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Chait Hates Teachers’ Unions! To the Fainting Couch!

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Diane-Ravitch-Reign-of-Error

There must have been some future teachers in activist groups at the University of Michigan 25 years ago, because Chait is taking ill-informed and gratuitous shots at teachers’ unions, blaming them for opposing an Obama administration plan:

The policy fight in question is an Obama administration proposal to require school districts to use Title I funds to help their poorest schools more than their richest ones. (Even within a school districts, more affluent schools often spend more per child than poorer schools.) Not surprisingly, organizations like the NAACP, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Council of La Raza support this idea. Also unsurprisingly, Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee, opposes it. What may be surprising to some is who has joined Alexander: the two giant teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, who have signed a letter supporting Alexander.

Why would the unions oppose a plan to shift resources to poor public schools? Because one of the reasons for the disparity in funding between rich and poor schools is the structure of teacher contracts, which tie compensation to length of tenure. As Kevin Carey explains, imposing federal requirements on how districts spend money can be “disruptive” to these existing contracts. What’s more, unions have grown deeply opposed to a stronger federal role in public education. The Obama administration has used federal education funding as a lever to drive evidence-based reforms in education. And those reforms have often changed policies unions would like to keep in place — especially the longstanding practice of teacher tenure, which pays teachers on the basis of years served (rather than how well they teach), makes replacing ineffective teachers nearly impossible, and requires that layoffs be conducted on a last-in-first-out basis.

And so unions have increasingly defined their agenda as a defense of “local control” against — though they’re too delicate to use the term — big government. Diane Ravitch, the pro-teacher union activist, has written Wall Street Journal editorials repeating the “local control” mantra, and urging Republicans to roll back Obama’s reforms. On her blog, you can find Ravitch cheering on Alexander’s challenge to Obama’s education secretary, John King and hosting columns with titles like “The Federal Government Is the Enemy of Public Schools.” If they were not being made on behalf of a union, nobody would mistake these ideas for anything other than conservatism.

Chait might cry about Diane Ravitch saying mean things about Obama’s terrible education policy, but he evidently never got past the title, which is about the disaster of charter schools and No Child Left Behind. In this case, the federal government is indeed the enemy of public schools.

To say the least, Chait is misconstruing the arguments of the teachers’ unions. The argument about protecting their own contracts is not what Chait makes it out to be. It’s not as if the teachers’ unions have negotiated massively better contracts in rich school districts than in poor ones. Note where Chait plays around to make it look like the argument is about money:

Because one of the reasons for the disparity in funding between rich and poor schools is the structure of teacher contracts, which tie compensation to length of tenure. As Kevin Carey explains, imposing federal requirements on how districts spend money can be “disruptive” to these existing contracts.

This is disingenuous. If you link on the Carey piece, here’s what he writes:

Marguerite Roza, a Georgetown University scholar, has found that many districts spend up to a third less per pupil in poor schools compared with others. This can happen for various reasons: because wealthy parents unduly influence budget allocations, for example. It can also happen because most teachers are paid using collectively bargained salary schedules that reward longevity. Senior teachers tend to cluster in wealthy schools, while schools where many children are poor often churn through large numbers of novice, badly paid teachers.

But fixing such funding inequities can be expensive, as well as disruptive to longstanding arrangements of which teachers get to be in which schools. That’s why the unions, districts and state leaders wrote the letter urging Mr. King to “refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law” — the essence of regulation — “especially as it relates to the ‘supplement, not supplant’ provision.”

This has nothing to do with money. It has a lot to do with two things Chait does not address. First, it’s about working conditions. The reality is that it’s easier for teachers to work in wealthier school districts or, more relevantly given how teacher employment works, in wealthier schools within the same district. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that experienced teachers leave poor schools for this reason, but on a personal level, who doesn’t understand this? Second, it has to do with the growing connections between test scores and employment. I and others have talked about how tying test scores to employment gives teachers additional incentive to get out of poor schools. Yet Chait doesn’t mention this at all, a policy he supports and castigates teacher unions for opposing.

It’s fine if you want to oppose the teachers’ unions on the policy question here. It’s really complicated. What needs to happen in education policy is that the pie needs to be larger, with the extra money going to poor schools. But that’s not going to happen. Chait admits the other issue, and in fact the only thing that is actually going to create equality of opportunity in education: fighting poverty.

Defenders of the status quo do have arguments, sort of. For instance, Laura Moser argued recently that teacher-tenure rules may be bad, but “the fight over teacher tenure is something of a red herring if you believe, as I tend to, that the real scourge of public schools isn’t bad teaching, but poverty and (re)segregation.” It is true that eliminating poverty, and finding a way to get rich and poor families to live side-by-side would do a great deal of good for the public-education system. But, on the off chance that this doesn’t get accomplished in the near term, the choice is to use the government to help poor students as effectively as possible in an unequal society, or leave them at the mercy of a system that is failing them.

Yes, actually, alleviating poverty is far and away the most important piece of the solution to school inequality. If Chait spent more time attacking Republicans for their many pro-poverty policies, this would be a lot more useful. Instead, he goes after unions, who are doing what unions are supposed to do, which is protect their own members. Right now, their members have some leeway to choose the school where they work. Why would they give that back in exchange for nothing but more testing and more firings for working in poor schools? I’m sure some 22 year old Teach for America kid straight out of Brown with no training can just replace those teachers!

When reading people like Chait, the question that comes to mind is, “How does he think liberal change actually takes place?” He and so many other nominally left-of-center pundits routinely define themselves as taking the most possibly left position and attacking anyone to the left of that. That’s because, I think, they have dreams of setting policy from nice offices in Washington, creating the Great Society without talking to any of the people this will affect, all no doubt while wearing great suits the likes of which they saw Don Draper wear. But if you want to create liberal policy, and if you look at the history of successful liberal policy making, what has to happen is on the ground activism. That means people in the streets, it means having buy-in from affected people, it means making deals with labor unions or even encouraging unions to take leading roles. The Social Security Act didn’t happen because FDR and Frances Perkins thought it was the right thing. The same with the National Labor Relations Act. LBJ didn’t push for the Civil Rights Act because he thought it was just good policy making. All of these things take social and political pressure from below. And people like Jonathan Chait hate the thought of that because activists can be intense and sometimes say mean things and yell a lot and might oppose you when you are a good smart college newspaper writer.

It’s not as if the teacher unions oppose better schools for poor kids. They think the Obama administration’s ideas are bad for their members. They want more money for poor schools. They don’t want to get fired for teaching in conditions that are out of their control. They reject the testing regime that is failing our students, forcing first graders to spend hours doing test-taking exercises where they once had recess and art. This is a disaster. Teachers’ unions oppose it. I think the Obama administration’s approach here is bad, as it has been on public education through its entire tenure. I think there could be compromises here–providing financial incentives for good teachers to teach in poor districts, disconnecting test scores from employment, etc. But of course, that’s not going to happen because the administration believes in Rheeism. So does Chait. They are both wrong.

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  • sharculese

    Shorter Chait: I got a B in AP Literature and I’ve never forgotten it.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Awww, c’mon, Sharc, there’s more than a little something to Chait’s argument. Its been well known for a long time that rich districts pay teachers better. And Lamar Alexander, whom the teacher unions lobbied, sure make its sounds like this is strictly about dollars, dollars, dollars, y’all. From the original NYT piece:

      The week after the lobbyist letter, Mr. Alexander hauled Mr. King into a public hearing and dressed him down. Citing a different provision, he said, “The law specifically says that school districts shall not include teacher pay when they measure spending for purposes of comparability.” If Mr. King refused to back down, he would encourage states to sue, Mr. Alexander said.

      • Bill Murray

        but much of this story is about pay within the same district

        • ThrottleJockey

          Yeah, and that too.

      • sharculese

        It’s possible for Chait to come up with a coherent argument about teachers, but at this point I assume anything he writes on the subject is rationalized post hoc because his hatred for the profession is just so visceral. His disgust for teachers was the final straw in convincing me that maybe he wasn’t a voice I needed to be reading.

        • MPAVictoria

          “His disgust for teachers was the final straw in convincing me that maybe he wasn’t a voice I needed to be reading.”

          This. A thousand times this.

    • cpinva

      “Shorter Chait: I got a B in AP Literature and I’ve never forgotten it.”

      (slightly) Longer Chait: I’m a complete dick, and still can’t get a gig on FOX!

  • Linnaeus

    That’s because, I think, they have dreams of setting policy from nice offices in Washington, creating the Great Society

    I’ve been thinking this myself for a while – to folks like Chait, good policy is enacted by getting the Right People together in the Right Place at the Right Time. Any other influences on policy and/or politics are either superfluous or harmful.

    • so-in-so

      In “quiet rooms”? Sounds familiar.

    • Rob in CT

      I’ve probably indulged in that sort of fantasy a few times.

      • Linnaeus

        Which is understandable; expertise in politics and policy does matter. It’s just not all that matters.

        • And of course the teachers’ unions are also experts in these policies.

          • jamesepowell

            According to reformers, the people who must never be consulted on eduction policies are teachers unions. They are expected to agree with and agree to implement whatever policies the non-teachers develop and impose.

            According to reformers, every single education policy and packaged curriculum would work perfectly – I mean we’d be producing Einsteins by the thousands – if only we could get rid of teachers’ unions.

            • Hogan

              It does seem odd that we keep hiring the people who know least about teaching to work as teachers. Someone should figure out why that keeps happening.

    • sharculese

      Chait is like a mirror version of some of our leftier trolls here, where you get the impression that the thing they like about politics is that it’s a really great venue for being an asshole to people who have a different politics than you. For those guys (and most of them are guys) getting things done almost feels at best secondary and at worst superfluous.

      • kped

        +10000000

        Was thinking the exact same thing. Although, Chait does have more good moments than someone like FdB, who only exists to criticize those on the left-but-not-left-enough scale. I think Chait is occasionally good on certain topics, a lot of the leftier than thou types never even engage anything outside of the sweet smell of their own farts.

        • MPAVictoria

          If I HAD to pick between Chait and FdB I would take FdB….

          • kped

            I’d pick Chait. He at least mostly goes after the real threats. FdB only goes after liberals who aren’t as left as him. And honestly, that’s just fucking useless to any movement.

            • Aaron Morrow

              The real threat of black people who aren’t conservative “political correctness?”

          • Origami Isopod

            I’ll take someone who doesn’t harass women on the internet, thanks.

      • TroubleMaker13

        the thing they like about politics is that it’s a really great venue for being an asshole to people who have a different politics than you. For those guys (and most of them are guys) getting things done almost feels at best secondary and at worst superfluous.

        Thank you for writing this. This is, IMHO, THE definitive take on the Jacobin/DeBoer scene. I’m on the fence though with your use of “almost” in that last sentence.

        • Are you telling me Connor Kilpatrick is spending more time attacking people he doesn’t like than figuring out hard policy questions?

          • TroubleMaker13

            Deleted. I don’t want to get into this.

        • From what I can tell, other than Breunig most of those guys aren’t even in DC, they’re mostly in NYC, and have never done anything in politics. Can’t remember who it was–may actually have been Kilpatrick–tweeted out a few weeks ago how grateful he was that through the Sanders campaign they learned so much about canvassing and phone banking. I noted that evidently they weren’t too concerned with preventing McCain or Romney from being elected, because they must not have done any canvassing or phone banking in 2008 or 2012.

          • TroubleMaker13

            The real tell is even more straight-forward than that. There is no blow to low to swing at liberals too insufficiently left for their taste. Cruel personal remarks, sexist innuendo, baiting 4chan hordes to pile on– it’s all fair game in their bullshit king-of-the-left-twitter-mountain campaign. No punches pulled here. Moral restraint and tone policing is for suckers.

            But when it comes to actually standing up to the greatest fascist threat this country has faced in decades by say, making common cause with folks who share +50% of your agenda, or pulling on the one measly little lever you have at your disposal for measurable change by casting a strategic vote for a neoliberal? HOW FUCKING DARE YOU expect them to sully their precious moral integrity, purer than the driven snow.

            Fake. Ass. Posers.

            • Colin Day

              Fake. Ass. Posers.

              So, they’re FAPpers?

    • It’s the common liberal wonky fantasy often revealed by Chait, the Vox crew, Weisberg, Kinsley, etc. They think it’s impossible to get good policy when you have self-interested players, like unions and their members, involved in the process. They also think they’re smarter than the union people. Here are two of the many problems with this.

      First, these guys are are all rabidly individualistic. The idea that something good could come out of people acting in solidarity is impossible for their to imagine. Especially when, you know, those union people aren’t as smart as the cognoscenti.

      Second, they can’t see teachers unions as anything other than inefficient means of self-enrichment for the members. That teachers use their union power to advance policy purely on the grounds of them caring about their students, their jobs (and for many a calling), and about the policies, is unfathomable to them.

      • Worth noting, btw, that Chait went to Bloomfield Hills Andover HS, which was then (and maybe is still) one of the best public schools in the state, and located in one of the wealthiest communities in the state. It’s where Ann Romney’s dad was mayor, and where Mitt Romney grew up (although Mitt went to Cranbrook Academy, just down the road a few miles from Andover). He had about the best public education one could possible have in Michigan, and one that was probably rivaled by only a few dozen public schools in the entire country.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Which is why he knows that rich districts can afford to hire the best teachers.

          • Rob in CT

            AFAIK, as Erik noted in the post, it’s not really the money. Teaching in an affluent area is a lot easier/nicer than teaching in a poverty-stricken area. The $$ might be the same or even lower, depending.

            • Rob in CT

              I just did some quick research. Pay for the teachers in my town is actually slightly below the state average. My town isn’t hugely affluent, but it’s above average. Granted, some of this may be because we only have a K-6 school, so…

              I also checked our neighboring town that has the regional middle/high. Their figures come out just a smidge above the state average figures (~4%). That town is slightly more affluent than mine.

              Now the question is: how long has the average teacher been teaching in these districts as compared to the state average? That figure I didn’t find.

              If experienced teachers leave for more affluent districts, they might make somewhat more, but because they’re more experienced. If they stayed they’d also make more, wouldn’t they?

            • ThrottleJockey

              So the unions reasons for not including salaries when comparing districts though salaries are a leading expense???

          • Nope. District where I grew up is lower middle class, decent amount of poverty for a nearly all white suburb, and the avg teacher salary there is about equal to Bloomfield Hills. Just north of Bloomfield Hills is Pontiac, where the average is about $10K per year less, but there’s a higher percentage of teacher who’ve been in the district less than five years, so they’ll be benefitting on average less from seniority than the rich district teachers.

            The main differences in funding aren’t teacher salaries. It’s that richer districts have more school psychologists and social workers and speech pathologists and reading specialists. They have more physical eduction and arts teachers. They have better and newer books and materials, more stable budgets, full athletics and fine arts and travel programs, better computers and libraries, and much nicer equipment and facilities.

            • ThrottleJockey

              The Times says salaries are a messing expense. Not true?

          • James B. Shearer

            Which is why he knows that rich districts can afford to hire the best teachers.

            Within the range commonly found in the US teachers have little effect on student performance. The difference in outcomes between rich districts and poor districts is mostly due to the students not the teachers. If you traded teachers between a typical rich district and a typical poor district it would make little difference in results.

            So trying to rate teachers based on student performance is a bad idea. Because teachers have little effect on student outcomes it is hard to distinguish the good ones and it doesn’t make much difference even if you could.

            • The difference in outcomes between rich districts and poor districts is mostly due to the students not the teachers.

              Although there are differences in charters that have robust programs to help the kids beyond the classroom, like school psychologists and social workers. Those results, of course, are’t a testament to charters, they’re evidence that a big spending increase per child can change outcomes from students in poverty.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Do you realize how many times conservatives have made this argument? Poor kids, they say, don’t need the same amount of money for computers and teachers because parental SES (and their genes) are what makes the biggest difference.

              Thanks, but, like pop always said, I’ll take the money.

              • James B. Shearer

                This is a question that can be answered empirically. Not all the students in rich districts are from rich families and not all students in poor districts are from poor families. If you look at how the students do whether they are from a rich family is much more important than whether they are attending a rich school district. To the extent that attending a rich district helps the evidence is that this is mostly due to peer effects, students do better when their fellow students are doing better.

                You can advocate for equal spending for reasons of justice but the evidence is it won’t make much difference in terms of outcomes.

                • Jordan

                  cites please

                • James B. Shearer

                  See the 1966 Coleman report and many studies since. From page 21-22:


                  The first finding is that the schools are remarkably similar in the way they relate to the achievement of their pupils when the socioeconomic background of the students is taken into account. It is known that socioeconomic factors bear a strong relation to academic achievement. When these factors are statistically controlled, however, it appears that differences between schools account for only a small fraction of differences in pupil achievement.

          • Hogan

            Of course. It’s not like there’s any other way to figure that out.

      • Linnaeus

        It’s like they see themselves as the next incarnation of turn of the 20th century Progressives, who were very serious disinterested professionals who just knew how to get things done, not like those crazy radical Populists.

        • They definitely do, minus the eugenics.

          • Origami Isopod

            Give it time.

            I wish I were joking.

            • Nah. Sure, you can have Ezra respond to criticism that Vox was almost entirely white by saying he tried to find qualified minority candidates but didn’t find any. But not only because many of them are Jewish, but also because they’re not odious creatures, they’re not going to veer off in to weird racism. From what I see they all (rightly) think Kaus is an unpleasant buffoon.

              • Aaron Morrow

                On the one hand, Andrew Sullivan went there twenty years ago, if that counts.
                On the other hand, many writers at Vox have mocked people complaining about “political correctness.”

                You’re both right!

                • Sullivan isn’t like the Vox crew or most of those others. He’s a Tory who supported Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Second, they can’t see teachers unions as anything other than inefficient means of self-enrichment for the members. That teachers use their union power to advance policy purely on the grounds of them caring about their students, their jobs (and for many a calling), and about the policies, is unfathomable to them.

        Running a union based on what’s best for the customer instead of what’s best for the union is a pretty bad way to run a union. Unions exist, first and foremost, to promote the interests of its members. You may as well as say that Police Unions only want whats best for criminals, not what’s best for them.

        And this really proves it. Teacher Unions: “Forget about the poor and minority kids getting short shrift, just keep those rich district checks coming.” I appreciate their honesty on the subject.

        As we saw in California’s recent litigation poor districts get stuck with inexperienced teachers because rich districts buy up all the good ones.

        • I stopped reading at “customer.” Anything after that is based on a bad premise.

          • I stopped reading at “customer.”

            Oh, you shouldn’t have! Just one sentence further on (at the end of the same paragraph): “You may as well as say that Police Unions only want what[‘]s best for criminals, not what’s best for them.” Yes! “criminals” are the “customers” of the police. You heard it here first.

            • I was confident someone would fill me in on whatever I missed. Thanks, Lee.

              • ThrottleJockey

                “Criminals” is what they call blacks…. But I really don’t think Police Unions want what’s best for us, or even “voters”more generally.

                But you think otherwise, eh?

                • Colin Day

                  You may be misreading Lee Rudolph. Lee was saying that teacher unions no more stand up for students than police unions stand up for criminals (or even citizens), not that police unions stand up for citizens.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Yep, I used that word instead of student for a reason. If any other union argued that it promoted the best interests of their customers over their own members we’d laugh them out of town. I think its equally silly in the case of Teachers & Students.

            And I have no problem with Teachers zealously defending their own interests–that’s what they’re supposed to do. But let’s not pretend that they have the students best interests at heart.

            • sharculese

              A customer or client relationship involves two fully developed adults coming together to engage a good or service.

              Teachers are people who are watching their students develop over adults, usually for a period of at least nine month but in a lot of cases way longer. There is an investment there. It’s not something you do for the bottom line.

              Are there bad teachers who are only there for the paycheck? Fuck yes. There are people who are bad at any job. But that’s not the totality of the profession, and to conflate it with servicing a customer is kind of a dick move.

              • so-in-so

                Actually, the “customers” of teachers and police would be the same if someone insisted on that terminology: the community as a whole who want to be protected and want their children educated. Criminals don’t “consume” policing, they actively seek to avoid it, and students at a public school level are rather passive consumers; their parents specifically and the community at some larger level making the customer choices about the school they attend.

                • sharculese

                  That’s not unreasonable. I absolutely regard the parents of my students as customers. I don’t ever see my students as customers. They’re my kids and I care deeply about all of them even the idiots and the fuck-ups (which I get to say, because it’s said with affection.)

              • ThrottleJockey

                I’ve had some great teachers and some horrible ones but in general they were good every day folk. Just like anyone I might bump into the grocery store.

                Ergo, they’re as interested in maximizing their own self interest as the average American. Most Americans don’t maximize the well being of their customers…

                Hell one crazy teacher in Texas running for the State Board of Education likes to teach that Obama was a gay prostitute and that teaching our genocide of Indians undermines patriotism. So you might see why minorities are especially skeptical that teacher unions look after the best interests of students.

                • Ronan

                  But this assumes that all anyone cares about is “maximising their own self interest”; professional pride, civic duty, responsibility to others be damned, everyones out to get theirs and fuck the consequences.
                  Which is barmy

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I genuinely believe, Ronan, that money makes the world go round and that few people put those other issues ahead of their own financial well being, at least not to a material degree, and I come from a family of people largely devoted to public service even.

                  I’ll give you an example. Back in 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union called a strike. One of the big issues was that the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, wanted to lengthen the school day (since Chicago had one of the shortest) but he was unwilling to pay teachers for the extra time. Now I supported the CTU strike because I thought it was grossly unfair to lengthen their time (by 90 minutes per day) without commensurate compensation, but if the union was really willing to put student needs ahead of teacher’s income then they wouldn’t have called a strike.

                • sharculese

                  So you might see why minorities are especially skeptical that teacher unions look after the best interests of students.

                  TJ, this is an argument you go to a lot, and a lot of the time it’s fair, most of us don’t understand what it’s like from your perspective, so this one time I want you to stop and think about what it’s like from my perspective.

                  I don’t have to do what I do. I have enough education that, if I wanted to, I could find something that paid way more money. I teach because I love it, and I love love love all of my students. I would never think of them as customers, not ever, because that denigrates the bond I have with them.

                  I may not work in a school because I prefer to get off work at 10 than get up before 10, but I still take the role I have in shaping young mins seriously, and when you talk about it that way I feel personally insulted.

                • Colin Day

                  that teaching our genocide of Indians undermines patriotism.

                  Well, it undermines patriotism in America, but what if the truth is more important?

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I’m sorry, Sharc, I don’t mean to offend you. When I was younger I thought about being a teacher until I tried substitute teaching and I realized I wasn’t cut out for it. So I have a great deal of respect for the teachers, like you, who do a great job. I’m still in touch with my high school teachers, and even an elementary school teacher. You have a hard job and are generally underpaid.

                  The “but” comes in when we go from individual teachers to teacher unions. I don’t think teacher unions are nefarious, but I just have no reason to think, nor experience to show, that they elevate the interests of students above their own. That’s not a critique of teachers, that’s a critique of organizational theory and institutional racism. Similarly, I don’t think the AMA puts the interests of patients ahead of their own. That’s just organizations.

                • sharculese

                  TJ, I wouldn’t think for a second that you meant to offend on that point. If I did, I wouldn’t have bothered with what I wrote. I just wanted to point out that your comment disregards part of the reality of being a teacher in this country in ways that are frustrating.

                  I think you’re tilting the scale too much in one direction. Teachers have to make sure that they can make a living and that their students are well treated. Advocating for the former is expected, but that doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for the latter at the same time.

                • Ronan

                  TJ, well as an empirical matter I don’t think that’s right. My understanding is that a lot of the behavioural economics, sociology and social physcology research would say that people are as often driven (possibly even primarily) by ethical concerns (what’s right or wrong)and by what’s good for others as they are by narrow,individual economic self interest.

                  You might have a more convincing argument if the claim was that unions transformed these personal ethical concerns into group political and economic ones. I don’t know if I’d buy it, but it could be somewhat plausible

                • I’ll give you an example. Back in 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union called a strike. One of the big issues was that the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, wanted to lengthen the school day (since Chicago had one of the shortest) but he was unwilling to pay teachers for the extra time. Now I supported the CTU strike because I thought it was grossly unfair to lengthen their time (by 90 minutes per day) without commensurate compensation, but if the union was really willing to put student needs ahead of teacher’s income then they wouldn’t have called a strike.

                  This “analysis” proves far too much. First, the demand that teachers put *any* student benefit over *any* bit of teacher income as prove that teachers care about student interests is obviously risible. If a teacher doesn’t starve themselves, this means they don’t care about student needs? This is a standard applied no where else. Parents aren’t required to impoverish themselves or donate all their organs in order for them to have their children’s best interests in mind and work toward them.

                  Second, you contrasted unions with all the other players who, by your standard, also do not have the students best interests in mind. Did Rahm Emanuel give up some of his salary to help fund the longer day? Did he try to raise taxes? Why should he have a say? Etc.

                  Exploitation of the front line workers is rarely a good way to improve quality of service. First, it drives people out. Second, it exhausts them. Thrid, it promotes all sorts of bad feelings from resentment to depression.

                  When the junior doctors went on strike against the NHS it was not primarily pay per se, but the ridiculous hours (moving from primarily business week/hours to 7 day/most hours service). Stretching your workforce hurts care. (That it all turned out to be based on a bad study is the icing on the cake.)

                  One reason you want the union on the table is precisely because you need someone to think about the effects a “beneficial idea” will have in practice esp. taking into account that people have to implement those ideas.

            • Sly

              And I have no problem with Teachers zealously defending their own interests–that’s what they’re supposed to do. But let’s not pretend that they have the students best interests at heart.

              I, for one, freely admit that I spent the overwhelming majority of my adult life becoming a public school teacher because I hate children and want to be paid to consign them to a future of misery and deprivation.

              And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for all these damn do-gooder mercenaries for hedge funds Ed Reformers spoiling my dastardly plan.

              • brugroffil

                want to be paid

                gotta get those sweet, sweet teacher paychecks!

                The idea that the teacher-student relationship is no different than the union plumber-construction company owner relationship is pretty hilarious though.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Next you’ll tell me that police unions want what’s best for hoods….

                  I’ve seen no evidence in my life that teachers are any different than the rest of us. I’ve encountered plenty of racist teachers Just like in the general population and teacher unions defended them just like police unions defend their own.

                • Next you’ll tell me that police unions want what’s best for hoods

                  By “hoods” you mean “criminals”, right?

                  But criminals are the adversaries of the police. Students aren’t the adversaries of teachers. The dynamic is utterly different.

                • The Temporary Name

                  I’ve seen no evidence in my life that teachers are any different than the rest of us. I’ve encountered plenty of racist teachers Just like in the general population and teacher unions defended them just like police unions defend their own.

                  Um, yeah, a union has a function in disciplinary hearings to give an employee representation. That is a good thing for workers as a whole, despite obnoxious individual workers. I’ve defended some!

                  This is like complaining that lawyers do law.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Bijan there are umpteen numbers of blacks who are totally innocent who’ve been injured and killed by cops…And if you’ve been paying attention to the schools-to-prison pipeline you can see that our schools railroad kids just as much.

                  Let’s go to church. Nearly half of all preschoolers suspended more than once during the 2011-12 school year were black, even though blacks make up just 18% of the preschool population. Who do you think it is writing up all these disciplinary reports? Cops??? The NRA???

                  The disparities that start in preschool continue into K-12 education. Black students, who make up 16 percent of the population, are three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled. In the 2011-’12 school year, 20 percent of black boys enrolled in school were suspended, as were 12 percent of black girls.

                  While its vice principals or “school resource officers” that actually involve law enforcement, the racist treatment of black students starts with those on the front lines, teachers, who refer students to vice principals and SROs.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Hey, Temp, we agree. This is a complaint that lawyers do law. Or, rather more fairly, its a critique that lawyers do law. I’m not complaining. But I recognize that when a lawyer delivers his closing statement he’s giving me his version of the story that’s true for his client, not what’s “true”. Its well and good that we afford defendants counsel, but that’s not to say that every defendant is innocent.

                • Hogan

                  But I recognize that when a lawyer delivers his closing statement he’s giving me his version of the story that’s true for his client, not what’s “true”.

                  Which is why you shouldn’t listen to and assess it, just assume he’s lying.

                • Bijan there are umpteen numbers of blacks who are totally innocent who’ve been injured and killed by cops

                  Yes, but…

                  …the point is that the inherent structure of cops vs. criminals is adversarial and, in principle, there’s another party, the victim of the criminals.

                  People who are miscategorised are mis-served.

                  This is still a structural difference that’s important.

                  I agree that the school-to-prison pipeline is an abomination and at least some of the root is the take up of an adversarial relationship between administrators and teachers and kids.

                  But, this isn’t because unions are serving the interests of its members, but because those systems are fucked up. Unions typically aren’t very much better than either their members of the systems they are embedded in (though they are often *some*what better than the system they are embedded in).

                  I’m not arguing that all unions do great all the time. They often do not. But you claimed that unions *inherently* (if good) were focused solely on the most directly economic interests of their members. This isn’t true! I don’t want my union to be that way and I know tons of other union members who agree.

                  Of course we’re all self-interested. That should go without harping. But people trade off pay for all sorts of other things. (Indeed, my choice to be at university clearly involves trading off pay. I’ve gotten spontaneous offers from industry for twice my current salary. <– This isn't uncommon in my field, fwiw!)

                  Secondary strikes are illegal in many places, which limit what Unions can do to help other people. But when they weren't, sympathy strikes were not uncommon (Erik! Help me out!). That involves sacrificing in order to further someone else's interests out of solidarity.

            • Marek

              But let’s not pretend that they have the students best interests at heart.

              Right, that’s why they devoted their professional lives to educating children in the first place.

              Does that really make sense to you?

              • ThrottleJockey

                In my experience professionals–of all stripes–usually have their own best interests at heart. That’s simply human nature. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I think its naive to elevate teacher unions in such a way that it makes them seem magical.

                I have an acquaintance whose a teacher. As a gay Latino I thought he might be more interested in helping urban kids than average. Just this week he told me can’t wait to move to a different district because he’s tired of dealing with students and parents who deal “the race card”, “the immigration card”, or just plain whine. This is from a liberal, gay, Latino Millenial! He’s planning to move to a rural-ish district where he’ll have it “easier”!?!!

                • ColBatGuano

                  It’s amazing how you always have a friend or acquaintance who perfectly demonstrates your point. It’s uncanny.

                • In my experience professionals–of all stripes–usually have their own best interests at heart. That’s simply human nature. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I think its naive to elevate teacher unions in such a way that it makes them seem magical.

                  There’s a middle ground, dude. Of course, my first duty is to myself. But people don’t grasp for every last bit of their own interest or no teacher would pay for supplies, or stay late, or spend more than the minimum required. We have to have conditions that allow us to function and preferably to flourish but that can, given sufficient support, include a generous spirit.

          • AuRevoirGopher

            I stopped reading at “ThrottleJockey.”

        • brugroffil

          The recent California litigation was horseshit that wouldn’t have done anything to correct the problem they alleged, and unions aren’t what cause disproportionate school district funding.

          • ThrottleJockey

            But based on what they write their Congressman they oppose equalizing salaries.

        • Hogan

          Do you think it’s always a zero-sum game?

          • ThrottleJockey

            No, not at all. Sometimes their interests overlap and sometimes they don’t. But some of us put too much stock in the idea that they always want what’s best for kids.

            I’m pretty frustrated they oppose this. It’s a really big deal, easily the most important thing the DOEd has done under Obama.

            • Hogan

              No, not at all.

              And yet you always assume that it is. Certainly in this case you don’t show any sign of trying to understand the arguments the unions are making; you just go right to “gotta get paid.”

              • ThrottleJockey

                Nope, I’m just trying to puncture the balloon that teacher unions are run by selfless saints so good they’d make Mother Theresa look bad. As liberals we should interrogate their motives every bit as much as we interrogate any institution’s or organization’s motives.

                Not to put too fine a point on it but LGM’s focus on educational policy is through the lens of teachers and not the lens of students (or parents). That’s a key distinction. Equitable labor policy for teachers doesn’t necessarily equal good educational policy for students.

                • Hogan

                  Dude, leave some straw for the winter. The livestock is going to need it.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  it’s as if no one here is a parent (or student, for that matter)

        • Running a union based on what’s best for the customer instead of what’s best for the union is a pretty bad way to run a union. Unions exist, first and foremost, to promote the interests of its members.

          But, teachers have an interest in the well being of students. Indeed, we typically have professional obligations to do so and one thing we want our union to do is help us meet our professional obligations.

          My Union, the UCU, regularly works with student unions (my local works with the Manchester student union). we are typically endorsed by them for our industrial actions including strikes. We do campaigns together and join in solidarity quite a bit.

          Unfortunately, the only effective actions we have affect students, which sucks. Which is why we don’t take them lightly.

          I know this is a mantra of yours, but really, unions, in my experience, are not sociopathic in the way corporations typically are. Their missions isn’t narrowly to maximise pay, for example, the way a corporations is to maximise profits. The idea of fair dealing is a core notion.

          • ThrottleJockey

            unions, in my experience, are not sociopathic in the way corporations typically are. Their missions isn’t narrowly to maximise pay, for example, the way a corporations is to maximise profits. The idea of fair dealing is a core notion.

            I’d have to see some evidence of this. Can you name a union that has placed customer’s interests ahead of its own? I’m not sure that the solidarity you describe is necessarily helping students at the expense of teachers, but perhaps if you elaborate you’ll demonstrate how it is.

            • Jordan

              Hey gave you examples in his post. Stop being intentionally dense.

              • Shantanu Saha

                His name is ThrottleJockey. The throttling seems to be to the blood going to his brain. He CAN’T stop being intentionally dense.

                Or he’s just a concern troll.

      • Origami Isopod

        They think it’s impossible to get good policy when you have self-interested players, like unions and their members, involved in the process. They also think they’re smarter than the union people.

        And they’re not self-interested at all. Why am I reminded of the sorts of dudes who think women shouldn’t get to make decisions about abortion because we’re “too close to the issue”?

        Second, they can’t see teachers unions as anything other than inefficient means of self-enrichment for the members.

        Projection is not only for the right-wing; it’s very popular among “reasonable,” “objective” centrists too, it seems.

    • UserGoogol

      I’ve been thinking this myself for a while – to folks like Chait, good policy is enacted by getting the Right People together in the Right Place at the Right Time. Any other influences on policy and/or politics are either superfluous or harmful.

      I really don’t see how Erik has made the argument that it’s not. The biggest factor in whether progressive policy gets passed has very consistently been whether progressives have enough votes in Congress. If a policy has enough votes, it passes, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Everything else is just noise.

      • It’s way more complex than that. Those votes don’t come out of nowhere. They come because of political pressure from any number of directions. For left-leaning legislation, that often means pressure from below.

        • Linnaeus

          Right. Not only do the votes not come out of nowhere, neither do the policies that we elect people to Congress to enact.

        • UserGoogol

          Yes, social dynamics are complex, but it’s for precisely that reason that I’m skeptical of protest. Protest is not complex. It is individual humans organizing to express their opinions. Society is a vast tangle of social forces where human beings are just cogs in the machine.

          • Humans organizing to express their opinions is not complex? The labor movement of the 1930s was not complex? The civil rights movement of the 1960s was not complex? The gay rights movement is not complex? Occupy Wall Street was not complex? This simply makes no sense at all.

            • UserGoogol

              Complex as in lots of different pieces interacting. Protest is an individual act. Some people have some boards and walk around. It is the underlying social forces which cause protest which drives political change. To focus on the act of protest itself is to encourage the idea that we can get what we want if we just try really hard.

              • Hogan

                Protest is an individual act.

                Then you’re doing it wrong.

              • And so instead we should focus on what, strictly GOTV efforts? Because politicians never get elected and then don’t do what they say they are going to do when they don’t feel pressure?

                I don’t really know what your theory of change is, but it seems not borne out by a study of how change has happened in American history.

                • UserGoogol

                  My basic issue is that I think people don’t have much control over their lives, so any theory of change focused on what people should do is putting the cart before the horse. But the more I think about that, the more I think that that’s at least partly because I’m suffering from some pretty severe feelings of powerlessness for reasons that don’t have much to do with politics. (That I don’t want to go into.) So I dunno maybe I should just shut up.

              • Origami Isopod

                Yeah, because BLM hasn’t raised any damn awareness of its cause whatsoever, and neither did ACT-UP in the ’80s. Do you ever pull your head out of your navel, dude?

              • nixnutz

                It’s interesting that ALEC has infinitely more faith in the efficacy of protest than you do. That should give you pause.

              • Shantanu Saha

                So what you’re saying is that we can’t get what we want by trying really hard, we shouldn’t try at all?

    • advocatethis

      What strikes me as funny about this is that’s pretty much how it happens here at my college, too. The VPs make decisions based on what they read from the bottom line (and that’s based not so much on actual costs as it is on lost opportunity costs – yes, if we rent out the dorms to this academic group we can make some money this year, but if we rent it out to this other, non-academic, group we can make money for years to come as they keep coming back), often on who they don’t like and they want to screw over, and what they think, from a thousand feet, would be good for the image of the school. The last thing they want is actual input from the people who work with the students as to what they think they need. The poor unwashed don’t grasp the big picture.

      • so-in-so

        Don’t grasp the big paycheck either, needless to say.

    • cpinva

      “I’ve been thinking this myself for a while – to folks like Chait, good policy is enacted by getting the Right People together in the Right Place at the Right Time.”

      from everything I’ve ever read by and about Mr. Chait, he wouldn’t recognize good policy if it came up and smacked him upside his head. it would merely be a waste of a good smack, on a waste of a human being. though the “human being” part is in some doubt.

      • Shantanu Saha

        Chait does have some good ideas, and can usually turn in a reliable skewering of right-wing shibboleths. But he does engage in more than his share of hippie-punching.

    • DrDick

      And the Right People all went to the Right Schools, belong to the Right Clubs, and have the Right Gender.

  • Boots Day

    Chait has this weird thing where, the further left someone is, the worse he is in covering them and writing about them. He’s great on Trump and the Republicans, so-so on Obama, and terrible on what he would consider the Far Left.

    • Which is why I have to come to not trust Chait on any issue at all. If he’s this bad on labor and teachers unions, I have come to think confirmation bias is the only reason I agree with him on any issue.

      • witlesschum

        Yup. I thought something similar after he picked that weird-ass fight with Coates and kept pushing it long past the point of anything.

        • Exactly. He kept arguing that his understanding of what it means to be a black person in the US was more valid than Coastes’ actual first hand experience. What the hell?

          • cpinva

            and still FOX didn’t offer him a spot!

      • Education is the only policy area in which his wife is employed (and he regularly discloses that fact).

  • sleepyirv

    Chait believes everyone who disagrees with him has some malicious purpose, that there no “good” ideological distinctions. There are good people and bad people, and all the good people agree with Chait. Therefore, everyone else is bad and should be criticized as harshly as possible. While this is not the worst mindset to deal with something as hacktastic as the modern Republican Party, it’s perhaps not the best way to view elementary school teachers or those of us who think college athletes should be paid for their labor.

  • Rob in CT

    I have two friends who are teachers and I think both started out in “tough” schools and left as soon as they could for better places to work.

    We can of course rip them for failing to be saints. Or we could provide them with incentives not to do that… but that would involve paying them more to stay put (which may or may not even work!), which isn’t going to happen.

    I think the whole education reform thing is a bit like the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight. Poverty and segregation aren’t exactly easy problems to solve, so we look around for something that is easier to deal with. Something we think we can get our arms around…

    Public schools! The public, after all, controls them. And since education = success is something pretty much everyone believes or professes to believe, it dovetails. So, fix the schools! Except you can only do so much with a school if the kids attending the school have serious problems at home.

    Maybe it’s b/c I read Kevin Drum, but I’m not of the impression that kids these days aren’t learning. I’m of the impression that kids these days are probably as educated as they’ve ever been in our history… and yet economic problems remain. This leads me to believe that education (or rather, incremental improvements to an already solid education system that had already picked the low-hanging fruit), while good, is not the One Weird Trick to societal success (Teachers Unions Hate This!).

    • Linnaeus

      I like to call it the silver bullet-ization of education. We increasingly load on to our education system expectations to remedy social ills that are best addressed by other mechanisms and couple those systemic expectations with the idea that teaching is something out of Stand and Deliver and that teachers need to be maverick heroes with no other concerns in life than their students.

      • witlesschum

        Silver bullet-ization is good. It’s a general thing among Americans who automatically think more education is good and even that more education makes you a better person. I think it’s sort of the educated person’s version of American exceptionalism. If you don’t tell them that the U.S. and its educational system are a meritocracy, they get upset.

        There’s a certain amount of “can’t fail, can only be failed” to it, I think.

    • libarbarian

      I think the whole education reform thing is a bit like the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight. Poverty and segregation aren’t exactly easy problems to solve, so we look around for something that is easier to deal with. Something we think we can get our arms around…

      This!

      There are SERIOUS problems with every education quick-fix and I have little respect for the idea that “make it easier to fire bad teachers” is a solution. Measuring “badness” is a serious problem that has no good solution at this time. It’s one thing to go sit in a classroom and identify a teacher who obviously sucks. Its another to devise a metric that works across tens of thousands of teachers across environments.

      OTOH, it’s not like the people who (rightly) point out that poverty, segregation, and home environment matters more than anything a school does, have any workable plan for ending poverty or segregation or bad home lives.

    • ThrottleJockey

      We can of course rip them for failing to be saints. Or we could provide them with incentives not to do that

      Ummm, the whole purpose of the Dept of Ed’s regulatory rule is to provide them with the incentives you say they need. The Teacher Unions who oppose the rule are simply looking out for rich schools at the expense of poor schools.

      • ColBatGuano

        Why would teachers unions be looking out for rich schools?

        • cpinva

          “Why would teachers unions be looking out for rich schools?”

          forget it Col, it’s TJ.

        • James B. Shearer

          Why would teachers unions be looking out for rich schools?

          Because they pay well. And then you can point at the pay at rich schools and claim it’s unfair that all teachers aren’t paid that much.

    • Sly

      I have two friends who are teachers and I think both started out in “tough” schools and left as soon as they could for better places to work.

      We can of course rip them for failing to be saints.

      Teachers who leave dead-end jobs in underfunded schools where they’ll never get any support are scumbags. Parents who leave underfunded school districts for well-funded school districts are just doing whats best for their families (something that no teacher has or wants to have, of course, and thus aren’t obliged to provide for by seeking better employment opportunities elsewhere).

    • Wapiti

      Amen.

      I did 20 years in the Army, and there were incentives for taking less great jobs. You were expected to do a certain number of overseas jobs thru a career, and maybe even 1-year away from family hardship tours. If you were in a place that was particularly dangerous you might hazardous duty or combat pay.

      In a perfect world, a state might provide bonuses for teachers who work in the poorest/worst scoring schools. To prevent lousy teachers from getting entrenched and staying put, the principals/administrators could take their pick of teachers who applied for those slots. The current incentives seem to be completely backwards.

      • so-in-so

        Because mostly America has never really liked teachers. Many of the gilded age plutocrats liked to talk about how they were successful without formal schooling. Plus the old “those who can, do” cliche.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing that experienced teachers leave poor schools for this reason, but on a personal level, who doesn’t understand this?

    This is interesting in light of Erik’s contention that everyone who moves from a city to a suburb in search of better schools is a racist.

    • Murc

      I remember that post. Erik is guilty, at most, of using language in a way that most people don’t use it, and then doubling down on that when people pointed it out.

      And that’s it.

      If you want to pillory Erik for illiberalism, he has softer spots you can reach for. He explicitly doesn’t believe in freedom of speech, for example. But he doesn’t actually think that people who move around in search of better schools are necessarily racist in the “thinks non-white people are worse than white people and unclean or unfit in some way” sense of the word, which is how it’s most often used.

      (I am, of course, not Erik and may be speaking out of turn.)

      • brewmn

        But he doesn’t actually think that people who move around in search of better schools are necessarily racist in the “thinks non-white people are worse than white people and unclean or unfit in some way” sense of the word, which is how it’s most often used.

        Oh, for chrissake. Maybe he should stop using that word like a club since he doesn’t really mean it then.

        I came to this post to celebrate LGM finally calling out Chait’s horrible take on public education “reform,” and you had to post this garbage.

        • Or perhaps you don’t understand the complexities of racism, and it ain’t just Donald Trump.

          • brewmn

            Having been (previously) married to an African-American woman and having adopted her two daughters, combined with living a good part of my life in racially mixed areas on the South Side of Chicago, I think I understand the “complexities of racism” about as well as any white American can, thank you very much.

            But none of that has anything to do with the fact that your glee in calling out other people’s “racism” with the same obnoxiousness that you call out people’s choice of breakfast food doesn’t really help advance the conversation in any meaningful way.

      • Shantanu Saha

        No, Erik did not say that. What he said was that the individual actions were not racist, but the system that emerges is implicitly racist. For instance, my family just sold our house in a middle-income area of New Jersey and bought a house in a more upscale (and much whiter) area for the “better schools.” I’m sure that the schools are somewhat better, but I can’t help notice that the patterns of school ratings in New Jersey seem to correlate more to racial composition of student bodies than income medians for the districts involved. But my concern is getting my son educated in good schools, and I will pay the money (and in this case, the extra time commuting) to get it done. That this deepens divisions by race in New Jersey is a side effect, but an expected one.

        The solution? Overfund low-income and minority schools until teaching there is a better job than teaching at a rich school (which have their own pitfalls, like helicopter parents seeking to fire you for daring to fail their kid on a test he never prepared for).

    • It’s only interesting if you don’t understand how structural racism operates, which is at least half the commenters on this site evidently.

      • libarbarian

        The things that incentivize people to choose to buy homes in good school districts over bad is “structural” but those that incentivize teachers to choose employment in good school districts over bad are not?

        • No, the choices these teachers make are also structural, especially in recent years with the connection between testing and employment.

          • Bitter Scribe

            So “structural racism” is OK for teachers, but not parents?

            • Not really. But in both cases, the system sets it up to for people to contribute to that inequality.

              • In many big city school districts the newer teachers are much more white than those retiring, but they’re not a bunch of Al Shankers getting hired. This stuff is complicated in ways that make the 50’s to 80’s white flight model inadequate at best, but more likely misleading.

              • cpinva

                “Not really. But in both cases, the system sets it up to for people to contribute to that inequality.”

                when my wife and I had children, we made a conscious decision to remain in the city, vs moving to one of the two nearest counties, because the city schools offered a better education.

                VA is one of (I believe) only two states where cities are actually separate political entities, and not a part of a county. thus, cities in VA have their own school systems. in our city, we only have one school at each level, so everyone who attends public school goes to them.

                our fair metropolis is roughly a 50-50 mix, caucasion-minorities. as well, approximately 60% of the children qualify for the federal free meals program, which is directly dependent on household income, to qualify.

                because of the overall median income level (well above the national average, lots of well compensated professionals (like me) live here), our schools are well funded, the teachers well paid, and newly graduated teachers-to-be practically beg to be hired. most of the turnover is due to retirement and spouses being transferred (lots of military here also). they are also a pretty diverse bunch, who are expected to educate all of our children, regardless of those children’s home lives. sometimes, this is a very, very tough gig, because children from low socio-economic homes start school in the hole, requiring lots of extra work to bring them up to speed with their better off peers. surprisingly enough, we are fortunate to have many teachers bound and determined to do just that, regardless of the difficulty. they aren’t 100% successful, but it’s not for lack of trying or administrative support.

                none of this is to suggest my city is free of the structural racism you rightly note, but to suggest that it can be overcome, if people want it to be. my city isn’t a special snowflake city, and it’s hardly perfect. that said, the community has recognized that structural racism exists, and has made a concerted (though sometimes failed) effort to overcome it, and give our children the best possible chance of success when they graduate.

                any locality can do the same, but, like an alcoholic or drug addict, they first have to admit the problem exists, then everyone has to agree to work together to overcome it, at least where they are. we’re still working on it, and probably always will be.

          • libarbarian

            Exactly.

            So why do you seem to be much more charitable towards teachers than towards parents when both are doing similar things within the same system?

        • TroubleMaker13

          Here’s a hint: the “structural” part is actually in the things that make school districts in rich white suburbs “better” than school districts in racially diverse urban centers.

    • If we stay in Chicago when our kids are ready for school, we’ll be remaining in a district that’s trying to wipe out the teacher’s union, and our kids will likely go to either one of the worst schools in the city, or, if they get through the lottery for one of the other schools within a few miles of us, a school that will be almost all white (despite the neighborhood being about 30% each black/hispanic/non-hispanic white & 10% Asian). If we move to Evanston (where housing is cheaper than in our less-than-fashionable neighborhood) we’ll be in a racially and economically mixed school district where the teachers are not under attack by pols supported by hedge fund assholes.

      • brewmn

        There are no choices to be made here, Dana. No matters of degree. There is only racism and non-racism. Erik assumed you understood this already.

        • There is only racism and non-racism.

          Actually, you are the one who seems to assume this is the case.

        • I don’t think that’s Erik’s position. But I think his position is at best two-dimensional on an issue with multiple sides and perspectives. And I think he’s using a framework of historical change from the 1960’s-1980’s for today, which I think is flawed.

          • brewmn

            As I said in one of the prior threads, at this point a white parent would have to consciously move into a majority-minority school district to combat (structural) racism.

            • TroubleMaker13

              No, you combat structural racism by attacking the institutional barriers and incentives that influence individuals to act in ways that reinforce racist outcomes.

            • cpinva

              “As I said in one of the prior threads, at this point a white parent would have to consciously move into a majority-minority school district to combat (structural) racism.”

              bullshit. structural racism exists across the entire country, you needn’t make a conscious effort to find it, you’re living in it and part of it. the key to overcoming it is recognizing that’s the case, and working diligently to (incrementally) eliminate it. you never will of course, but you just have to keep at it.

      • Denverite

        You should look into the South Loop. The elementary there is very good and very diverse (when we did a stint there many years ago, it was maybe 40% African-American, and then 20% white/Asian/Latino).

        • We’re in Rogers Park because of my wife’s job. We’re not going to move somewhere where she would have a ghastly commute.

          • TribalistMeathead

            Oh hey, we’re also in Rogers Park, only we’re there because I’d have a ghastly commute if we moved farther south!

            Also because my wife’s sister also lives in the neighborhood.

            And we have no idea what we’re going to do when our hypothetical kids are old enough to go to school, either.

  • Murc

    And hey, you know what?

    Even if this were explicitly about cash money dolla dolla, that would be okay.

    Teachers are, if anything, underpaid. Their union opposing policy because it would result in them being paid less and worsening their working conditions on top of that would be entirely morally defensible.

    And, indeed, the problem with tenure and first-in, last-out layoff policies isn’t that teachers have them, it is that the rest of us do not.

    And Chait’s contention that it is nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers is a fucking lie. What’s actually the case is that school administrators don’t often care to follow the procedures to do so, which are usually clearly laid out and quite easy to follow IF the teacher in question actually is bad at their job.

    • kped

      I regret not becoming a teacher in Ontario. Our province teachers union is one of the best in the world.

      A teacher who retires with a full pension, worked for 32 years and earned a best-five-years average salary of $60,000 would have a basic pension of $38,400. A teacher earning $90,000 a year with 32 years of service would have an annual pension of $57,600.

      I mean…that’s fantastic. I have many teacher friends, and I look in envy…i’m far away from retirement, but it terrifies me all the same! That pension looks awfully nice…

    • so-in-so

      Doncha love it when ostensible “leftists” adopt RW talking points. It isn’t just for Bernie-Bros.

    • witlesschum

      And Chait’s contention that it is nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers is a fucking lie. What’s actually the case is that school administrators don’t often care to follow the procedures to do so, which are usually clearly laid out and quite easy to follow IF the teacher in question actually is bad at their job.

      Amen. This is a tell that the person making the claims knows less than the average Jon Snow.

      My mom was a teacher and then an administrator in two states and always said exactly that. You have to know the procedures and follow them closely, documenting every step, oh the humanity. The only teacher she wanted gone who she didn’t get gone was because the school board intervened because he was someone’s cousin.

    • sharculese

      The post that made me quit Chait was about how some development was likely going to depress professor’s salaries, and he was tenting his fingers with glee at the idea that teachers would make less money. No specific reason, just “teachers are going to earn less, and that’s good.”

      It’s the point I realized this is pathological for him.

    • James B. Shearer

      And Chait’s contention that it is nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers is a fucking lie. What’s actually the case is that school administrators don’t often care to follow the procedures to do so, which are usually clearly laid out and quite easy to follow IF the teacher in question actually is bad at their job.

      It is often harder than it should be to get rid of extremely bad teachers. So you get horror stories about teachers who can’t be fired even though they are in jail. These may be rare but they do affect public opinion.

      • ColBatGuano

        Funny how those horror stories get so much press isn’t it? It’s like someone has an agenda.

      • Marek

        So you get horror stories about teachers who can’t be fired even though they are in jail.

        [citation omitted]

        • James B. Shearer

          See the case of Charlene Schmitz.

          If you want to nitpick she was fired but collecting her paycheck while she appealed. Her pay was eventually terminated but only after Alabama changed the law in response to this case.

    • Sly

      In New York (and I can only assume it applies elsewhere), I have found that it is an ironclad rule that the number of teachers who a school Principal says they “would fire if they could” is inversely proportional to the number of 3020a proceedings they have actually initiated.

      • Rugosa

        The “would fire if I could” while being unwilling to follow procedures to actually fire the teacher smells a lot like “I just don’t like this person but have no real reason to justify firing them.” In other words, why teacher tenure exists in the first place.

    • cpinva

      “What’s actually the case is that school administrators don’t often care to follow the procedures to do so, which are usually clearly laid out and quite easy to follow IF the teacher in question actually is bad at their job.”

      but, but, wouldn’t all governmental activity be vastly improved, if it was operated like a business? at-will employment and all that good stuff? that’s what gonifs like Trump keep telling me.

  • rewenzo

    One thing that always comes up with Chait when he writes about teachers unions is that his wife works for the reform movement. So the typical progression is that:

    1) Chait writes an article critical of teachers unions and advocating the reformist position
    2) Someone rudely points out that Chait’s wife works for the reform movement
    3) Chait begrudgingly publishes a disclaimer about how he would never dream of hiding his wife’s influence on his education positions and linking to all the other article’s he’s written which feature disclaimers (only because he originally wrote them without disclaimers and was forced to add them later).

    Chait’s worst opinions come from when has skin in the game. See also, his position that college football players shouldn’t be paid, because he’s a Michigan fan.

    • sharculese

      Chait’s worst opinions come from when has skin in the game.

      I’m not sure this is wholly accurate. Had anyone accused Chait of being a bigot before he started writing tirades about the PC police?

      • rewenzo

        On the assumption you’re being serious:

        1) Chait is a member of the white mail elite;
        2) Chait famously got into an argument with Ta-Nehisi Coates on black culture and black poverty which lead to him being the target of a lot of what Chait calls PC Police style criticism.

        • sharculese

          Chait’s weird descent into anti-PC rants started before his weird argument with Coates.

      • Yeah, I don’t think this is Chait taking a position because it’s in his financial self interest. He has faults, some fairly significant, and sometimes he’s really wrong, but I’ve never thought he was dishonest.

      • Aaron Morrow

        Note that would have been, at the very earliest, twenty years ago.

  • witlesschum

    OT:
    A line I enjoyed from Ravitch’s blog post urging her readers to calm down with the Sanders and (mainly) Clinton bashing.

    As for education, Trump has said that he doesn’t like Common Core but has given no indication that he knows what it is. He has said that he loves charter schools, but has given no indication that he knows what they are. To whom would he turn for advice about education? The only name I have heard is Dr. Ben Carson. Scary.

    • cpinva

      I suspect Michelle Rhee is probably on Trump’s short list of education advisors.

  • JB2

    “[S]etting policy from nice offices in Washington, creating the Great Society without talking to any of the people this will affect, all no doubt while wearing great suits the likes of which they saw Don Draper wear”

    Is anyone under the impression that D.C types are particularly well dressed?

    • sharculese

      lol

    • I was pretty well dressed. But they were suits I already had when I moved to DC. And none of them were grey.

      Now half my days I wear a ratty tee shirt from some failed campaign from a decade ago.

    • Murc

      Is anyone under the impression that D.C types are particularly well dressed?

      Y’know, the fact that they aren’t always baffles me.

      I mean… some Congressmen are not particularly well-heeled, but it’s very hard to be a long-serving Congressman or a Senator and not be part of the one percent, and that’s not even counting the hordes of high-flying consultants and whatnot.

      And I always wonder when I see one of them in a particularly ill-fitting garment, because if I had crazy money, I would have all my clothing tailored. Tailored clothing is amazing. You look good. You feel good. I’d get my fucking jeans and t-shirts tailored. I’d be rocking three-piece suits for no better reason than to feel like Tony Stark.

      Of recent note, Ted Cruz on the campaign trail recently was clearly wearing a series of suit jackets that were far too small for him. Take some of your campaign cash and visit a competent tailor, dude.

      • burritoboy

        Probably they don’t want to alienate their constituents. A pol wearing a bespoke Italian suit while touring the back country is not the best image to put forward. A JFK could pull it off back in the day, but not your average politician now.

      • sharculese

        Shit, I don’t know how many dudes I’ve seen on the streets of DC where I thought “An iron isn’t that expensive.”

        • JB2

          Or maybe shine your shoes once a week and wear a tie that’s less than 5 years old? I don’t think it’s snobbish to point out that you can put together a decent business look with $300 suits and a little effort.

          • Murc

            I don’t think it’s snobbish to point out that you can put together a decent business look with $300 suits and a little effort.

            Hell, you can put together a formal attire look for about that money.

            I have three weddings this summer, and so I thought “You know what, I recently joined the middle class. I don’t know how long that’ll last. I should own, not just a suit, but a nice suit.”

            There’s a Brooks Brothers near here. Their stuff started at like 1200 bucks for… basic wool suits. Not even pure wool some of them, wool/poly. And they didn’t even have most of their catalog in stock for me to try on.

            Okay, Men’s Warehouse, right? Well… they had stuff in… but anything that I’d call nice was still four figures. I am entirely prepared to pay that much money for a good suit, but I still vaguely felt like I was being taken advantage of.

            Then I remembered that there was a local tailoring and menswear shop, the kind of place that mostly survives by renting tuxes to high school kids and wedding parties. Popped in there.

            I was immediately helped by this incredibly avuncular old gentleman who could have been right out of Central Casting. He showed me a three piece silk suit in charcoal, not a famous designer label but something handmade the owner had picked up in NYC about a decade ago. Classic cut, clean lines. It needed to be tailored to fit me, but they threw that in gratis.

            Two hundred and fifty bucks.

            A silk suit from D&G or Hugo Boss would be eight times that, easily, and that wouldn’t be bespoke either.

            And I’m just some schmuck, not some high-flying businessman or lobbyist. And I found something excellent.

            I dunno. I don’t think of myself as a snob, I go to work in jeans and a polo. But is it too much to ask that, if these people are going to act like Don Draper, they dress like him as well? You know?

            • The chances of me ever paying four figures for clothing is precisely 0%.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                it would take me *years* to spend a thousand. I can drop a couple of hundred bucks on good work boots though

              • Murc

                The chances of me ever paying four figures for clothing is precisely 0%.

                I would be prepared to spend that much, but I sort of figure if I’m going to spend that much on a single outfit, it had better be bespoke. Not just tailored, actually made-to-measure to fit me.

                Well-made and well-fitted clothing (the venn diagram of which does not completely overlap expensive clothing) is extremely amazing and worth every cent. It’s a luxury good, to be sure. I have never owned very much of it; indeed, this suit I bought is currently my only proper suit as opposed to an array of separates I’ve cobbled together. But it makes you feel so much better to wear it, to put on clothing actually made to fit your body. Especially if you’re oddly sized or proportioned.

                People don’t know, largely because… who has that kind of money? Not a whole lot of folks.

                Interestingly, much of what we wear day-to-day in the modern world is actually an example of when cheap knockoffs being a legitimately superior option. The stuff you buy in any department store isn’t just dirt-cheap because it’s knocked together by slave labor, it’s dirt-cheap because it’s made using shoddy approximations of the materials and processes used to make actual good clothing. The 19th century revolution in textile production brought cheap, shoddy versions of what the upper classes were wearing to the masses, who desperately wanted it.

                jim mentioned that he can drop a couple hundred bucks on good work boots. A good shirt or good suit jacket or a pair of tailored pants is the same way; it seems like an absurd sum to spend, but if you’re buying quality (and the cost is not always a sign of quality) that article of clothing, like the work boots, can outlast three or four lower-quality equivalents.

          • sharculese

            wear a tie that’s less than 5 years old?

            Eh. If it’s not threadbare, I’m not throwing a cool-looking tie out just because it’s a few years old. I don’t even care what tie fashion is into unless it becomes all about paisley (I may own a lot of paisley ties.)

      • I mean… some Congressmen are not particularly well-heeled, but it’s very hard to be a long-serving Congressman or a Senator and not be part of the one percent…

        After 2006/2008, 2010, redistricting, then 2014, the percentage of MoC who are long-serving has gone way down. And unlike in the past, when housing in DC was fairly cheap, now it’s hideously expensive. Unless they came in to Congress with a decent amount of money (and many do) it’s unlikely they’re going to get all that rich. $170K is great money, but much less great when you figure the expenses of having two domiciles, at least one in one of the most expensive metro areas in the country

      • AMK

        DC professional politics women (the Hill and Fed staffers, media types, consultants, etc) are on the whole are a good-looking bunch.

        Which makes it hard for them, since most of the men they work with are in politics for some combination of three reasons: (1) they’ve been politics/history/news nerds and wonkish types from an early age (2) they don’t like the real business world because of the formal culture (3) they’re drawn to power the way people who’ve been socially ostracized and disempowered are drawn to power. There’s not a lot of overlap between those groups and “good-looking men who know and care about tailoring.”

        • Murc

          Tailoring, in my opinion, should be something more people explore as an option. So many people put on clothing every day that they don’t even know is making them feel weird and off, because it turns out people don’t all come in convenient mass-produced sizes. Wearing ill-fitting clothing that you don’t even know is ill-fitting because you’ve never worn anything but can have actual measurable impact on a persons happiness.

          Sometimes I’ll see an acquaintance or co-worker fiddle with their cuffs or adjust their pants for the umpteenth time in a given day, a maneuver they preform entirely unconsciously, and I’ll suggest “Hey, maybe take your clothing to a tailor sometime, have them fit it to your exact measurements.” Nine times out of ten they look at me like I said “why don’t you take your gold-plated yacht to a money-burning party down in the Keys.” And it’s like, no, dude. Most cities have tailor shops that will size your whole wardrobe to fit for like a couple hundred bucks. Bespoke is a rich people thing. Getting your stuff fitted is not.

          (There are exceptions to that; you can always cut, you can rarely add. If you own a lot of clothing that’s slightly too small for you in various dimensions there’s not a ton a tailor can do a lot of the time.)

          • AMK

            It makes sense. I have my suits tailored a bit when I buy them, but it’s really hard for borderline marfanoids like me who don’t fit into anything. To have something really fit I would need it custom made, which is hugely expensive.

            And part of it is just a kind of identity. By the time I was a teenager I knew I would never be one of those people who add value with their looks….so there was never much value in fashion for me. Better spend the time and money elsewhere than try to pretend to be something I’m not.

      • TribalistMeathead

        some Congressmen are not particularly well-heeled

        This is the understatement of the year. About every 5 years, the Post runs a story about the Members of Congress who share a row house, sleep in their offices, etc. because they can’t afford a residence in DC and one in their home district.

  • strategery

    The reformer movement has this idea about re-assigning effective and/or more experienced teachers to schools that have worse outcomes. This is a terrible and pointless idea.

    1. I am an effective teacher in my privileged and academically challenging school. In another context, I’m not sure I’d be a marginal benefit to that school. It makes no sense to reassign more academic minded teachers to schools that need teachers to teach remedial skills and do more social work. It is a different job. Maybe that is HS specific, but it boggles my mind that none of the so-called experts appreciate that teachers are not “good” or “bad” but people who have different strengths that are not interchangeable.

    2. If they did forcibly reassign teachers against their will into a more challenging and emotionally exhausting job, most teachers will try to do right by their new students. But overall, it would poison all the schools in the district with bad politics. The younger or less effective teachers moved will be (not incorrectly) seen as inferior to the existing faculty by the existing faculty, admin, students and parents (god help the first younger teacher in a high performing school that makes a mistake; the parental outrage factor would be amplified). The supposedly better teachers will not be welcomed with open arms, in which their success will validate a narrative that almost the entire teaching profession has rejected. There are 3 things other than pay that cause HS teachers to apply to a new district, or to work in a more successful school: student discipline, respect, and the opportunity to teach more interesting material. The reformers don’t seem to understand this, or care. Bureaucratic coercion is not going to fix social problems.

    Good schools have a positive culture that is interdependent in nature. Reassigning teachers against their will would destroy that culture.

    • Marek

      Harrumph. Great comment.

    • cpinva

      “The reformers don’t seem to understand this, or care.”

      reformers gotta reform, it’s what they do. that their “reforms” may be completely unworkable and/or be a failure is irrelevant, that they “reformed” is what counts. oh, and they spent a lot of money doing it.

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