Kain demolishes the Tribune's chart showing how long it takes to fire a tenured teacher:
First, this chart only applies to tenured teachers. Bad teachers can be weeded out much quicker before gaining tenure. School officials need to use this time window appropriately.
Second, the point of tenure is to protect teachers from arbitrarily being fired. Teachers need protection from over-zealous bosses and ideological politicians. This is the same thinking behind seniority rules, which protect more expensive teachers (i.e. veterans) from being laid off due to budget cuts.
But the answer to that problem is not making all teachers easier to fire. This would undermine teacher recruitment. If you take away pensions, job security, tenure, the ability to unionize, and basically all the other perks of teaching, what you’re left with is a very difficult job with no job security, mediocre benefits, and relatively low pay. This is not how you attract good people to a profession, or how you guarantee a good education experience for your children.
I had an exchange with a friend after I posted a link to this op-ed on Facebook. He writes, "It is a good thing that nobody is talking about getting rid of pensions or benefits then...only contributing to the cost. Military and federal civil service workers do not have unions and they have fantastic pension and benefit packages. What value to unions add?" I responded:
Military and civil service salaries are set by Federal law, with COLA and other increases built in. Have you seen the scales, by the way? With all the money an E5 gets--or an O5 or GS12, for that matter--you can retire from either the civil service or military after 20 years with a pretty nice package.
But let's get to the point: the right are attacking teachers for, I believe, two reasons. First, because people generally don't know what teachers actually do (9 months? It's 11 months, just like everyone else), and second, because it's in the far-right's interest to have a less-educated population, making teachers a double threat. When someone has adequate education, he might learn logic or civics, and that would make it difficult for him to continue watching Fox News without yelling obscenities.
Even that wasn't quite the point. Unions protect people with little power (i.e., workers) from people with enormous power (i.e., employers). Do some unions sometimes overreach? Of course. Does that indict all unions? Of course not.
I would like more people to have better teachers if only so more people learned the history of labor in the U.S. from, say, 1870 to 1920. Do people bashing unions really want to go back to the days of The Jungle? I guarantee most of them don't, and the ones who do are the employers.
Update, from HP in Michigan: "Actually, there is a union for government workers - they have a bulletin board in the basement of the VA hopital where I work - the American Federation of Government Employees. They are part of the AFL-CIO."