10 Reasons Public School Teachers and Unions are Failing Children and Bankrupting America
Posted By Megan Fox On March 18, 2011 @ 6:00 am In Email,Feature,Main,News | 5 Comments
Corruption, greed, incompetence, bureaucratic bungling: Those are the things most likely to be found when the charade of public union outrage is peeled back to reveal the inner workings of collective bargaining. There is no doubt America is engaged in an ideological battle. On one side are the public sector unions and “workers” demanding the taxpayers cough up more to fund their fat paychecks and bloated pensions. On the other side are the majority of Americans who work in the private sector, fund their own retirements and health care, and have no entitlement programs they haven’t designed themselves. The public sector is asking for more blood while the private sector is beaten unconscious and bleeding from every major artery.
The newly elected Republican guard is trying to stop the bleeding, starting with the mess that is the public union. The howling has only just begun (see Wisconsin and Ohio). The Left has used unions and “workers’ rights” throughout history to weave their socialist ideals into the fabric of society. They use words and ideas that sound good in theory like “all children have the right to education! All workers have the right to a fair wage! A chicken on every table! A rice cooker on every counter!” They use these mantras to make anyone who doesn’t think leftist ideas actually help people feel ashamed of themselves. But when you get down to the practical application of their ideas, you find the nice words are covering up a festering, rotting corpse of horror.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the public school system where we are facing record malfeasance and mismanagement of public trust.
10. Grace Currin
No list about government waste would be complete without a visit to one of the best… of the worst in public education: the Chicago Public School System where bad teachers survive and illiterate kids waste away. Grace Currin’s entire fourth grade class will be showing up for summer school because of her inability to educate them sufficiently to pass. That’s right, they all failed. Three different principals in her school tried to fire her. They failed due to union attack dogs who refused (and continue to refuse) to allow any dues-paying tenured member to fall off the rolls no matter how stupid they are. Witnesses to her teaching style have reported heinous behavior.
The noise level in the class is unbelievable. Kids are fighting. Children are rolling around on the floor. They are throwing chairs across the room. One day I walked into her classroom and said, ‘Did you see that chair fly across the room?’ and she said, ‘I told them not to do that.’
Currin even admits she’s part of the problem, but mostly blames it on the children.
I am part of the problem, but remember, you can’t expect miracles when you have low achievers.
Currin has been teaching for 30 years. It strains the mind to imagine how many young minds were ruined by her ineptitude. However, she can still count on the full support of her union who apparently couldn’t care less that Chicago school children pay the price.
Next: A six-figure salary for teaching one class a day –>
9. Tom Dromgoole
This story just hit the news stands last week. Tom Dromgoole is a New York teacher making $100,049 per year. I’m sure you’re thinking he must be a very hard-working teacher who picks up tons of extracurricular activities. You would be right if those extracurricular activities included a union representative job paying $50,000 a year, while causing him only to be able to teach one class a day. After his class is over, Dromgoole reports to his union job. As a result, the school district has to hire a substitute teacher to teach the rest of his classes. The taxpayers of New York are getting hammered with paying for two teachers when they only need one. The New York Post reports that 1,500 teachers are currently doing what Dromgoole is doing and costing the city 9 million dollars a year in substitute teacher salaries.
Reached Friday outside his Brooklyn townhouse, Dromgoole brushed past a reporter who asked about his UFT work, saying, “No comment.”
The Post confirms that Dromgoole isn’t the only one of the 1,500 teachers getting a deal this cushy.
The DOE lets 40 experienced teachers collect top pay and fringe benefits, but work just one class period a day.
Under a longstanding contract agreement, the DOE excuses these veterans to work for the UFT — currently 38 as district representatives and two as union vice presidents. The UFT pays them another salary, plus expenses.
One veteran teacher told the Post:
“It’s a plum because you’re not teaching. Some principals give them little or nothing to do” because the UFT reps are powerful.
Mayor Bloomberg’s office, reported to have agreed to this fraud, also refused to comment. But don’t worry, it’s all for the children.
Next: Excruciatingly bad poetry and teachers gone wild…
8. The New Jersey Teachers Association
“1, 2, 3, 4! Legislators owe us more!” was the chant at the recent NJEA conference. Undercover journalist James O’Keefe was there with his hidden camera. What he got on film was super entertaining… and sickening at the same time. One teacher happily laughs about all the “free sh*t” they get at the convention while another plays a video game laughing at those silly taxpayers who pay her for doing exactly nothing. Even worse, Alissa Ploshnick, special education teacher, bragged about how hard it is to fire a teacher who has tenure.
It’s really hard. Like, you seriously have to be in the hallway f*ck*ng somebody.
From the examples on last week’s list about unions who protect child predators, sometimes not even that suffices. Then she went on to explain that not even racism is enough to get a tenured teacher fired, giving an example of a teacher who called a student the “n” word and still retained a teaching position. O’Keefe went further, calling the school with someone posing as a parent to get the school’s policy on calling black children the “n” word. He was told the teacher could not be fired, but that they could move the child. When the teachers weren’t drinking and telling raunchy stories to O’Keefe, they were in session where some incredibly bad rhyming was the soup du jour.
Let’s have a whiskey
And get a little misty
Join me now
And slander Chris Christie!
That teacher should be fired simply for excruciatingly bad poetry. She’s in charge of the minds of the future? Scary. When they weren’t chanting about Christie, they were making not-so-veiled threats against him.
Well, everybody wants to, well, take this guy out one way or the other. You know what I mean?
Yeah, Jersey Boy, we know what you mean. You don’t have to spell it out for us, wink wink. But hating the governor is not a crime. What is a crime, is abusing students. Another drunken fool talked about how he could be a principal and really f*ck with kids.” I think someone should find that gentleman and make sure he isn’t already doing that. During another break-out session a teacher confessed that her school created a padded room where they lock up “out of control” students. If only there were a similar solution for out-of-control teachers’ unions!
Next: Drunks, druggies and potheads…
7. Addicted Teachers
Middle school teacher Kylene Nelson was found by administrators passed out in her car and surrounded by wine bottles while her students sat unattended in an empty classroom in 2006. She was asked to go on leave for the remainder of the year and enter a rehab program. She was allowed to return to a different school in the district after a short probation. In 2009 it happened again. Her students video-taped her with their cell phones dancing suggestively with students during class and appearing to be drunk. When she was tested, it turned out she was drunk and stoned on marijuana. Nelson voluntarily resigned after the second incident but her reprimand allows her to go back to teaching as early as 2013.
In Hawaii, a rash of drug abusing teachers were discovered in 2007 leading to legislation to require random drug testing of teachers.
[Bronwyn]Kugle, 38, [an elementary school teacher was] charged yesterday with conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 2.2 pounds of cocaine and 990 tablets of MDMA or “Ecstasy.”
In October, Leilehua High School teacher Lee Anzai was arrested on charges of selling crystal methamphetamine. In December, two Mililani Middle School teachers — Lisa Luhrsen and Benjamin Ayson — were arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana before they showed up for work on a Monday morning.
The legislation didn’t pass without a fight from the teachers union which refused to agree to the random testing without an 11% increase in pay. But even after getting their pay raise and agreeing to the random testing, they now say if the random tests are tried, they will fight them!
“Random testing isn’t going to suddenly increase test scores,” said Mike McCartney, executive director for the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “This is a huge distraction from how to make our schools better.”
The union says it will agree to drug testing in cases where there’s a reason to suspect drug use.
Even though the law says all 13,000 teachers are subject to random testing, the unions are flouting the law and the Department of Education refuses to pay for the $35 per teacher for administering the drug tests. It was pretty ingenious to negotiate a raise over a policy the union never intended to follow, once again proving the unions are more interested in their pocketbooks than in the safety of children.
The ACLU predictably jumped on the bandwagon and sued the state of Hawaii for implementing the random drug testing legislation.
Next: Test scores don’t matter…for teachers –>
6. Failing teachers
Teachers without even a rudimentary understanding of the subjects they teach, continue teaching anyway.
In 2004, one third of Florida teachers failed a state issued basic skills test. That’s bad. What’s even worse is that 9% of the number who failed, failed multiple times.
The two worst performers on Florida’s exams failed 59 times each. Both are physical education teachers.
Teachers who failed more than 40 times teach everything from middle school social studies and grade school to mentally handicapped and learning disabled children.
Nearly 1,400 teachers failed 10 times or more.
In Miami-Dade County, one teacher failed more than 40 tests. She has taught language arts to middle school students for nearly 10 years.
I’m sure you’re thinking these tests must be pretty hard. You would be right if you consider “hard” to be questions the students are required to know in order to pass the class for which the teacher is responsible. The questions are specifically geared to measure the teachers’ qualifications to teach in their individual area of “expertise.” What might be the most disheartening of all is that none of these teachers could be fired. The unions make sure of that. Instead of basing teachers’ job security on merit, it is based on seniority and nothing else. The Herald Tribune discovered that the state wasn’t even reviewing the test scores of its teachers but simply handing out the tests to fulfill the requirement of the “No Child Left Behind Act” which requires all teachers to be certified. If a teacher failed the skills test several times, they were issued an exemption and given their certification anyway.
This system not only harms the students, but good teachers also suffer. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal detailing the effects of such policies on one of the good teachers we should be encouraging. Instead, she was fired.
In 2010, Megan Sampson was named an Outstanding First Year Teacher in Wisconsin. A week later, she got a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools. Why would one of the best new teachers in the state be one of the first let go? Because her collective-bargaining contract requires staffing decisions to be made based on seniority.
Ms. Sampson got a layoff notice because the union leadership would not accept reasonable changes to their contract. Instead, they hid behind a collective-bargaining agreement that costs the taxpayers $101,091 per year for each teacher, protects a 0% contribution for health-insurance premiums, and forces schools to hire and fire based on seniority and union rules.
Sampson is not happy with the attention she has received, however. Considering the death threats made toward anyone who dares go against the union, it’s not surprising.
My opinions about the union have changed over the past eight months, and I am hurt that this story is being used to make me the poster child for this political agenda,” Sampson said. “Bottom line: I am trying to do my job and all this attention is interference and stress for me.
I wonder if by “stress” she means “hate mail.” Regardless of her personal feelings on the matter, her story is an important one. Good teachers should have preference over tenured incompetents, and anyone who can argue with that is either stupid or evil.
Next: Incompetency hearings make administrators suicidal…
5. Michael Ebewo and the State of New York
In 2010, the New York Times ran a surprisingly honest account of the dire situation facing the New York educational system and the difficulty schools face in ridding their payrolls of incompetent teachers. Michael Ebewo is a veteran teacher in New York with tenure. Administrators at Ebewo’s school had been trying to fire him for a long time.
There was a chart with misspellings and unclear instructions. There were students staring into space and doodling rather than completing their worksheet, which contained questions that the students, who were in special education, had difficulty understanding. Rather than pressing the students for answers, Mr. Ebewo simply answered himself, making the students only more confused.
At the time of that visit, the principal, Lisa Nelson, criticized Mr. Ebewo, who had been teaching for 15 years, for not having proper behavior incentives and consequences for the students. The next time she came to the classroom, Ms. Nelson said, he distributed candy to students early in the morning, something she said “even a layperson” would object to.
Ebewo was put through a hearing for incompetence that dragged on for months, as such hearings are required – courtesy of unions, of course. This ensures many incompetent teachers keep their jobs and continue paying dues.
One arbitrator recently stepped down from a case after the department said he had fallen asleep during a hearing. (The arbitrator said he might have “dropped off once or twice.”) The urge is not uncommon. Alan R. Viani, another arbitrator, said he had done “one or two cases, and it made me want to put a bullet through my head.”
I can sympathize. Merely reading about it makes me feel suicidal. The hearings are not only coma-inducing, but ineffective, expensive and a waste of everyone’s time due to the union rules.
While their cases drag on, teachers receive full pay and must report to one of the department’s so-called rubber rooms, where they spend each school day with other teachers facing charges of incompetence or misconduct. Education officials say they pay $30 million a year to such teachers.
(Head….exploding) It gets worse.
[ I]n the two years since the Education Department began an intensive effort to root out such teachers from the more than 55,000 who have tenure, officials have managed to fire only three for incompetence.
Next: What happens in Vegas rarely stays in Vegas…
4. The teachers of Scammon Elementary School
The state of Illinois is broke, although you won’t see any unions protesting there because the entire Democrat-run state will continue to stuff union coffers full by simply taxing the heck out of people who actually work for a living. (They implemented a 66% income tax increase recently along with an internet tax that is going to get Illinois vendors kicked off Amazon.com and chase even more businesses out of President Obama’s home state.) But some teachers in Illinois don’t care about a budget crisis or the welfare of their students if either gets in the way of having a good time. The staff at Scammon Elementary was told there was a freeze on all travel due to budget constraints. What kind of “travel” elementary teachers need to do is a mystery. Even though the restriction was in place, the teachers of Scammon Elementary took off on an all-expense paid trip to Vegas. They ordered $125 bottles of champagne and ate fancy dinners every night. Of course, taxpayers had to actually pay the bill. While they were gone, the unthinkable happened.
In the special education program there is a room where some students had told their parents they didn’t want to go. Allegedly, it was in this room where sex acts took place between students with a teacher present. Details are still vague because the investigation is ongoing. What we do know is parents have been complaining for a very long time. One mother tried to transfer her daughter out of the school, citing safety concerns because her daughter was bitten, inappropriately touched, denied bathroom access and forced to sit in her own urine because she wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom. Though the school admitted their wrongdoing, they refused to transfer the student elsewhere because, in Illinois, students are trapped in bad schools based on their home address. If you don’t live in a good school district, your children have no hope of getting a decent education. So much for the Left’s insistence that they care for the poor.
The only redeeming part of this tragedy is that another teacher turned the offenders in. After the initial story ran on CBS, no follow up has been done to find out if the teachers were fired or held responsible in any way. The chances of that happening in Illinois are about as good as your survival odds in the polar bear tank at the zoo.
Next: Dancing lemons and hurting kids…
3. The Dance of the Lemons
The process of hustling bad teachers out of one school and foisting them on another unfortunate school is so prevalent in the public school system it has earned its own catch-phrase, “the dance of the lemons.” The process of firing abusive teachers (even admitted molesters) is laborious, so imagine how much more complicated it is to fire a teacher who is simply incompetent. The process is so difficult that administrators cut deals with unions just to get the teacher out of their school so they can move on. Unfortunately, it results in the bad teacher simply moving to a new school to suck the smarts out of other children. The problem is system-wide across the entire nation.
In 1996 school administrators in San Francisco discovered that a teacher was placing her six-year-old students in a trash can, closing the lid, and kicking the can. She was finally suspended when a fellow teacher overheard her threatening to cut off a child’s private parts with a pair of scissors. Thanks to heavy resistance from the local affiliate of the NEA, pursuing her dismissal cost the district more than $100,000, and the woman later got a teaching job elsewhere.
James Plosia, an attorney who tries these types of cases for school districts, is jaded.
Even though it is possible to remove an incompetent teacher, the process that you have to follow means you win the battle, but lose the war.
Chicago is facing a giant economic crisis which will require 2700 layoffs. Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman is trying to end the dancing lemon phenomenon by requiring the coming layoffs to be for the worst performing teachers instead of the teachers with the least seniority who are often the best, most qualified teachers.
We all know by now what happens when you challenge the unions and their contracts. They sue (and/or break into your state building and chant.) As anticipated, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) sued the city over the layoffs claiming the city violated their collective bargaining agreements that protects teachers with seniority, even if they’re slower and lazier than garden slugs. Click here for an excellent illustration from the Chicago Tribune detailing the horror of navigating through the union contractual “due process” that takes two to five years to fire a bad teacher. It is a colossal waste of money and a terrible injustice to the students suffering under such substandard tutelage.
Next: Hiding incompetence…
2. Hiding teacher evaluations at the expense of students
The LA Times printed several investigative articles based on teacher performance as it related to their students’ test scores. The state of California required teachers to be evaluated to determine the value they added to their classrooms. Teachers and unions are notorious for objecting to such standards of accountability. The unions want their members to be able to continue putting out defective products in exchange for higher pay and better benefits. They believe it is unfair to be held to any standard of judgment, because judging teachers is bad – or something.
But when students are failing, it has been proven time and again that more money doesn’t solve the problem.
In the last seven years alone, they tried changing the curriculum, reducing class size, improving school safety, requiring school uniforms, opening after-school programs and spending a lot more money per pupil…And so it went year after year: New state and federal programs with can-do names often brought more money and more ideas to the campus, but little actual improvement.
None of those reforms improved test scores. But when the California schools tried firing bad teachers and bringing in good ones, miraculous things started happening. According to the LA Times, test results skyrocketed.
Principals whose campuses had among the highest test score gains were given a 10% bump in their salaries to transfer to the low-performing schools. They also were allowed to remove up to five of the struggling schools’ teachers and recruit replacements from a pool of instructors who also had proved effective. The teachers who transferred also received bonuses — worth about $20,000 over three years…Over the last couple of years, students at most of the seven low-performing schools made strong progress, judging by their test scores.
Imagine that! Who knew rewarding teachers with bonuses for improving students’ knowledge would work? (It’s called merit pay, and conservatives have been asking for it for years.) But even in the face of such data, the unions want no part of the evaluations that are required to weed out bad teachers. In many cases, unions have sued to stop the evaluations from being released to the public. After New York saw what happened in California, the state took their lead and evaluated their teachers. When media sources sought to release that information to the public, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) sued to keep the names of the teachers out of the public view. Unions don’t want parents to know who the bad teachers are. Even after a judge ruled in favor of releasing the information, the UFT refused to give up, filing an appeal to fight it to the very end. These are the same people who keep insisting that they are fighting for your kids. In every instance, however, the fights they choose go against the best interest of students in favor of the interest of bad teachers and union power.
Next: Pay us more for failure and don’t ask us to donate time to struggling students…
1. Central Falls High School; You’re fired.
You know it’s bad when a union member hangs Obama in effigy in his classroom because even Obama, who is consistently on the side of unions, thinks an entire staff of teachers should be fired. The offending teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island was one of many angry staff who were summarily fired for having the lowest test scores in the nation while refusing to do extra work to improve the learning abilities of their students. The superintendent, Frances Gallo, fired every single teacher on staff.
Before the firings, the school tried to negotiate with the union to have the teachers spend more time with their students and to commit to teacher trainings after school hours. For the after school training, Gallo offered to pay the teachers an extra $30 an hour. For the extra 20 minutes of time with students Gallo could not pay, but asked them to do it for the children whose grades were suffering. Not only did the union reject the offer to help the students, they rejected the $30-an-hour extra pay and demanded $90 an hour instead! The gall of the union to demand so much more money for failing teachers broke down negotiations and every single one of them was fired.
Predictably, the unions turned out to scream about how unjust the firings were. Spare me. What about the students whose futures are routinely ruined by incompetent teachers? Teachers love to talk about how much they sacrifice for their students, but this group couldn’t even give up 20 minutes of their day to the students they proclaimed to care about. The best words on the subject came from B.K. Nordan who sat on the board and voted to fire the teachers.
“I don’t believe this is a worker’s rights issue. I believe it’s a children’s rights issue,” Nordan said. “…By every statistical measure I’ve seen, we are not doing a good enough job for our students … The rhetoric that these are poor students, ESL students, you can imagine the home lives … this is exactly why we need you to step up, regardless of the pay, regardless of the time involved. This city needs it more than anybody. I demand of you that you demand more of yourself and those around you.”
If only we had more courageous people like the superintendent and school board of Central Falls High School.
Accountability is a dirty word to most unions and teachers, but it is a word that exists because reality exists. Every action has a reaction, and no matter what contracts are signed, consequences exist. The American taxpayers are tired of paying (more and more) for a system that exists to prop up unions and teachers’ rights while working against the rights of American kids, crippling their future prosperity. The rights that should concern us right now are students’ rights and the rights of the taxpayers footing the bill. Accountability is essential to good practices in business and government.