Thursday, March 03, 2011

Kausfails Again

Reduced to sleeping in Tucker Carlson's broomcloset, next to Jim Treacher's used medical supplies, Mickey Kaus continues to blather on about his pet hates. Here's his latest post on teachers' unions:

Unionism + Legalism = Government Failure: How to fire a bad Chicago public school teacher in only 2-5 years! …
What’s unclear to me is how much of this daunting procedural labyrinth is written into state law–so it would survive even if Chicago’s teachers unions were stripped of their bargaining power. …

Now Kaus may claim he's not endorsing the accuracy of the chart he links to, but he is. He doesn't say, "worrying, if true." He links to the chart without even acknowledging the possibility it's inaccurate, for the obvious reason he wants it to be true. So let's look at how inaccurate Kaus's thesis is.

First, the chart only applies to tenured teachers, a point Kaus omits. According to this link, teachers in Chicago public schools can only get tenure after three years at a particular school, and the school is not required to give tenure after three years, but can keep a teacher on probation. During the pre-tenure period, a teacher can be fired in 2-5 seconds. So what Kaus is talking about is firing teachers that already have been deemed qualified by their school.

Second, the chart describes the procedure for firing any tenured teacher, not just "bad teachers." Does Kaus think that good teachers should be shitcanned without any due process? He doesn't say. He just pretends that the process only protects bad teachers.

Next, the "2-5 year" claim is not supprted by the linked chart. The Tribune chart says the first stage, "Remediation," takes "1 year." But the "Time Frames" given by the chart for all the steps in the Remediation stage add up to 131-140 days, a little more than 1/3 of a year. The second stage is given a total time frame of "About 4 Months," but the steps only add up to 90 days. The third stage is defined in such vague phrases as "at least 1 month" and "up to 30 days" that it's impossible to give a truly accurate time frame.

Finally, note that "The teacher is fired" comes before the last step in the third stage, before the "2 to 3 year" final phase. The fourth phase involves the teacher filing a civil action for wrongful termination, in which the teacher must prove that the termination was arbitrary, capricious or against the manifest weight of the evidence (a pointless endeavor unless the teacher was terminated for improper reasons). This is like the civil suits terminated workers who are not union employees and who are not teachers and/or public employees can and do file against their former employers all the time.

In summary, the chart does not apply to all teachers, it does not depict a "2-5 year" process before the teacher is fired (according to the chart itself), and the chart's numbers do not add up (according to chart itself). If you accept and add up all the given numbers for the period before the firing, they add up to 306, less than one year.

Maybe Kaus thinks that school districts should be able to sack incompetent, non-performing deadweights as easily Newsweek magazine can (that is, in 4-5 months). But that's how it works in the Chicago public schools too! And Kaus forgets his Wingnut 101, which teaches that public adminstrators (principals, superintendents, etc.( are also evil, parasitic bureaucrats. Are schools better served by a system where administrators have total power over firing, or one which places checks on that power? Don't ask Kaus. He hasn't found an inaccurate chart to answer that question for him.

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