Teachers’ unions call for police reform to identify bad apples

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers (the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions) are calling on Congress to develop a national public database that compiles the names of police officers who have had their licenses revoked due to misconduct, including complaints filed against them.

The database is one police reform proposal in response to the inhumane treatment of life by a police officer that resulted in George Floyd’s death.

The NEA and the AFT signed onto a letter that listed seven other suggested federal statutory reforms on a range of policing issues, from use of force, police accountability and racial profiling, to militarization, data collection, and training.

The national database of police officers would create more transparency around the role police unions play in protecting bad officers—which is also needed with the teachers’ unions and the bad teachers they protect.

There are countless headlines of teacher misconduct involving serious offenses against students, particularly physical and sexual abuse. And while firings for the most outrageous examples do occur, there are also too many instances of teachers with multiple incidents of misconduct who continue to teach because of their union’s advocacy and due process clauses guaranteed by union contracts.

Furthermore, teachers fired for misconduct can re-enter the classroom by “crossing state lines where no one knows about their past,” reports Erika Sanzi with Project Forever Free.

Unwitting superintendents and school principals are flying blind when they hire someone with a personnel file riddled with serious red flags. Why? Because, like with police, the files are sealed. And the unions have fought to keep them sealed.

Or, as was the case in New York, teachers with disciplinary problems placed in an “Absent Teacher Reserve”—where the union protected them from being fired—were rotated back into classrooms.

Dismissing teachers for ineffective classroom performance also rarely happens. Union-negotiated employment policies grant tenure to teachers after a probationary period of about three years, and the process to fire an ineffective tenured teacher remains difficult and complicated. Even when a performance-based dismissal is pursued, red tape can impede the process, and the union is likely to intervene and file a grievance against these grounds for dismissal, citing it as a possible violation of the union bargaining agreement.

study by the Fordham Institute analyzed how hard it is to dismiss ineffective veteran teachers in 25 diverse districts, including Minneapolis Public Schools.

Source: Fordham Institute

“Though it is easier to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools than in some districts, the process remains difficult. Once teachers are granted tenure, dismissal is extremely vulnerable to challenge (though the timeline for dismissal [in Minneapolis] is reasonable in theory),” the report stated. “To be clear, teachers have a legitimate interest in due process. But they shouldn’t be entitled to undue processes that make them impossible to fire if the established process has been followed and they have been evaluated as ineffective in the classroom.”

Even teachers—both unionized and non-unionized—agree that teachers’ unions make it harder to fire bad teachers.

The National Council on Teacher Quality has given Minnesota an “F” in “exiting ineffective teachers,” and a Star Tribune analysis of Minnesota schools revealed a “haphazard approach to dismissing teachers who fail in classrooms.” The state’s inability to even figure out who bad teachers are cost Minnesota $250 million in federal money under the Obama administration.

The NEA and AFT are “right to call for the police to clean up its house,” Sanzi concludes, “but it is high time they clean up their own as well.”