Oprah, you just let down the nation's schoolteachers.
I just happened to turn on the TV this afternoon when the Oprah show was on. The topic today was some version of how terrible public schools are because bad teachers can't be fired and Unions only help good-for-nothings suck paychecks off the taxpayers.
Okay, the whole show wasn't about that. A lot of the show was about how much better off we'd all be if every public school was a charter school.
I am going to stick to responding to the teacher termination issue, though. One of the guests on the show for this portion of the "presentation" ( I can't call it a discussion since it was so very one-sided) was the chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system (the equivalent of Texas' superintendents), Michelle Rhee. Although Oprah prefaced this section with a statement that she "loves" teachers and is not addressing "good" teachers, she goes on to nod energetically and make disbelieving faces as Rhee talks about how unions protect bad teachers and how it is so very, very difficult to terminate even the worst of teachers. In nearly the same breath Rhee is lauded for terminating nearly 1000 teachers in the district.
Seems to me she's not having any problems at all terminating teachers.
I actually think Rhee is a great leader for the DC school system. She is fearless in ending the status quo and raising the performance bar for everyone, including school administrators, who often escape scrutiny for poor leadership when politicians sit around lamenting the supposedly deplorable state of education.
However, Rhee is just plain wrong about whether teachers should have strong protections. They are protections, not impediments. Rhee admits during the Oprah appearance that the rules were originally enacted for all the right reasons - so how can she fail to acknowledge that all those same reasons still exist? The only difference is that now she's the administrator trying to take fast action without having to follow those very same rules.
Teachers who are not doing their job well can be fired. This is true in every state and the District of Columbia. But they can't be fired without some fair notice and right to be heard in defense. And they can't be fired if the campus administrators never take action, which is the real reason that you will occasionally find teachers in the classroom who shouldn't be there.
Oprah, shame on you for jumping on the business PR bandwagon of bashing the very fair employment rules that apply to most public schoolteachers. Teachers must be treated fairly by their employers. That is not an impediment to providing good public schools. The problems of troubled schools and districts cannot be solved by stripping teachers of fair employment rules. But stripping teachers of fair employment rules can cause a lot of future troubles without even addressing the current ones.
And that will be bad for education.