Worst Teachers Rewarded by Unions, New Teachers Abandoned

-By Warner Todd Huston

Last week the Chicago Tribune published an editorial detailing the biggest reason why unions as they have operated in the U.S. for decades are an illegitimate venture. The Trib published a plea to new Chicago teachers union chief Karen Lewis not to protect the bad teachers under her charge and to help the younger teachers that haven’t yet proved to be bad for kids by allowing the bad ones to be laid off without complaint.

The Trib’s editorial called the practice of keeping bad teachers “dancing lemons,” revealing the sad practice of shuffling bad teachers around the system instead of firing merely because they may have tenure on the job. While new teachers are automatically laid off due to budget cuts, teachers that have a disciplinary problem or a troubled history are kept because they’ve been on the job longer. This is wrong and reflects badly on the union and teachers alike, not to mention that it leads to a bad education for our kids.

There is no doubt that layoffs will have to be made and soon in the Chicago Public Schools. The schools are out of money and the state is tapped out so layoffs are in the cards no matter what else occurs. Unfortunately, it isn’t likely that the bad teachers will get their just deserts and we the tax payers will be stuck paying their undeserved freight while new teachers that deserve a chance to prove themselves won’t get one.

The Trib also makes a salient point about merit evaluations. Teachers constantly rail against them as if it is some crime against their profession. But every other profession in the world is held to standards and expected to perform, so why not teachers? Why do they think they are more special than anyone else? Who do they think they are, anyway?

I have to echo the Trib’s plea to new union chief Lewis. Let Chicago Public Schools Chief Ron Hubeman fire the bad teachers. Don’t stand in his way. It will raise some good will with parents, students and the taxpayers of Illinois and will prove that she is a sensible and visionary leader.

Unfortunately, I doubt she’ll step up to the plate. Lewis will more than likely go to the mat to protect these teachers that are helping ruin our kid’s education. And more’s the shame for this common union practice, one that leads to such a bad reputation.

But here’s to hope that Lewis will prove a different sort.


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  • It's foolish to think union boss Karen Lewis will "step up to the plate." If she compromised the teachers' position, Lewis would be committing union treason of the highest magnitude. The teachers union leaders and members, in Illinois and across the country, have known for decades that their commanding spot in the driver's seat stays securely in place as long as three things remain constant: their massive membership, their political influence, an apathetic public. If Chicago's Plan A to improve our schools includes Lewis not going to bat for her teachers, good and bad, then CPS better have Plan B ready. If you "hope Lewis proves to be a different sort" then be prepared to be disappointed.

  • Get it right Big Boy! You know the buck stops at the top, not at the union's door. Stewart was working with Huberman. If you can show different, please do so! Put the blame where it resides instead of boring your many readers with your drivel!

    Daley is the guilty one in all of this.. the buck stops at his door since he and his surrogates SET POLICY! Duncan and Huberman are not truthful in that they had only one endeavor, Run the 2010 playbook, which means STEALING needed resources from neighborhood schools. REN 2010 was a partial answer to CPS CEO's NOT knowing how to do school reform at all since they have not lived it. You CAN'T get that experience and wisdom from a book. Then again, they only know the Ren 2010 playbook. There is no transparency in the New School Department and they have had no cuts! The lack of leadership at the top positions, which includes the City hall cast offs who get paid the big bucks (over 100,000 dollars) is common knowledge and not alluded to in any articles. Why the Tribune and the Sun Times does not directly or indirectly out the top administrators for not having of the requisites for running a school district is beyond the pale. This is not good government and terrible policy on how to run a school district.

    The professionals are awaiting the day when real leadership comes to Clark St.

    If you don't call Daley on his hold on CPS and putting inept CEO's and patronage folks on the payroll to run the school district, then you are part of the problem!

    We also know that TIF money could help CPS neighborhood schools if spent CORRECTLY We have seen that many of our classrooms are not equipped with, what are considered by real research as necessary for better instruction, interactive whiteboards and well equipped teacher station. CPS is in the dark ages with it's factory model of schooling.

    I wish Karen Lewis much luck. I hope all of Chicago calls out Daley, Huberman and his Board for NOT DOING THEIR JOB!

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    You know, the web would be better off without idiots like you. I invite you to go to someone else's pages instead of mine. I did NOT exculpate Daley, I did NOT say he was innocent, I did NOT say the buck stopped with unions, I did NOT say Lewis refused to work with Hubman.... in short, your reply would have been more legitimate without all the accusatory foolishness. As it happens, I agree with many of your points on Daley, but the way you presented it putting words in my mouth and assigning sentiment to me that I do not hold gets a big thumbs down. You are a jerk. Period. Take a hike and don't bother me again.

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    I agree that shuffling bad teachers around the system is bad for students and relects poorly on the union and teachers. I assume the union secured the ability to protect its members in such a way due to unfair practices against teachers in times past. I can see the potential need to protect against arbitrary firings but it seems self destructive for them to defend blatant incompetence in its members. The mistrust from the union toward CPS will cause any decision made by Ron Huberman to be perceived as wrong. I think one way to potentially address the issue of teacher firings is to let the union decide which teachers will be fired instead of Ron Huberman. As you mentioned, layoffs will have to be made soon so for the sake of accountablity the union should decide which of its members should be let go. I believe this would force the union to get rid of its worse teachers and restore some of the credibility that has been lost.

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