and the school must negotiate with the union.
 

Thesemindz

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Each of your points individually accurate, but over I think you missed the point that I was trying to make. Perhaps that was my fault for being unclear.

Well, that wouldn't be so bad if the law didn't mandate recognizing them and negotiating with them. But they don't coordinate their efforts alone--the law forces employers to work with them if sufficiently many people want to unionize. It's not like voluntarily associating with the Freemasons.

I agree completely here. But the problem isn't the union, it's the laws that compel mandatory public education and that compel the employer to work with the unions. In a free market, people could unionize, and employers could simply replace all the union employees with non-union labor, or close down the business completely. This is the only way to fairly balance power between employers and employees.

Can the schools simply refuse to enter into negotiations with unions, and just hire teachers individually? I don't think so. Once they're unionized, the employer's choices diminish...and the law mandates that school be taught. You can't close the high school for a year until you get a good contract with the teachers' union, and you can't fire underperforming union employees who "work to rule" or institute a work slowdown or sickout.

Once again, this isn't the fault of the concept itself, but rather the implementation of that concept. People should have every right to agree amongst themselves that, "we won't come to work if they fire Dave," or, "we deserve more money, let's all hold out for a raise." But the employer should have every right to weigh those demands against the cost of replacing his entire work force and make the best business decision. I have worked at several places that considered unionizing, but decided not to, because we didn't think it was the best business decision for us. The employer should have the same option.

When working with unions is completely optional for the person paying the bills, I'll buy this argument. Until then, it's problematic. (I recognize that early on the unions stopped lots of abuses by factory owners and that that had strong positive value. Most of the needed protections are now in place, though.) The voluntary actions of a majority of workers can make all other workers there join or quit (based on the actions of others) and make the business owners have to change how they handle things.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not actually pro-union. I'm just pro-"people's right to unionize." If they want to work together, they have a right to. I don't need someone else bargaining on my behalf, I am capable of finding work and securing wages on my own.

Not only is that an unnecessarily extreme example, the success of the lawsuits against e.g. the Catholic church shows it's an ill-chosen one.

I don't see how my example is "unnecessarily extreme." In both cases we have child abuse being protected by the organizational structure within which it occurs. And lawsuits against the Church as an organization don't show my example to be "ill-chosen" at all. I didn't say "blaming pedophile preachers on the church," I said, "blaming pedophile preachers on religion." Some people want to equate the individual criminal actions of participants in a system, and the system which protected those actions, on the underlying philosophies of the system itself. "Unions" aren't to blame for what happened here, any more than "Christianity" is to blame for pedophile preachers. The Union in question might be, just as the Catholic church might be.

But perhaps your disagreement with my position stems from a belief that mocking a suicidal child doesn't equate to pederasty. If that is the case, I would agree with you. Although both are clearly child abuse, and the individuals responsible for both were/are being protected by their governing bodies. So perhaps these news items would help to clear things up.

http://teachersunionexposed.com/bargaining.cfm
In one case, school administrators in Seattle received at least 30 warnings that a fifth grade teacher was a danger to his students. However, thanks to a union contract that forces schools to destroy most personnel records after each school year, he managed to evade punishment for nearly 20 years, until he was finally sent to prison in 2005 for having molested up to 13 girls. As an attorney for one of the victims put it, according to The Seattle Times, You could basically have a pedophile in your midst and not know it. How are you going to get rid of somebody if you don't know what they did in the past?

http://ohmygov.com/blogs/state_and_...public-schools-cut-deals-with-pedophiles.aspx
Teachers in the Oregon public school system accused of molesting students are offered financial incentives, confidentiality agreements, and even letters of recommendation to terminate their employment.

Again, I'm not arguing that the Unions were right, or that Unionization is inherently good, or that this guy shouldn't be prosecuted, or the reverse of any of those positions. All I'm saying is that these wrongs shouldn't be laid at the feet of the idea of unionization, but rather at the feet of the individuals who perpetrated them and the people who protected them and the people who associate with them.

In a strange twist, I'm arguing in favor of collectivism by arguing in favor of individual responsibility.

I just don't see what's "voluntary" about it. As I understand it, in a typical state all teachers must join the union, and the school must negotiate with the union.

Yes. You are correct. That is exactly what is happening. It is still voluntary for the individuals in the union to be a part of it, they could simply choose not to be teachers. But that aside, my point was never that the schools are volunteering to associate with the unions, but rather that unionization is a voluntary process of collective bargaining, which people should have the right to participate in, and which is not, in and of itself, evil.

Many people want to point at these ills and call unionization evil, just as many people pointed at the pedophile preachers and called religion evil. Both positions are equally incorrect. Instead, let's point at pedophiles and people who mock suicidal children and say "you are wrong." Let's point at the people who harbor and protect them and say "you are wrong." Let's not point at the idea of voluntary association and say, "it is wrong."


-Rob
 

Gordon Nore

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So,


  1. Is this thread about a sadistic teacher who should not be working in the classroom?
  2. Is it about a tormented boy who needs a proper education provided by sensitive and qualified professionals?
  3. Or is it about how bad unions are?

My take. This is a terrible situation, but there are other remedies. Professional associations not bound by union or management. In Ontario we have a teachers' college, which, among other things, adjudicates hearings into professional misconduct. The union represents the worker within his or her school board. This is a different level of accountability in which the profession holds itself accountable, and works outside arm's reach of union, management, or the government.
 

Thesemindz

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  1. Is this thread about a sadistic teacher who should not be working in the classroom?
  2. Is it about a tormented boy who needs a proper education provided by sensitive and qualified professionals?
  3. Or is it about how bad unions are?

Well, since the only sentence in the original post that was, in fact, original to the post, was "Tell me again how wonderful unions are..." I think the original poster was trying to make a point that unions, or at the very least teacher's unions, are inherently bad.

I don't agree with that position, as I've tried to point out.

As to the other two questions you've raised, which I find to be far more important on the grand scheme, I generally agree with your position.

This particular teacher is clearly an asshat. We all say terrible things we wish we could take back. Perhaps if he had simply apologized and admitted he shouldn't have said it, this would have blown over. Perhaps if he had, and the parents and school had continued to persecute him, I'd be on his side instead of against him. Perhaps he should be suspended without pay, or reprimanded, or administratively disciplined in some way. Do teachers waterboard? I've heard that can be quite effective.

The kid obviously needs more than just a better teacher. He needs therapy. He may need constant care. He might even need medication. Or maybe he just needs someone who cares about his problems to listen to him. Most first attempts at suicide really are a cry for help, that's part of why they tend to fail. Maybe he just needs a good karate class to work out his frustrations in. But one thing is obvious. He needs adults in his life who are interested in addressing his problems, not mocking them.


-Rob
 

arnisador

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I better understand your position now, Thesemindz, and of course voluntary association is an important and constitutionally guaranteed right. It's the mandated bargaining with the union that makes the situation unequal--one side voluntarily associates, the other is compelled involuntarily to accept the results. But I do think that saying that people "could simply choose not to be teachers", while certainly true, isn't a useful way of looking at things, if for no other reason than that we wouldn't want to drive all those people away from teaching.
 

Thesemindz

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I better understand your position now, Thesemindz, and of course voluntary association is an important and constitutionally guaranteed right.

That is more or less what I was trying to say.

It's the mandated bargaining with the union that makes the situation unequal--one side voluntarily associates, the other is compelled involuntarily to accept the results.

And that is more or less where I see the problem laying as well.

But I do think that saying that people "could simply choose not to be teachers", while certainly true, isn't a useful way of looking at things, if for no other reason than that we wouldn't want to drive all those people away from teaching.

Once again, I agree. It isn't the preferred solution. But under the current situation, it may be the only solution. Many people choose not to associate with organizations they view as corrupt every day, even to their own detriment, because they choose to stand on principle. Our best hope then would be that those principled educators would be able to find a place in the private sector, where there is less coercion and more choice.


-Rob
 
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Big Don

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Unions were (note past tense) a valuable and important thing. That time is long past. Gone are the days when employees had no idea what their rights were. There are a ton of attorneys who would love to file suit against your boss for any abuse you take, why, then, do you need to pony up a portion of every paycheck to a union? Because it has been done for years, is NOT a good reason for anything.
 

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