If you or I are doing a bad job, we can generally be fired. Certain procedures might have to be followed; a cause might have to be proved. But most of us work with the incentive that if we do a bad enough job, we’ll be let go.
It’s different for public school teachers in California (and for many teachers elsewhere). If they can manage to not utterly disgrace themselves in the first year and a half of working, they get locked in to “permanent employment” status.
If their performance later becomes so disgraceful that the “permanent employment” status could be overridden, the process of trying to firing them is so annoying, expensive, and time consuming that their bosses often don’t bother. And when teachers have to be laid off for financial reasons, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they’ll get canned before someone who has any seniority over them, no matter how bad these other teachers are, due to the state’s “last in, first out” (LIFO) rules for teachers.
These policies make it difficult and expensive to fire teachers and make the teacher body as a whole in California public schools of lower quality than it would otherwise be. Do those problems with quality and expense constitute a violation of California students’ constitutional rights to an education? Court proceedings in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County, in the case of Vergara v. California, may settle that question.
Nine public school students, with the support of the educational rights activist group Students Matter (funded by optical telecommunications systems millionaire David Welch) filed suit in May 2012 against California and several of its educational agencies. As the students’ lawyers stated in a court filing opposed to the defendants’ (failed) motion for summary judgment, the rules they are challenging “prevent California’s school districts from providing even a minimally acceptable education to some of California’s most vulnerable students because they effectively prohibit school districts from prioritizing, or meaningfully considering, the interests of their students when making critical teacher employment decisions.”
And this next part is important: “As a direct result…school districts are forced to place failing teachers—those who are often well known to be either unable or unwilling to perform their jobs in even a minimally satisfactory manner—in classrooms where they perform miserably year after year in teaching California’s students. Students taught by these grossly ineffective teachers are missing out on half or more of the learning that students taught by average teachers receive in a school year, leaving them far behind their peers and placing the quality of the rest of their lives in jeopardy.”
The student-plaintiffs range in age from eight to 17, including boys and girls, white, black, and Hispanic. Most of them expressed in declarations to the court either bad experiences with bad teachers and/or having great teachers pushed out for lack of seniority. While the plaintiffs did not choose to sue any teachers unions, two of them, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers, pushed their way into the case as “intervenors,” claiming their interests were at stake.
In the past decade, the plaintiffs said in a press release, only 91 teachers have been successfully dismissed in the state, and most of those were for “egregious conduct,” with only 19 booted for unsatisfactory educational performance. This would make California’s teachers a miraculously effective and competent set of workers if the numbers reflected reality rather than their extraordinary political power. They’ve scuttled past attempts to institute databases that would help monitor student academic performances and link it to teachers’ performances, and even attempts to make it easier to fire teachers accused of sexual abuse.
After three failed attempts to get the Vergara case killed on the part of the defendants, the trial began [in late January] in front of Judge Rolf Michael Treu, who will decide the case without a jury. (Whichever side loses will undoubtedly appeal up to the California Supreme Court.) Among the lawyers for the students is the team that helped overthrow California’s ban on same sex marriage at the federal Supreme Court in Hollingworth v. Perry, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Theodore Boutros.
The hiring and firing rules for teachers are a result of some unparalleled political power; while teachers unions have complained about the suit being funded by a politically interested millionaire, the CTA is the biggest, richest political force in the state, spending in the ‘00s more than $211 million on political giving and lobbying—nearly twice the amount of the nearest competitor in political influence, the Service Employees International Union. …
John Deasy, the superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District, has testified for the plaintiffs in the trial, lamenting an average cost of $350,000 and an occasional time period of 10 years to get rid of a crummy teacher. The result, Deasy says, does indeed damage students’ ability to get an equal or quality education.
The NYPD tried to start a hashtag outpouring of positive memories with their police force.
If this were ever a bad idea, it was probably the worst idea for arguably the most corrupt police force in America.
What the person running the Twitter account probably failed to realize is that most people’s interactions with the cops fall into a few categories:
1. You are talking to them to get help after you or someone you knew was robbed, beaten, murdered, or sexually assaulted.
2. You are getting arrested.
3. You are getting beaten by the police.
In category 1, you are probably not going to be like, “Oh, let me take a selfie with you fine officers so I can remember this moment,” and the other two categories are not things that the NYPD would like people on social media talking about. Additionally, the people who use Twitter a lot (and who aren’t Sonic the Hedgehog roleplayers) are the type who love fucking with authority figures. In any case, #myNYPD quickly became a trending topic in the United States, largely because people were tweeting and retweeting horrific images of police brutality perpetrated by New York City cops.
On the same day the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its findings on civil rights violations at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), the city told its Police Oversight Commission (POC) that it couldn’t rule against whatever the police chief decides about complaints against cops.
Three members of the commission complained about their toothlessness in letters of resignation this week. Via KOAT:"The city attorney’s office addressed the POC on April 10, 2014, and stated that we have no power to decide against the APD Chief or against the independent review officer’s findings regarding citizens’ complaints," reads [one of the quitting members, Jonathan] Siegel’s letter. "I cannot continue to pretend or deceive the members of our community into believing that our city has any real civilian oversight."
The city’s response pointed to the DOJ’s findings about the role an “effective” oversight commission can play and said the government was “hopeful” the City Council would work with the DOJ on “continued efforts to reform and implement needed changes.” The DOJ, in fact, called Albuquerque’s “broken civilian oversight process” one of the “deficiencies” that contributed to the use of excessive force. No charges were announced by the DOJ in conjunction with the findings of a pattern and practice of excessive force by members of the APD.
The fight over robust civilian oversight’s an old story in Albuquerque. As the Washington Post Radley Balko explains at The Watch blog, the cycle of police abuse, cover-up, and scandal has been going on for some time. One reform- minded police chief brought in in 1998 to fix that generation’s problem of police abuse was then railroaded out of the department just three years later with the help of Albuquerque voters.
Over easy plebeian sheesh
Months after lifting a veil of secrecy from the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, The Washington Post and The Guardian won a Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday.
Journalism, you’re doing it right.
Joe Russo, co-director of the new Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, on the critique his film includes of the President and the war on terror.
I wasn’t super interested in seeing this one in theaters — I’m more of an Iron Man girl, myself — but I think this just changed my mind.(via hipsterlibertarian)
We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.
So the new Captain America movie, which I saw last night, explicitly associates the U.S. security state with World War II-era fascism. I’ll refrain from explaining how so as to avoid spoilers, but it’s fairly obvious and jarring when it occurs in the film (or at least I thought it was).