Monday, August 11, 2008

Rhee’s cynical tenure-for-pay swap

Will Parker bite?

D.C. school chief Michelle Rhee’s proposal to swap teacher tenure rights for significant pay increase, might seem reasonable and even attractive, in the short run, especially to younger teachers.

But the problem is, technocrat Rhee and Mayor Fenty are in league with Ownership Society privatizers bent on replacing public with privately managed (non-union) charter schools and vouchers for Catholic (non-union) schools. That means that the pay provisions of any new contract won’t be worth the paper they’re written on as budgets are slashed and closed neighborhood schools are replaced by charters or vouchers. Any D.C. teacher could then be fired without due process, especially in schools marked by Rhee for closing. As the teaching force moves from public to charter or Catholic schools, teachers are subject to the pay scales, work rules, and whims of the private management companies and parents and communities can like it or lump it. This is especially true as charter caps are lifted and charters handed out freely to the Archdiocese.

If D.C. union prez George Parker bites on Rhee’s cynical proposal, without a plan to keep public schools public, I think he and the union are through. I’m sure other urban districts will be watching closely.

Are they really for choice?

Conservatives call themselves “choice” advocates for public school reform. Let's see how many of them support choice when Rev. Meeks brings 200 bus loads of Chicago inner-city kids up to suburban Winnetka and tries to enroll them in a wealthy, white North Shore high school, to call attention to the enormous funding disparities.


  1. Why shouldn't teachers be held to the same standards the rest of us are held to? Anyone at any job can get fired without much explanation. Many states, including Illinois, have laws that allow the employer to hire and fire employees at will. I understand that teaching is a noble profession, but that doesn't mean the profession's standards of firing/hiring should be any different than any other profession.

    With your outlook on Rhee's policy it seems that you believe all teachers should be protected, regardless of their effectiveness in the classroom. Most people who make it to college can get a degree that says they are certified to be a teacher, a PR professional, a social worker, etc. That piece of paper and the fact that they get a job doesn't necessarily make them a good fit for the position.

    If a CEO can't lead a software company, s/he gets fired. If a teacher can't lead a classroom, shouldn't the same thing happen?

  2. Dear Anonymous (if that is indeed your real name),

    I couldn't agree with you more. Teachers should be held, and are being held to even higher standards than "the rest of us." Where we disagree is that even the rest of us, should have job protection--that is, laws and collective-bargaining rights that protect us from being thrown out of our jobs without due process.

    BTW, I find your comparison of teachers with software company CEOs somewhat amusing. The last software company CEO I saw fired, got a $200 million golden parachute as he was cleaning out his desk.

  3. I'm surprised you find Rhee's actions to be cynical. I expect her to policies to advance job insecurity, to weaken the teachers union, and to have little to do with educating children.

    What's happened in DC that brought teachers and the union to the point of accepting this situation, that's another question.

  4. The problem is, JD, that reform in D.C. is still contested territory. You may have the right take on Rhee, but to many in the community, she is the savior, riding in on Mayor Fenty's tank to save a corrupt and failed education system.

    She's cynical because she knows that once she gets the union leadership to bite on giving up job protection for a one-time pay raise, she can fire hundreds of veteran teachers without due process and replace them with cheaper TFA types. She can also pull back the raises at any time after breaking the union.

  5. Who's your audience? If it's teachers and unions and parents in other places, we need to know that this is a war, and Rhee's on the other side. "Cynical" would obscure the message.

    But maybe you are writing for a wider audience?

  6. You know. I just completed my 26th year teaching. I am a very dedicated teacher who spends more hours preparing for my class while most people call it quits. I work easily to 6:00 every night. But, my kids get an education. The only security I have is my union. Sure, they'd keep me on. But, there is so much politics to this job it's crazy. The security that other professions have is that there is a bottom line. In the past ten years, I've had four principals. Three loved didn't. To say the least we disliked each other. If it wasn't for my tenure, he'd have probably tried to terminate me. awful principal fires a good teacher. I was selected as a teacher of the year in my district 5 years prior to that. I have been selected as a member of Who's Who Among America's Teachers about 10x. This process involves surveying students in the top 10% of their graduating class to select a teacher who they feel provided the greatest contribution to their academic success. I would consider myself a great success in this profession.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.