February 15, 2006
Teacher Unions Are Killing the Public Schools
Bosses, have I got an idea for you: Don't pay your best employees
more, don't ease out your least productive workers, and for crying
out loud, never fire anyone, not even for the most blatant misconduct
on the job.
for the public schools, doesn't it?
it doesn't, but since they're government monopolies, they don't
care. They never go out of business. They just keep doing what
they're doing, year after year, churning out class after class
of students handicapped by a poor education.
me wrong -- not all public school teachers are bad. Many are talented
and passionate, even heroic. Many turn down better-paying jobs
because they want to help kids learn. But working hard for public-school
students has to be its own reward, because a lazy teacher is paid
just as much as a good one -- more if he has seniority.
the result? When we asked students about their teachers, some
said things like this:
of the teachers they're like -- they don't really care."
of my teachers tells me he does this for the health benefits."
seen teachers come to school intoxicated."
once won fame as a fighter of monopolies. He worked for the federal
government, and his most famous foe was Microsoft. Now he runs
a monopoly of his own: the New York City public schools. It's
even more arrogant than Microsoft, because its customers have
even less choice.
now presides over a calcified monopoly where it's hard to fire
anyone for anything.
York teacher decided that one of his 16-year-old students was
hot. So he sat down at a computer and sent a sexual e-mail to
admits this," said Klein. "We had the e-mail."
can't fire him?"
impossible because of the rules in the New York schools' 200-page
contract with their teachers. There are so many rules that principals
rarely even try to jump through all the hoops to fire a bad teacher.
It took six years of expensive litigation before the teacher who
wrote Cutee101 was fired. During those six years, he received
more than $300,000 in salary.
down, around, we've paid him," said the chancellor. "He
hasn't taught, but we've had to pay him, because that is what
is required under the contract."
of teachers the city calls incompetent, racist, or dangerous have
been paid millions.
do they do while they get paid? They sit in rubber rooms.
not really made of rubber, of course. They are big, empty rooms
where they store the teachers they are afraid to let near the
kids. The teachers go there and sit, hang around, read magazines,
and waste time. The city pays $20 million a year to house teachers
in rubber rooms.
A new union
contract is supposed to make it easier to fire teachers for sexual
infractions, but the Byzantine rules for other offenses remain.
Insane as most are, some teachers told me they support the firing
rules. "You prove I'm a bad teacher!" said one. "And
if you can't prove it, don't try it!"
on firing teachers are defended as a means of protecting teachers
from favoritism. But if schools and principals had to compete,
good teachers would be protected by competition itself: If a principal's
job depends on having good people working for him, he won't sacrifice
it to give a favored incompetent a job he can't do.
years to fire a teacher doesn't do anyone any good -- except bad
teachers. So why do it? The short answer is unions. The long answer
is next week's column.
JFS Productions, Inc. Distributed by Creators Syndicate