Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Note To Frank Bruni: Maybe Work Protections For Teachers Would Have Helped?

Last August Frank Bruni was won over by the anti-teachers union/pro-parent trigger propaganda film "Won't Back Down."

Frank loved the film and it's anti-teachers union message so much that he managed to miss how bad the film itself was - something the rest of the country did notice.  The movie was one of the lowest grossing films ever.

No matter - Frank ate the whole thing up and crowed about both the film and it's anti-teachers union message in his Times column:

“Won’t Back Down” tells the David-versus-Goliath story of a single mother, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who leads a rebellion to wrest control of her daughter’s persistently abysmal public elementary school from local officials. It’s scheduled for release next month, although it was shown to Weingarten a few weeks ago. I saw it on Wednesday. 

And it actually takes pains to portray many teachers as impassioned do-gooders who are as exasperated as parents are by the education system’s failures — and by uncaring colleagues in their midst. But I understand Weingarten’s upset. The union that represents one of those do-gooders (Viola Davis) has lost its way, resisting change, resorting to smear tactics and alienating the idealists in its ranks. What’s more, some of the people who are assertively promoting “Won’t Back Down” are those who cast teachers’ unions as a titanic impediment to the improvement of public education. So “Won’t Back Down” is emerging as the latest front in the continuing war between those unions and their legions of critics, and it has become yet another example of how negatively those unions are viewed.
“When did Norma Rae get to be the bad guy?” asks a union leader (Holly Hunter) in the movie. I don’t know, but that’s indeed the state of play when it comes to teachers’ unions, and it’s a dangerous one. 
Over the years, the teachers’ unions have indeed guarded tenure protections and last-in-first-out layoff practices to a zealous degree that could at times seem indifferent to the welfare of schoolchildren. “We bear a lot of responsibility for this,” Weingarten told me in a phone interview on Friday. “We were focused — as unions are — on fairness and not as much on quality.” And they’ve sometimes shown a spectacular blindness to public sensitivities in their apparent protection of certain embattled teachers in given instances.

Frank goes on to write that teachers need to be more flexible and give up their work protections like seniority and tenure in order to make the public education system better.

Because it's work protections like seniority and tenure that cause all the problems in schools, don'tcha know!

That was August.

Here is Bruni this week in the Times:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — No one at the Catholic high school that fired Carla Hale in March claimed that she was anything less than a terrific physical education teacher and coach, devoted to the kids and adored by many of them. 

No one accused her of bringing her personal life into the gym or onto the fields. By nature she’s private. And she loved her job too much to risk it that way. 

But she lost it nonetheless, and the how is as flabbergasting as the why is infuriating. 

Rather suddenly, her mother died, and an hour afterward, she and her brother numbly went through the paces of a standard obituary, listing survivors. Her brother included his wife. So Carla included her partner, Julie, whom her mother had known well and loved. Leaving Julie out would have been unthinkable, though Carla didn’t really think it through at the time. Her grief was still raw. 

A parent of one of the school’s students spotted the obituary, and wrote an anonymous letter to the school and to the Diocese of Columbus, saying that they couldn’t allow a woman like Carla to educate Catholic children. 

So they don’t, not anymore. In a termination notice, the principal explained that Carla’s “spousal relationship violates the moral laws of the Catholic Church.” That was the sum of the stated grievance against her, and after more than 18 years at Bishop Watterson High School, Carla, 57, was done. 

Frank's upset, and rightfully so, that a "terrific physical education teacher and coach," one who was "devoted to the kids and adored many of them" was fired for being a lesbian and living with her partner.

Frank notes the hypocrisy of the church over this and reports that "Neither the federal government nor Ohio outlaws employment discrimination based on sexual orientation," though the city of Columbus does. 

Still, Frank writes, Hale's lawyer is not sure whether the Columbus statute can be applied to religious groups.

I wonder, did Frank consider how a union with its work protections - including outlawing employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation - could have saved Hale her job?

Because they could have.

Frank doesn't like teachers unions in general and doesn't like work protections like seniority or tenure for teachers in particular, so it probably didn't occur to him that what happened to Hale is Exhibit A for why teachers need work protections like seniority and tenure.

But the truth is, the fewer work protections teachers have across the country, the more these kinds of firings will take place.

Frank is rightly outraged Hale was fired from a Catholic school for being a lesbian.

But if Frank Bruni gets his way on work protections for teachers in public schools, you can bet some teachers will be fired from the public schools for the same reason in the near future.

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