All smoke and no fire

Speaking of Los Angeles, over the past fifteen years, the LA Unified School District boasts a total of 159 review cases for firing tenured teachers--159 in fifteen years. (Apparently, there were a few more, but the records have all been destroyed.) At fault is a combination of over-the-top tenure protections, labyrinthine legal procedures that can clock dismissal costs in the six-digits, and review panels that seem to give just about anyone a free pass. These teachers are mocking student suicide attempts, keeping marijuana in their desks, and sleeping with their coworkers in the metalworking shop--and are still in the classroom! Those who have been removed exist in a limbo similar to New York City's "rubber rooms," all on the taxpayer's dime. You might think that United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, would be a bit embarrassed by these revelations, disclosed in a series of Los Angeles Times investigative reports this week. Alas no; it's pushing its luck with an (illegal) strike planned for Advanced Placement test day to protest looming budget cuts and teacher layoffs. "We expect parents to understand that the loss of one day to stop the chaos that would occur with larger class sizes and the laying off of teachers is well worth it," explains UTLA president A.J. Duffy. What parents should understand is that if Mr. Duffy allowed all of the bad teachers to be fired, the district wouldn't have to be laying off many good ones right now.

"Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task," by Jason Song, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2009

"School officials call for legislation easing firing of teachers," by Jason Song, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2009

"L.A. teachers union plans 1-day strike," by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2009

"L.A. Unified pays teachers not to teach," by Jason Song, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2009

"Workday filled by TV, exercise, reading," Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2009

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