A.J. Duffy's turnaround


music notes photo

Sans union, Duffy sings a different tune
(Photo by Horia Varlan)

Last week, former UTLA president A.J. Duffy dropped jaws, froze Hell,
and launched squealing swine high into the sky when he announced the
creation of his very own charter school, Apple Academy Charter Public
School. The move turned heads for a few reasons, the least of which was
that Duffy vehemently crusaded against charter-school growth as UTLA
president. Furthermore, at Apple Academy, teachers (who will be
unionized) will not be tenured, at least in the traditional sense of the
word. (Teachers with positive performance reviews will receive a degree
of greater job security, but it won’t be granted for life.) Further,
teachers who are “tenured” at Apple Academy can still be fired—with
“due-process” dismissals taking ten days (instead of the seemingly
requisite three years they take now). The move has left even the most
foresighted education pundits guessing as to why. But here’s Gadfly’s
speculation: As head honcho and mouthpiece of UTLA, Duffy was forced to
speak for the collective voice of union members—which meant speaking to
protect the worst among them. With UTLA’s bullhorn retired, Duffy is
free to articulate, and act on, his own opinions—no matter how
inflammatory they are to his ex-union cronies. The lesson for reformers:
As Mike Antonucci has implored forever, we’re naïve to think of union
leaders as independent actors, when in fact they are simply politicians
who must please their base. We ignore the internal political dynamics of
unions at our peril.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Duffy's charter school from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


his charter school, ex-UTLA head would target tenure
,” by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2011.