I just saw Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on CNN. She was being interviewed about President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, a plan to improve some of the nation’s poorest schools.
I wasn’t particularly interested in the story until she made a slightly off-topic statement that I’ll have to paraphrase. She said the problem with mass firings of teachers in a district is that good teachers won’t want to go there after that.
Well, now, that’s about as illogical a rationale as I’ve ever heard for not firing poor teachers. Continuing to employ bad teachers means there will be no openings or budget available for better teachers. Worse, you continue to support bad teaching, to the detriment of the students. No district should be intimidated by the union into retaining bad teachers when better ones are available. Mass firings seem to indicate that a new regime has taken charge and fired a backlog of under-performing hangers-on. (In the case of the recent firings in Washington, I heard one union representative say it was done on the basis of a faulty new “instrument” and would be challenged. There’s no such thing as a bad teacher, I guess. Just flawed evaluation systems and faulty instruments.)
Weingarten didn’t mention the union will oppose the firing of any teacher, anywhere, any time, for any reason. But that’s what unions do. They aren’t about building better, stronger employers/schools; they’re about protecting members’ jobs.
I’m going to guess that teachers, being human beings like the rest of us, will gravitate to those jobs that offer good compensation, recognition, advancement, job satisfaction, etc. — like most of the rest of us. I’m going to guess that good teachers will go where they can find these things, confident in the knowledge they are good, competent, hard-working, dedicated individuals who won’t be fired if they continue to do a good job. It’s ridiculous to think they will shun an employer who dared to fire incompetent employees.
But then again, they are union members. And unions make a hash of the normal employer/employee relationship.
Lest you think I have a grudge against teachers, maybe I should mention two of my siblings were excellent, dedicated teachers for many years. But they were that way in spite of the union, not because of it.