February 24, 2010

Teachers unions are the worst, cont.

By: Sonny Bunch

The New York Times has what amounts to a follow up on the New Yorker’s examination of the NYC school system’s “rubber rooms,” the place where disciplined/ineffective teachers are sent to wait out the adjudication process. Pretty much all you need to know comes in the first paragraph of the Times story:

The Bloomberg administration has made getting rid of inadequate teachers a linchpin of its efforts to improve city schools. But in 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.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anytime your organization is 55,000 strong and you’ve only fired three people in two years, you’re doing something wrong. In any organization that big there is going to be a certain number of simply incompetent employees: People who were wrongly hired, or people who were rightly hired by don’t do the job well, or drunks/drug users/whatever. 55,000 is a lot of people. Even if only one half of one percent of those people aren’t doing their job satisfactorily, that’s 225 people that need to be canned. The fact that only one percent of that 225 number actually got canned suggests to me that there’s no sense of accountability or no mechanism to enforce that accountability.

The problem, of course, is having to deal with the teachers union. The Times piece offers a glimpse into the process of terminating a terrible teacher, culminating in this process:

Mr. Ebewo, through his lawyer, declined to comment for this article. His case took years to reach a hearing because of a state law that requires the city to show evidence that it has given the teacher a chance to improve and instruction on how to do so. Any missing file could jeopardize a case, lawyers for the department said.

And the hearing will probably go on for months, because of a rule the city agreed to four years ago. In an effort to impose more order on the process, the city and the union agreed to set up a panel of arbitrators to hear such cases regularly. There are only so many arbitrators, however, and lawyers can handle only so many cases at once, so the arbitrators hear a case only five days a month.

Look, it’s one thing for a union to protect its members from unfair terminations. It’s another thing entirely to abuse and manipulate the process so it takes years to fire a teacher who is damaging the future of hundreds of children with his terribleness.