Teacher unions at war with Obama

July 17th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Hill reports:

Teachers unions have turned on Secretary of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration, creating a major divide in the Democratic Party coalition.

The largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Association (NEA), called for Duncan to resign at its convention on July 4, arguing his policies on testing have failed the nation’s schools.

Tensions between Duncan and the unions had been building for some time.

The administration’s Race to the Top program, which has provided $4.35 billion to states, incentivized changes that unions strongly oppose. One of the most controversial policies backed by Duncan is using students’ improvement on standardized tests to help evaluate teachers and make pay and tenure decisions.

“Our members are frustrated and angry,” said NEA president Dennis Van Roekel. “Number one is the toxic testing. There is too much.”

An added spark came on June 10, when a California judge ruled the state’s teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they keep ineffective teachers in the classroom and deprive poor and minority students of their right to an equal education.

Teachers unions, which are strong defenders of tenure, expressed outrage when Duncan said the plaintiffs in the case were just some of millions of students disadvantaged by tenure laws. He called the decision “a mandate to fix these problems.”

Heh if Chris Christie becomes President, then they’ll really have something to complain about.

According to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, at the beginning of the administration, in 2009, no states had clear policies that ineffective teaching was grounds for dismissal. By 2013, 29 states did. 

You can’t sack teachers for incompetence. That’s heresy.

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20 Responses to “Teacher unions at war with Obama”

  1. Anodos (116 comments) says:

    If you get on one to one conversation with Principals in NZ they will tell you that their most pressing problem is not:
    – school donations
    – whether kids have laps tops
    – class size
    – etc
    It is how difficult it is to get rid of crap teachers who cannot manage children, don’t know their content, have a negative persona and rely on the unions and their tenure to protect them. There may not be many per school but it is a huge headache. The unions have banged on about accountability for charter schools. Every teacher – on their very good salaries – is equaly accountable to the taxpayer to do a GREAT job or get out.

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  2. cricko (290 comments) says:

    Anyone who ever went to school knows that you are correct Anodos.

    Question is, for the teacher union.

    Why is not that not true unless there are more crap teachers focussed on protecting their arse
    than there are decent teachers ?

    Maybe we should survey the kids, even they know who the crap teachers are.

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  3. dime (9,806 comments) says:

    Lol @ drama queen teachers.

    Toxic testing! Sounds scary!

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  4. gump (1,617 comments) says:

    @Anodos

    Teachers in NZ don’t have tenure.

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  5. Anodos (116 comments) says:

    Gump – yes they do. It is not called tenure but a permanent appointment in NZ is an indefinite contract.

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  6. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    A teacher’s contract is indefinite in the same way that any permanent contract is: it can’t be terminated without quite specific grounds, just the same as any other. My understanding is that, after the 90 day trial, no contract can be terminated without good reason.

    The Union does not ‘stand up’ for incompetent teachers. All it is allowed to do is to ensure that employment law is not broken. It does not have any powers beyond any representation that any person is entitled to in employment disputes.

    The problem is that proving someone is rubbish in the classroom is a lot harder than most people imagine.

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  7. Anodos (116 comments) says:

    In theory that is accurate. However the wider pressures the teacher unions bring down on Principals can cause an imbalance. Also very difficult under collective agreements to create fixed term contracts and very rare for the 90 day clause to apply.

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  8. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    Fixed term contracts are very easy – you just advertise them as such. However, what Principals cannot do is to keep people on short term contracts repeatedly instead of giving them a permanent contract.

    Can I ask you what is meant by ‘wider pressures’?

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  9. cricko (290 comments) says:

    Jeez,

    anyone criticises teachers and their union they stir up a hornet nest.

    Does anyone believe that teacher unions have the students well being ahead of their own ?
    Well, who TF is that ?

    And the answer to that question becomes more obvious every day. The world over.

    Change is comming. Fuck, it will hurt a lot of drones.

    You may be good at working your way up to the top of your union, pity you are useless as a teacher.

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  10. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    The clue is in the name: Post Primary TEACHER’S Association.

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  11. Anodos (116 comments) says:

    You cannot shift a previously appointed incompetent teacher onto a fixed term contract. Nor can you legally use a fixed term contract with reason to believe there is doubt over roll or that it is for a specific task that has a time frame (or maternity leave).

    When the union is a well funded national body and a Principal and Board have such a limited resource (time and funds) there is an imbalance and often strongly deters a Principal acting more quickly and in the best interests of the children.

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  12. bc (1,365 comments) says:

    Anodos, you crack me up. People keep pointing out you are wrong but you keep on battling on!

    I can see you having a discussion with people by putting your hands over your ears and going “la la la la la la la la”

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  13. bc (1,365 comments) says:

    As gump has pointed out teachers in NZ don’t have tenure. DPF’s post has nothing to do with the situation here. Just a bit of fomenting happy mischief!

    If Anodos did a bit of research (hint – google) it wouldn’t take him long to find the process of dealing with disciplinary or incompetence issues with teachers. It’s not unreasonable and not that different to other professions. I wonder if these principals that he talks to exist!

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  14. Johnboy (15,903 comments) says:

    I completely blame the current Teachers obsession with unionism on the fact that I never ran Con Devitt over on the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Cuba Street back in circa 1980 when I had the chance.

    The silly old bastard walked right out in front of me and without thinking I hit the brakes… I see he lasted till 86.

    What a mistakea to makea! :)

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  15. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    If you have an incompetent teacher, why would you want to move them onto a temporary contract? If you have evidence they are incompetent, you have evidence for competency proceedings.

    Temporary contracts for maternity cover are very common.

    Every school in which I have worked has had access to lawyers who specialise in employment disputes. Hence the need for a teacher to have representation. The Union cannot change the agreed employment procedures. If they did, the school would go to an employment tribunal.

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  16. Anodos (116 comments) says:

    Ask any parent whose child has a poor teacher in front of them if a 10 week (just for part of the process) review period is reasonable. http://ppta.org.nz/index.php/resources/publication-list/1039-teacher-competence-review?showall=1

    These procedures have two distinct phases:

    a) Stage one – an initial period of in-school collegial support and advice, designed to assist the teacher to regain an acceptable standard of work (STCA 3.3.3 & 3.3.4, ASTCA 2.3.2).

    b) Stage two – where the initial period of advice and guidance fails to remedy the matters causing concern, the board may invoke the formal procedures outlined in STCA 3.3.5 (a)-(e) (ASTCA 2.3.3(a)-(e)). Stage two provides for a period of advice and guidance, usually for 10 school weeks. At the end of this period the expectation is that the teacher will have remedied the concerns. If she or he has not, then the board may dismiss or demote her/him.

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  17. Johnboy (15,903 comments) says:

    Sack them all without redundancy and tell them to re-apply for their jobs under new contract rules?

    It’s simple stuff really. Either the MinEd runs the schools or the Teech unions do.

    Meanwhile the poor bloody taxpayers that foot the bill for both of the losers above keep on getting shafted! :)

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  18. tom hunter (4,695 comments) says:

    It’s not just Obama either. Back in ye old home town there’s a revolt potential brewing with Chicago mayor (and former Obama chief head kicker) Rahm Emanuel under threat from Karen Lewis for the job.

    Karen Lewis is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union and this is the culmination of a three year war between Emanuel and the CTU. Fun!

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  19. Southern Raider (1,800 comments) says:

    They need the guy from House of Cards

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  20. Rightandleft (662 comments) says:

    Actually there is a major problem with principals using fixed term contracts in clear violation of the collective agreements and employment law. More than one third of teachers are on fixed term contracts right now and the percentage is significantly higher among teachers in their first few years in the profession. Principals use them as trial periods that extend well beyond ninety days. Some schools have a particularly bad reputation for keeping teachers on fixed-term agreements for years at a time.

    As others have pointed out the difference between NZ and the US is that tenure is the exception in the US, a special right only teachers have that infuriates others, but in NZ tenure is the norm, given to people in every profession as a right in law. National brought in the ninety day trial period, but in the US every job I ever held or my parents ever held was fire at will in perpetuity. So once again DPF is making an error in trying to compare our system to theirs.

    I would also add that unions in the US are much different to ones here. In some states they have won significant rights like massive pensions and healthcare provisions that make them unpopular with the public. They’re also much more openly political, specifically endorsing parties and candidates and urging their members to vote for them as well as donating money to campaigns. Those are things the NZ teacher unions never do. The PPTA at least makes its finances open and has never donated a cent to a political party of any type. Teachers in NZ have no pension, no special protections unavailable to other professions. And to call teacher salaries “very good” as Anodos does is pretty stunning. Teacher salaries aren’t terrible but they have fallen a long way from where they were in decades past. Teachers earn less than pretty much any other profession requiring equivalent levels of education.

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