The Blog

Teachers Unions Really Are the Worst

5:01 PM, Feb 17, 2010 • By SONNY BUNCH
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

It's kind of shocking how awful teachers unions are and how self-defeating they tend to be. Consider one story about Rhode Island teachers who bit off more than they could chew when they refused to work an extra half hour a day: The entire union was canned from their $70,000 per year jobs for balking at the extra duty.

That success story is the exception, however: Most school districts have to jump through ridiculous hoops to get rid of poorly performing teachers. Last year, the New Yorker had an excellent write up of New York City’s “rubber rooms.” What, pray tell, is a rubber room?

It’s a June morning, and there are fifteen people in the room, four of them fast asleep, their heads lying on a card table. Three are playing a board game. Most of the others stand around chatting. Two are arguing over one of the folding chairs. But there are no children here. The inhabitants are all New York City schoolteachers who have been sent to what is officially called a Temporary Reassignment Center but which everyone calls the Rubber Room.

These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.

The teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day—which is pretty much nothing at all.

It’s a good thing the union is there to protect these awful teachers and drain the school systems! Don’t worry, New York City isn’t alone; Los Angeles has its own share of trouble getting rid of terrible teachers:

But the far larger problem in L.A. is one of "performance cases" — the teachers who cannot teach, yet cannot be fired. Their ranks are believed to be sizable — perhaps 1,000 teachers, responsible for 30,000 children. But in reality, nobody knows how many of LAUSD's vast system of teachers fail to perform. Superintendent Ramon Cortines tells the Weekly he has a "solid" figure, but he won't release it. In fact, almost all information about these teachers is kept secret.

But the Weekly has found, in a five-month investigation, that principals and school district leaders have all but given up dismissing such teachers. In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district's 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance — and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000.

It really is kind of stunning just how much money, time, and manpower is wasted on eliminating teachers who can’t do the job anymore – or never could in the first place.

Recent Blog Posts