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Boycott This Union Bully

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Boycott This Union Bully

AP

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles teachers union, talks to dejected opponents after the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to adopt a resolution that could turn a third of the district's schools over to private operators, in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

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If your intention was to discredit teachers and teachers' union, you might behave like AJ Duffy has in recent days.

A rational teachers' union president would react to a groundbreaking report on teacher evaluation and the data behind it -- such as the one published this weekend by the Los Angeles Times -- by embracing it and calling for use of the data in ways that would benefit teachers and students.

But Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the massive union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, responded by declaring war on -- wait for it -- the Los Angeles Times, trying to block the story's publication and urging a boycott of the newspaper.

I'm a former LA Times reporter who remains a regular contributor to its pages, so call me biased, but this is the sort of story that this newspaper, which has had its troubles, should be doing more of. The story in question used the school district's own data to look at how much progress teachers made with individual students. The data analysis controls for factors like poverty and family, and thus is extraordinarily useful as a tool for evaluating teachers. It's also data that parents should have and, if not for the Times, wouldn't. The Times performed an enormous public service here. It deserves plaudits, not a boycott.

By declaring war against the paper, Duffy is making clear that he doesn't want parents and the public to be able to evaluate teachers. In doing so, he's undermining trust in teachers and in public education. And that hurts his members, by discouraging parents who have a choice from using the public system and by making it harder to make the case for the greater funding that schools in California so badly need. 

Duffy might have argued for broader use of the data to help teachers -- while arguing against using such data to make hiring and firing decisions on instructors. Instead, he's trying to bully the paper and anyone who would use the data.

The best response would be to buy the Times and boycott this bully and his union. Public officials, including school board members,  should shun the union -- no negotiations, no assistance on routine matters, and opposition to any and all pay raises -- until it fully embraces use of this data.

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