Education Nation – A Union Leader Reacts
This guest post is an excerpt from a longer piece by Christal Watts, president of the Vallejo Education Association. Like me, Christal was tuned in to the Education Nation Los Angeles Teacher Town Hall webcast earlier today (5/15/11 – archived video available beginning 5/16/11). Her post was generated at near-lightning speed, and she allowed me to cross-post a portion of it here at InterACT, where I expect we’ll have some other California teachers presenting their views as well. Many thanks to Christal for allowing InterACT to use part of her work, and you can read the rest of it, along with more of Christal’s writings, at Five Feet of Feisty.
I reluctantly pointed my browser to today’s Education Nation to watch it online. Last year’s Education Nation appeared to be nothing more than a forum to beat up on public education, teachers and their unions. This webcast felt much more balanced than the small bit I watched last year. There were actual educators on the panels who had experience teaching in public schools mixed in with college professors, charter school teachers and others.
It was great to see Teresa Montano correct the misconception about tenure. As a college professor, she clarified that while she has tenure, school teachers in California do not. Teachers in California receive permanent status after two years (not the five years that was stated incorrectly by the panel) and the right to due process. They are not, despite claims to the contrary, guaranteed a job for life.
I would like for someone to explain that if teachers had a job guarantee for life, why we have seen a decimation of our teaching force over the past three years due to budget cuts. Doesn’t seem so cushy and guaranteed to me.
The one thing in the debate about public education that continues to come up is the myth of the bad teacher. One young teacher brought up two scenarios of supposed bad teachers and how parents complain about these teachers, but they still have a job. The message is clear to those not in know that it is the union that is protecting these teachers.
Word to wise, there is nothing that I hate more as a union leader than to be charged with protecting bad teachers when I know for a fact that it is often the district that is doing nothing (and I mean NOTHING) to even attempt to remove them. When a teacher is given an unsatisfactory evaluation year after year, given access to work with Peer Assistance and Review program and refuses, the District has pretty good cause to move towards removing this teacher. This is something that I’ve seen happen in my district – and guess what? That teacher is still in the classroom.
One of the highlights for me is when one panelist, Aisha Blanchard-Young, pointed out the false dichotomy of young, good teacher vs. old bad teacher. Too often in these debates when one refers to a bad teacher, bad=old. This is something I really detest because I think it is one of our faults as Americans. We do not place value on age and experience; instead we buy into the Hollywood version that youth is equivalent to everything that is good, including smarts, energy, and innovation.