Wednesday, June 11, 2014

California Court Vergara v. California teacher tenure decision's significance – missing history from a tragic historic moment

Cal Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu's decision in the Silicon Valley mogul David Welch engineered case, Vergara v. California (ruling here) is one more ominious siege against teachers in the reformers' national war on teachers. This bodes terribly for teachers. Privitizing operatives such as Michelle Rhee are sure to exploit this case for future campaigns.

Teachers are already under siege, with high stakes test score-based evaluations, with the Danielson Framework and other evaluation regimens, demeaning a once noble profession, with micro-managing that brings a whole new meaning to Frederick Winslow Taylor's legacy of scientific management.

This could only happen in a climate in which the leading teachers union federations, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have not spoken up against the central philosophy and assumptions of the neo-liberal or neo-conservative privatizers. Regarding the neo-liberals, note that Arne Duncan, Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama's Secretary of Education endorsed the judge's decision, enthusiastically so, as reported by the New York Times. California Democratic Congressman George Miller cheered the decision, as reported by the Washington Post. Instead, the top business union oriented teacher union leaders have only piece-meal spoken up, only too late, as in the present case.

Union leaders must cite the fundamental relationship between class and academic performance. In the face of an ongoing attack on teachers which exclusively cites the classroom teacher as the determinant of classroom performance, union leaders have been silent. They have failed to cite the literature that demonstrates a direct correlation of levels of parental income and student performance, as noted here. Growing numbers of commentators and researchers are recognizing the factor of family income as noted here.

The top union leaders have been aloof from the California case, treating it as a minor mosquito bite. They have failed to make the case to the public for why tenure is important, they have failed to, thoroughly in a pronounced public campaign, make the case that tenure is simply a means to ensure that there is due process in cases of teacher dismissal.

Silence on the history of tenure
Furthermore, the top union leaders have failed to cite the historical presidence for tenure. Indeed, the concept reaches as far back as 1158. And its modern form has its roots in early 1800s Harvard College.

No, the top teachers union leaders have not spoken up, because they have been insulated from the recent experience of working in the classroom, as the rank and file. They do not feel the insecurity and deskilling and deprofessionalization that teachers in contemporary America feel.  They, with their top two percent salaries in the mid 200,000s plus level, salaries exceeding those earned by U.S. cabinet secretaries, do not live the 98 percent experience.