Unions vs. Liberalism, Part XXIII

A mostly political weblog.
Feb. 22 2010 3:31 AM

Unions vs. Liberalism, Part XXIII

Obama's compromise health care plan is out, and "the impact on the politics will be tremendous," gushes WaPo 's health care cheerleader Ezra Klein. "The release of this plan marks the end of the Scott Brown election and the resumption of the health-care process." It enables the Democrats to "take back control of the media's narrative," just as they did when they waited out the Tea Parties last August, then "used the president's big speech to pivot to the release and subsequent passage of the Senate Finance Committee's bill." ...Remember the stunning success of the president's speech? It's right here on this graph --if you squint hard you can see the temporary pause in the seemingly ineluctable rise in public opposition to Obama's health care reform right around the beginning of September. It lasted a couple of weeks. Then opposition started rising again. Now it's over 50%, with support ten points lower. ... The Dems must have lost "control of the media's narrative"! 

Does Klein really believe this stuff? I don't know which answer would be more embarrassing. ... P.S.: It would be one thing if Klein was relaying the White House spin with an implausibly straight face, but relaying it as White House spin (saying, for example, 'Obama aides believe the plan will mark the end of the Scott Brown election, letting them take back control of the media's narrative'). Then he'd be Marc Ambinder. ...

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Update--It's a Chait Accompli !  Megan McArdle provides a useful antidote to the premature anti-gloating of Klein's fellow JournoLister Jon Chait. ...See also Barone and Hennessy . ...  P.S.: Is the double-secret JournoList cocoon encouraging this misjudgment? Even reported Journolister Paul Krugman's  "guardedly optimistic."  I don't think he should be. ...   4:22 P.M.

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Unions vs. Liberalism, Part XXIIII: If you are a liberal who believes in public education, do not let the teachers' unions do to your school system what the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has done to the L.A. Unified School District --make it so hard to fire a bad teacher that most school principals don't even try. According to an L.A. Weekly investigation, the school district itself seems to have given up :

In the past decade , LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district's 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance — and only four were fired , during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000.

[W]e also discovered that 32 underperforming teachers were initially recommended for firing, but then secretly paid $50,000 by the district, on average, to leave without a fight. Moreover, 66 unnamed teachers are being continually recycled through a costly mentoring and retraining program but failing to improve, and another 400 anonymous teachers have been ordered to attend the retraining. [E.A.]

That's less than one attempted firing a year. Why? Mainly because firings--and the bad performance evaluations that precede them--are almost invariably contested by the union. Firings must go through an expensive and protracted hearing and appeals process: "Documents show only one instance in the past 10 years in which an LAUSD teacher accepted his firing and left without a fight or big payment." [E.A.]

The school district seems to be markedly less effective at weeding out screw-ups than even the City of Los Angeles, whose regular employees aren't exactly unprotected:

Despite civil-service protections, City Hall fires from its 48,000-plus workforce of garbage, parks, street-services, engineering, utilities and other employees more than 80 tenured workers annually.

P.S.: According to LA Weekly , the teacher retraining program that lets teachers with bad evaluations remain in the classroom even if they don't improve was "engineered" in 2000 by a state assemblyman named Antonio Villaraigosa, who is now L.A.'s mayor. .. 

P.P.S.: I know this item reads like it was written in 1984 (when Gary Hart made an issue of firing incompetent teachers in his campaign against Walter Mondale). That's because the situation in the unionized public schools has not improved markedly in 25 years. Believe me, I wish the neoliberalism of the late '70s weren't so relevant. ... The only hope in L.A. seems to be the non-trivial inroads made by independently-run charter schools. The union is staging a candlelight vigil tomorrow to try to stop their progress. ...  1:06 A.M.

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Things that have recently taken on an eerie resonance ! CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, arguing in 2000 that when it comes to politicians , their sex life "tells you absolutely nothing about their performance" in office. ...  Alternate view: Man who lies about fidelity might also dissemble about other subjects .. ... 1:29 A.M.

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