We still miss Sonny here at CF, but he does have a great article in the new Weekly Standard, about how liberal filmmakers have turned against teachers unions. You heard me right. Davis Guggenheim, the director of An Inconvenient Truth, has a new documentary out, entitled Waiting for “Superman”:
Guggenheim and the reformers he interviews come back to the troubling aspects of teacher tenure. Like its cousin in higher education, tenure is a guarantee of employment for life. Unlike in higher education, however, tenure is handed out to virtually every public school teacher after a short wait, typically two to three years. When layoffs occur, school districts are forced to operate on a “last hired, first fired” basis instead of deciding who to keep based on merit. The one-two combo of tenure and seniority has made it almost impossible to fire poor teachers.
Consider Chicago. Only 28.5 percent of Chicago Public School students met or exceeded expectations on the composite Prairie State Achievement Examination in the 11th grade. In science and math, those numbers were even more dismal; a mere 23.7 and 26.9 percent, respectively, met or exceeded the standards expected of them. But the teachers responsible for these outcomes are virtually untouchable. According to Newsweek, the percentage of Chicago teachers dismissed for poor performance between 2005 and 2008 was 0.1 percent. In a district where only one in four students is proficient in math and science, how is it possible that less than one in one thousand teachers is worthy of dismissal?
Why have liberal filmmakers — and liberals more broadly — started to turn against unions? I don’t have a great answer, but I think that at least some credit should go to Teach for America, the government program that places top college graduates in rural and inner-city public schools to teach for two or three years. I have several friends who did the program in Washington, DC. They see the problems there first hand, so they don’t fall back on the teachers unions’ old saw that the only problem is not enough money.
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