As Duncan Weighs In, Debate Over Vergara Ruling Continues

When US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a statement about the California case concerning teacher job protection, American Federation of Teachers president Rendi Weingarten took little time t0 come out with criticism of his comments.  Stephen Ceasar of The Los Angeles Times, quotes Weingarten:

“You added to the polarization,” Weingarten wrote in a letter to Duncan. “And teachers across the country are wondering why the Secretary of Education thinks that stripping them of their due process is the way to help all children succeed.”

Weingarten was referring to the secretary’s statement that the verdict would give California a new framework for “the teaching profession that protects both the rights of the teachers and students”.  He continued that the goal was to match our best teachers with our neediest students, and he saw this verdict as a mandate to fix these problems.

The effects of this ruling, if it is held up on appeal, will involve not only all of California, but also possibly the entire nation.  Judge Treu ruled that it was too easy for teachers to gain strong job protections and too difficult to dismiss teachers who were performing poorly.  The reason he called these  job security laws unconstitutional, was because they harmed the  predominantly low-income, minority student. In an interview on CNN, Duncan got to the point:

“The common goal is to increase public confidence in public education. We want great public schools we need great public schools teachers. We need families to want to go to public schools,” Duncan said. “That’s the common ground. There’s one common enemy – that’s academic failure.”

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reports that Duncan hopes the verdict will not lead to prolonged appeals by the teachers’ unions.  Strauss writes that this is exactly what is going to happen.  Duncan added that he hoped that other states will not be involved with further suits which are focused on reducing union power.  Strauss’s opinion is that it certainly will.

Bad teachers are not the real problem, writes Susan Milligan for the US News  and World Report, and getting rid of tenure for teachers is not the magic bullet for fixing public schools, either.  Children living in poverty live in a world filled with stress. Parent engagement in these households is not a priority.  The classrooms in a low-income school are tougher.  Better teachers would rather teach in a school where there is not so much energy expended just to keep the class from “exploding”.

Milligan points out that at many schools where teachers are unionized, students students perform better than students at non-unionized charter schools.  In fact, she says , in Massachusetts, students in public schools were ranked second in the world in science.  She believes there are bad teachers, just as there are bad people in the world.  She boils down the problem to two issues: poverty and segregation.

Eric Owens, a reporter for the Daily Caller, lists some of the reasons the American Federation of Teachers is “fighting mad“.

  • Full and fair funding would change bad teachers into good teachers.
  • Core academic classes would improve if the arts and physical education were in place.
  • The preponderance of funding inequities, school segregation, and high poverty.