….’cause we got the government using the taxpayers’ coin to do the billionaires dirty work.
In a recent article on Znet, Gabriel Black describes a lawsuit being heard in California aimed at gutting protections for teachers and doing further damage to the state’s schools through further erosion of budgets:
On Monday, a trial began in Los Angeles County Superior Court that could eliminate teacher tenure in California and have national significance. It is part of a national campaign, led by the Obama administration and supported by both Democrats and Republicans, to victimize teachers for the crisis in public education.
Backed by a host of billionaires and politically connected lawyers, the lawsuit’s complaint cynically seeks to cloak a right-wing assault on teachers and public education under the mantle of securing the civil rights of students. Beneath the lawsuit’s pretense of concern for students is a well-planned initiative to dramatically reduce education costs.
In California, a tenured teacher can be fired for a variety of reasons ranging from “unsatisfactory performance” to “dishonesty” and “unprofessional conduct.” However, a teacher has the right to contest his or her firing and be reviewed by a three-person committee consisting of two teachers and a judge.
Beatriz Vergara, et al. v. State of California, launched by Students Matter with the backing of corporate executive David Welch, challenges the three California State Statues that allow for this hearing process. It also targets a statute that gives teachers the right to tenure and another statute requiring that less-experienced teachers be fired first when budget cuts are imposed.
The complaint alleges that “the challenged statutes have a disproportionate adverse effect on minority and economically disadvantaged students.” The complaint argues that “ineffective” teachers are disproportionately stationed in the schools of these minority areas with low-income earners. These students, they claim, are denied their civil liberty of having equal protection to an education.
The basic demand of those behind the lawsuit is to make it easy to fire more-experienced, higher-paid teachers. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) superintendent John Deasy, one of the first witnesses called, and an ardent supporter of the lawsuit, told the courtroom that firing was a drain on “human capital” and that it was “too expensive.” In the years leading up to the 2008 crash, the LAUSD successfully fired only between 3 and 6 teachers each year using the dismissal process. In the 2011-2012 year, the year Deasy took over, that number increased to a record 99 teachers.
Nowhere in the complaint is there any hint of the real causes behind the crisis of public education. In the past few years, California’s K-12 annual budget has been cut by about $18 billion. Thousands of schoolteachers have been laid off in California, and hundreds of thousands nation-wide. Throughout the country, teachers face classroom sizes of 50 or more students per teacher, with inadequate textbooks, supplies, and proper cooling and heating systems.
If this all sounds vaguely familiar, then you’ve been paying attention: ever since Gordon Campbell’s tax cutting’ posse moved into the Rockpile on Belleville, provincial revenues have been either curtailed or redirected toward those businesses friendly to the current régime. Recall that more than two billion dollars were immediately taken off the books in reduced business taxes and the parade has continued with monster savings all over the store as whole departments went to the private sector, public servants were shown the door and where it essentially became not only risky, but illegal for those toiling in the public interest to bargain for a reasonable share of the wealth in the best place on Earth.
When the Hole In The Rockpile Gang got a smackdown from the courts at the end of last month, it was clear that they wouldn’t be accepting the judge’s scathing rebuke and making amends for their sins if they could at least drag out the proceedings until they can make an immediate election issue out of it (they may yet do that), or somehow fiddle the process, as they appear to have done in the BC Rail Circus, so that they get the result they want. The BCTF pays its own lawyers: that money comes out of the pockets of he teachers themselves. The government’s layers are paid by thee and me, sorta like I get to pay for the ammunition so I can shoot myself in the foot, a process that rankles more than a little.
Fassbender and the rest of the Deputy Dawgs can’t let this go unchallenged. The cupboard probably is legitimately pretty bare after they’ve reduced oil and gas revenues (thanks Norm) and put on the Five-Ring Circus, complete with shadow-tolled highway, the Millennium Line, Delta Port, SFPR (sounds like something out of ancient Rome), nonsensical IPP contracts (unless you happen to be the IPP on the receiving end) and a couple bridges wherein there is a whiff of cozy relationships between government and winning bidders and little things like secret contracts (the list is not exhaustive, sadly). In truest Shock Doctrine style, they broke it, just hoping they couldn’t be called to account for their actions and inactions, so not only to they have to defend their dominance and nastiness, they have to ensure that no one can go back and scratch around to find out where the money really went, sorta like why we used to be able to afford stuff and somehow we can’t any longer.
Billionaire David Welch can go ahead and blow millions on his case: he gave the money to a foundation that will write him a tax receipt and he may just come out ahead, meaning that he would be using taxpayer money to sue the state, also using taxpayer money, to advance the cause of private education.
OK, I finally got smart and went around Znet’s organizational difficulties and found Black’s article. The end of the article outlines much of what is wrong with unions, and I would be quick to point out that the BCTF lies at the other end of the spectrum: they may not be perfect, but they have done a lot of heavy lifting on behalf of all the citizens of BC (Phil Hochstein notwithstanding) in a scenario where the well being of students aligns well with what the teachers’ union is championing.
This case will probably get settled with only seconds to spare before the world becomes uninhabitable.