From today's New York Times:
Opening a new front in the assault on teacher tenure, a group of parents backed by wealthy philanthropists served notice to defendants on Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s job protections for teachers, as well as the state’s rules governing which teachers are laid off as a result of budget cuts.
Close, but not quite.
Opening a new front in the assault on teacher tenure, a group of wealthy philanthropists using parents as a front, served notice etc...
There. Fixed that for you.
The anti-tenure lawsuit is funded by the usual suspects-- the Partnership for Education Justice (funded by the Walton family and Eli Broad), and Students for Education Reform (an astroturf group used as a front by Education Reform Now, the lobbying brother of Democrats for Education Reform, an astroturf group of hedge funders which is also heavily funded by Broad and Walton).
It is a bullshit lawsuit. Here is how we know.
“These laws have the effect of poorly performing, ineffective teachers staying in the classroom for years on end,” said Jesse Stewart, a lawyer who will be arguing the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. “You have teachers who are demonstrably ineffective teaching students who need the best that’s out there,” Mr. Stewart added.
This is a lie. If a teacher were "demonstrably ineffective," they would be demonstrably fire-able. For the umpty-gazzillionth time-- tenure does not protect demonstrably incompetent teachers from getting fired. I have seen it done, even in my little small town corner of the world. say it with me. Tenure does not keep incompetent teachers from being fired. What does? Bad administrators. Lazy administrators. Sloppy administrators. Let me quote myself-- behind every teacher who shouldn't have a job is an administrator who isn't doing his. And all the tenure "reforms" (and this is tenure reform in the same sense that a building demolition is construction reform) in the world will not turn a crappy administrator into a good one. Give a lazy, sloppy, bad administrator the power to fire bad teachers, and it still won't happen.
An apartment building is reformed
But the plaintiffs don't actually mean "demonstrably ineffective." What they mean is "standing in the classroom with a bunch of poor kids."
In one example cited in the legal complaint, teachers at a school in Minneapolis where nearly all the students identify as minorities and are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches had the lowest average performance ratings in the district.
Well, yes. Of course they did. We already know that poverty levels are excellent predictors of test scores. Take a classroom with no roof. When it rains, all the students in the room get wet, and so the teacher gets wet too. If you fire that teacher and go get a dry one, the students will still get wet when it rains-- and so will every replacement teacher you ever put in there. Claiming that a really good teacher would keep everyone dry is baloney.
If you are going to fire every teacher who teaches poor kids who get bad Big Standardized Test scores, you will never make headway. Can a teacher help poor students do better. Abso-fricking-lutely. But you have to build a roof, because you cannot fire your way to better test scores (we will forgo, for the moment, whether test scores even mean jackity-poo to begin with).
Tiffini Flynn Forslund, one of the named plaintiffs and the mother of a
17-year-old high school junior in the Anoka-Hennepin School District,
said her older daughter’s beloved fifth-grade teacher was laid off
during budget cuts because he had less seniority than other teachers in
Here's is how I know that nobody filing this suit actually gives a rat's ass about teacher quality-- if they did, they would also be aggressively addressing the issue of budget cuts.
Tiffini should not have had to lose her beloved fifth grade teacher (six years ago-- one wonders why the family waited till now to act). But neither should some other student in Tiffinni's school. The assumption here is that somewhere in Tiffini's school was some Terrible Teacher, so odious and incompetent that they clearly should have been marked for removal (but somehow was not, despite the administration's power to do so).
But what if that's not the case. What if every single teacher in the building was beloved by some deserving child? Why should Tiffini's teacher be spared while someone else's beloved teacher is axed.
Well, you know which beloved teacher should be furloughed due to budget slashing in a poor school? None! Nobody!! Instead, the plaintiffs should be (as some are in other states) taking the state/city/district to court to demand that school be funded properly. Plaintiffs should be arguing that Tiffini's school should not be forced to cut staff at all!
The fact that these "advocates" and their twitter cheer squad are troubled by the cutting of Tiffini's teacher, but not at all troubled by the slashing of Tiffini's budget or the reduction Tiffini's teaching staff or the loss of Tiffini's resources tells me that they are far more interested in attacking teacher tenure and job protections than they are concerned about Tiffini.
Look-- there are plenty of legitimate conversations to be had about teacher job protections, hiring and firing practices, etc. But this lawsuit, like Vergara in California and Campbell Brown's lawsuit in NY, is not an attempt to have that conversation. It's simply an attempt to break the teachers' union and destroy teacher job protections so that teaching staff costs can be kept low and teachers themselves can be cowed and bullied into silence and compliance.
Put another way, this is not remotely pro-student, and is strictly anti-teacher. It's thick-sliced unvarnished baloney, and the fact that it is an attack on teachers is bad enough, but in attacking teachers, it also leaves unquestioned the attacks on student facilities, schools and resources, while trying to make conditions inside schools that much worse. It's cynical, it's destructive, and it's just plain mean. Let's hope this doesn't drag over another few years to another lousy conclusion.