Thursday, April 23, 2009
My kind of lede , in the L.A. Daily News :
Embarking on a monumental task that some say is doomed to fail, Los Angeles Unified school officials are taking aim at state laws that make it virtually impossible to fire teachers.
You might think that the school district, which is in the process of laying off 3,500 teachers, could at least use that as an excuse to lose the bad ones and keep the good ones. You would of course be wrong. Laid off teachers--and administrators--with seniority have the right to "bump" lower-seniority teachers, creating "a domino effect that leads to the loss of new, nontenured teachers" at the bottom of the pyramid.
The L.A. school board wants to change these rules (by providing, for example, that teachers who get two consecutive poor performance reviews be automatically dismissed).. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former teachers' union official, seems to support some "bumping" changes. ("I believe in seniority, but you can take things to a point where it becomes unfair to other people too.") Unfortunately: a) The district can't reform the rules itself--they are written into state law and it will take a new state law to amend them; b) The district has missed the deadline for introducing new state laws in 2009. Nothing can happen until 2010; c) Even in 2010, nothing will happen. "It has no chance of passing," says one expert, thanks to opposition from the California Teachers Association and the United Teachers of Los Angeles .
At least with General Motors--which arguably makes much better cars than the L.A. Unified School District makes schools--there is the possibility of bankruptcy to force changes in excessively protective union rules. In public education, there's only the hope that charter schools will eventually expand so rapidly that they displace conventional schools governed by the UTLA (before they succumb to union pressure themselves). Go Steve Barr ! ....
P.S.: At this point in an L.A. press item I usually contrast the sensible, lively coverage of the Daily News with the stuffy, PC coverage of the dying L.A. Times . But the Times has actually been highly skeptical of the UTLA in recent years, and supportive of charters . The teachers' unions have lost the MSM. They may not care, though. They still have the pols. ... 10:38 P.M.