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Putting Kids Last

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The Unions that claim to represent the best (and special) interests of teachers are the UTLA, the CTA, the NEA and AFT. You don’t need to know what the letters stand for except UTLA is Los Angeles’s union, CTA is California’s union, and the NEA and the AFT are the national unions. They all stand against one thing: accountability. They all stand for nothing. The unions foster a culture of excuses that has so crippled public education that tens of thousands of students are dropping out of Los Angeles’ public schools every year (and not just in Los Angeles, but every major city in the country). Like baseball, the all powerful union has ruined public education in our urban centers. The first step to true change, if it ever happens, will be union reform. Consider the following:
  • In California, it costs nearly $250,000 to fire a teacher under the collective bargaining agreement.
  • In Los Angeles, only 2 teachers out of 45,000 + were fired from LAUSD last year. The Apprentice is not the type of television viewing that the UTLA encourages.
  • Last year in Los Angeles, more than 20 teachers lost their jobs last year due to felony convictions. If the deviant criminal population is 20+, home many hundreds or thousands (10%) are incompetent, show up late, leave early, use all their sick days and personal days?
Do you think it is possible that it could be worse than this? Where is the accountability? The contract that the union has forged is not only a shackle around the necks of children, but itself drives teachers out of the profession. The average career of an urban school teacher is under 5 years in length. Want an eye opener? Go to the UTLA website and look up their STULL Evaluation advice. The STULL evaluation occurs once a year when a principal goes into a teacher’s classroom and observes the teachers and grades them according to a set criteria of performance indicators. The union does a pretty good job of telling teachers how to prep for their evaluation. In fact, I would call the preparation advice on the union website first class. However, anticipating failure, the union has another section that answers the question: What if you get a poor STULL evaluation? The answer? It’s not your fault. It then goes on to list 47 excuses why the teacher could not do their job effectively. Holy Moly! Talk about anticipating failure, self-fulfilling prophecies, and low expectations! None of the 47 excuses, of course, have anything to do with the teachers taking personal responsibility for educating their students.

(Note: is it any wonder that the great majority of Los Angeles Unified’s public school teachers send their own children to private schools or desperately fight to get them into the magnet programs or (the new alternative that their union fathers hate so much) the increasingly successful public charter schools.

Sadly, my gentle readers, we are spitting into the wind here. While all the above is true, every stat reported in the local papers, the public employee unions are so predominant in politics that only a 10.0 earthquake among the parents and an uprising among the rank and file teachers will change the balance of power in Sacramento. Not Arnold. Not the Republicans. Right now the deck is stacked against the kids:
  • The unions dominate school board elections with the union slate winning nearly every election in Los Angeles since 1975. The principle at work here: teachers elect their own bosses. Kids? An afterthought.
  • The unions dominate the Democratic Party (for the record, I am a Democrat) contributing tens of millions of dollars every year to battle any change in the status quo. Vote against the union, and the union won’t take you out with a Republican, but with another Democrat in the primary who will toe the party line. Most legislators shrug their shoulders and call it political suicide to even raise these questions in a public forum.
There is perhaps a glimmer of hope. So morally bankrupt is the union that the overwhelming majority of teachers do not even vote in their own union elections. Out of 46,000 teachers in Los Angeles Unified, only 12,000 voted in the last election, about 27% of teachers. To give you an idea of how pathetic this is consider that 60% of voters turned out in Iraq under threat of death to vote. For all the cash that their mandatory union dues generates - $90 million a year statewide - there are precious few foot soldiers and true believers. In other words, they are all about the TV commercials. I bet if the teachers voted about whether they wanted to pay union dues or not, a lot more than 20% of the teachers would turn out to vote.