Torlakson says real problem is low teacher pay, not tenure

Torlakson says real problem is low teacher pay, not tenure

torlaksonThis was predictable: Friday’s announcement that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wanted an appeal of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu’s ruling that teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional because they funnel the worst teachers to struggling schools with mostly minority students. (He got his way.)

But Torlakson’s specific reaction to the finalizing of the ruling was less predictable. Remember the context here: From President Barack Obama on down, many Democrats have said tenure laws are unfair to minorities and need to be changed. They may not call them unconstitutional and compare modern schools to those seen in segregated black America of the Jim Crow era. But they don’t like them.

Torlakson, however, didn’t even acknowledge this sentiment. Instead, he offered this comment:

“We do not fault doctors when emergency rooms are full. We do not criticize the firefighters whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.”

So the real problem, you see, is that taxes are too low!

Teacher is most important classroom ‘resource’

There are two huge problems with this argument. The first is that the most important “resource,” so far as a student is concerned, is the teacher. And kids in minority schools are far more likely to have teachers who barely make the grade or who don’t even teach in the subject they were trained to teach. The second is that it’s pretty galling for a teachers union supporter to complain about adequate resources which the overwhelming majority of the operating budgets in most California school districts goes to compensation, primarily for teachers. In San Diego Unified, the state’s second largest school district, 92 percent of the operating budget goes to compensation.

brochure04_MyCTASo Torlakson’s reaction to the problems outlined during the Vergara trial amounts to saying the real problem is that teachers aren’t paid enough!

As for the CTA and the CFT, the real issue here isn’t about all the poor teachers that are foisted on the students who most need good teachers. Instead, it’s about a right wing plot to shut down discussion of topics important to well-meaning Californians:

A law firm representing the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers asserted that without tenure and other protections, teachers “may not teach topics such as Islam or global warming that might be considered controversial.”

Oh, my.

Establishment: Teachers matter, students don’t

I am skeptical the Vergara case will stand up on the appeal filed by the state. The bad laws Treu wants banned are effectively anti-minority, but not explicitly, and I think that point will rescue the CTA and CFT at some point.

Nevertheless, this has been a very worthy lawsuit. It underlines how horrible the California education status quo has become, and how relentlessly it sides with the needs of teachers over those of students.

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