Thursday, July 3, 2014

Teacher Unions - California Tenure Law - The Vultures 

By  Rodolfo F. Acuña,

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu's decision in Vergara v. California blames teachers, for the failure of poor and minority students to close the education gap between them and their affluent peers.

Treu argues that California laws allow public school teachers to secure tenure after 18 months shielding "grossly ineffective teachers," and concludes that minority and poor students are disproportionately impacted by bad teaching.

The judge draws parallels between his opinion and the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that supposedly ended "separate but equal" laws. However, sixty years after Brown the Los Angeles Unified School District is still one of the most segregated districts in the country.

While I agree that incompetent and perverse teachers should immediately be terminated, the finger waving has to be put into context, and the penalties of crooked and perverse corporate executives and politicians must also be addressed and how they disproportionately affect the poor and the minorities’ opportunity to get an equal education. After all teachers did not create the income gap.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, says "[The decision] doesn't change the fundamental problem, which is who in the world is hiring these people who are not qualified?"

I hate hypocrisy and I am offended by the pious 'students matter' pretensions of the plaintiffs' attorneys. I am offended by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy's scapegoating teacher unions for the district's abuse scandal. Deasy said he wanted one thing from the Legislature: the ability to quickly fire offending teachers inferring that bad teachers were being shielded by tenure.

Deasy's claim to fame is that he worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a foundation that has gained access and the Gates the reputation of reformers largely based on its distributing huge amounts of money to cash starved school districts. Deasy has never been a classroom teacher and knows little about pedagogy.

AGREED: layoffs should not be based solely on seniority. However, after 60 years of teaching I know the system and can say that teacher assignments are more often based on favoritism. Wealthy schools generally have more fully certified and experienced teachers than poor schools. Moreover, rewards such as merit pay are based on the preferences of administrators rather than the needs of students.

Race is a factor, but it is rarely considered in teacher training programs. Student needs should not solely be at the discretion of an administrator; a greater voice has to be given to the community.

Ok, schools are failing, but what is the CONTEXT as to why? For example, teacher training institutions fail to adequately prepare teachers. Has teaching improved in the past ten years? Surely this failure is not because we don't give enough tests.

FOLLOW THE MONEY. Students did not initiate the suit. It was pushed and financed by a Silicon Valley millionaire. It is part of a well-financed campaign promoted by billionaires that include Bill Gates, Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. They want public schools to be run like businesses, i.e., WALL STREET? They promote charter schools and privatization.

The Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner who represented the students, said that an estimated 3 percent of public school teachers in California are 'highly ineffective', estimating a loss of $11.6 billion in lifetime earnings for students with a poor education. Demographer Donald Bogue has tied student achievement to father's income. Moreover, even with an education, has the vaunted private sector created well-paying jobs? CONTEXT!

Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres (Tell me who you hang with and I'll tell you who you are). Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., the lead attorney, is a hired gun for right wing interests. He served on the legal team that worked to overturn California's Proposition 8 (banning same-sex marriage). Boutrous hypocritically says "This system is harming students every day. When students are denied this lifeline when they are told that they are incapable of success or when they are denied the basic building blocks of an education the effect is catastrophic."

HYPOCRISY? Who created the separate but unequal society?

Los Angeles public institutions are for sale. Billionaire and philanthropist Eli Broad has gained unprecedented power. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told CBS, "Eli Broad sets the standard..." Broad is a feared and admired dictator, spreading around a half-billion dollars worth of cultural improvements.

Sounds good but he and his billionaire cohorts now control the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Intent on privatizing the public schools they have suppressed investigative reporting. PBS once the voice of reform has been silenced by the Walton family (Walmart), Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, and Rupert Murdoch.

The cabal has donated big bucks to right wing advocacy groups, think tanks, and elected school board members and local, state and national politicians.

PBS has blacked out critics such as Historian Diane Ravitch, whose book is title is "Public Schools for Sale?"

The privatizers push for charter schools, vouchers (frequently called "opportunity scholarships"), business-style management, high-stakes testing to evaluate students and teachers, weakened teachers unions, and "parent trigger" law to allow disgruntled parents to turn public schools into privately-run charter schools.

The billionaires supply the cash, they hire guns such Michelle Rhee (former Washington, D.C. school chief who now runs Schools First, a corporate-funded lobby group), Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America), Geoffrey Canada (founder of Harlem Children's Zone), and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The innocuous Gates has donated billions to privatize public schools. No wonder Gates pushed the film "Waiting for Superman" that was shown at the national PTA convention. Some have wondered if the PTA's decision to promote the film has anything to do with its receipt of a $1 million donation from the Gates Foundation. Gates' solution to the budget crisis is for school districts to cut pension payments for retired teachers.

Make no mistake the Broad and Gates cabal seeks to privatize public education; it is no less greedy than the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that attempted to seize political control of Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio with the goal of privatizing education, the prisons, and the state governments. The cabal's goal is to destroy trade unions, seize control of pension funds and pay no taxes.

BLAME: Teacher unions have allowed the corporate raiders to control the narrative. Free and independent trade unions are the only force strong enough to take on the corporate raiders. They cannot match the billionaires' club money power, but they can slow them down. Unions are an important check on the greed of the Kochs, ALEC and the Broad cabal.

History shows that the Russian and Mexican Revolutions were subverted by the absence of independent trade union movements. True democracy depends on them.

However, trade unions must clean up contradictions if they want public support. In order for tenure to survive union members must get rid of bad teachers and promote the interests of communities they serve. Teachers must serve poor schools with the same intensity and vigor that they do more affluent schools. They are also going to have to demand better teacher preparation.

Today the Latino student population is a majority in many school districts, and teachers are not only going to have to adapt to this new reality but also advocate for the interests of the new majority.

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