Today in a Los Angeles courtroom students in California public schools finally got a break.
Before a packed courtroom attorneys for nine students began arguments in favor of eliminating teacher tenure and making it considerably easier to dismiss ineffective teachers.
Attorney Theodore Boutrous opened his arguments by saying, “The evidence will show that the impact of an effective teacher is profound an undeniable. This is the gateway to their success in society.”
Yet, in California it can take as much as ten years to successfully dismiss a bad or ineffective teacher, costing up to $450,000.
Tenure for California teachers has been a very hot topic over the last two decades with student performance dropping significantly during the same period. And when it nearly takes an act of God to remove a bad teacher, parents and, more importantly, students are stuck with these ineffective teachers far beyond the school year in which they are affected.
While not the only reason for failing California schools, the inability to remove poor teachers has played a significant role in the disturbing downward trend of the state’s public school system. And this is exacerbated by the teachers unions that protect such poor teachers.
Even Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, John Deasy, testified about the difficulty of weeding out “grossly ineffective teachers” during an 18-month probationary period.
“An average successful termination is one to two years,” Deasy stated in court. And he confirmed that the cost to remove a teacher when misconduct is involved ranges from $250,000 to $450,000.
However, California Federation of Teachers President, Josh Pechthalt, said it is, “…deceptive and dishonest to pretend that teacher due process rights are unfair to students.”
What is really unfair is for students to be forced to sit in classrooms with teachers, and their union leaders, more interested in protecting their lavish pensions and healthcare plans that we taxpayers foot the bill for.
And while there are many teachers that are very effective and help our children become well-educated and responsible young adults, some in the public education system are more interested in pushing a far-left agenda that includes permissive sex education, including homosexuality and transgendered sex as being normal, making it legal to remove your minor child from campus to facilitate an abortion without so much as notifying parents, and making certain that boys and girls can share the same bathroom and locker room facilities.
While serving as Director of External Affairs for the Center for Urban Renewal & Education, a non-profit think tank founded by African-American public figure, Star Parker, I led a study on public education.
Targeting both LA Unified and Compton Unified I discovered that there were many parents of black and other minority students that were both disheartened and disturbed by the school districts’ ignoring their concerns about their students’ failing schools.
Many of these parents wanted to send their children to better schools. In the case of LA Unified, more than 250,000 students were eligible to go to better schools under the No Child Left Behind provision that allowed such a change when schools failed to meet minimum thresholds for two straight years. Yet, only 94 students were actually transferred during my study period.
In Compton the situation was even worse. In 22 of the 24 elementary schools students scored a 3 or below out of a possible 10 points in the Academic Performance Index exam. All 8 of the middle schools reported a 2 or below, and all 3 high schools reported a 1 out of the possible 10 point minimum threshold.
The worst part for Compton – not a single student was transferred to a better performing school. And how could they be? There weren’t any better performing schools in the district.
I finally served formal complaints on the legal counsels of each of the two school districts and learned that then-U.S. Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings put them and other California districts on notice that my claims, on behalf of a joint effort by CURE and the Arizona-based Alliance for School Choice, would be investigated.
However, little has changed since the mid-2000’s. Much is rather the same, if not worse.
It is long past time that parents and local leaders take back control of their schools. In order for that to happen three things must happen:
1) teacher tenure must end. Where else in America can you be guaranteed lifetime employment, no matter your performance, after a mere eighteen months? Try walking into a private sector CEO’s office and demanding a lifetime job and see what happens. He or she might call for a paramedic.
2) The power teachers unions have over education must be curtailed and their lavish compensation packages, which are bankrupting both their districts and the state, must also be curbed.
3) School choice must become a reality everywhere it is needed. Competition in all segments of society is good. Competition will help to improve some failing schools and eliminate some that can’t be fixed.
This lawsuit by the nine student plaintiffs in this case is a very good start. Let’s all hope that they are successful – for the sake of our children and our nation – where they will need to be competitive in this global economy. We cannot continue to be less competitive than our neighbors in China, Japan, and the rest of the developing nations of the world or we will undoubtedly become a nation of service jobs only while the rest of the world prospers.
Spero columnist John Mancino is entrepreneur and political analyst who resides in California.