The NEA protects incompetent teachers





by cheri block sabraw

Are you going to be buried or cremated when you die?

You can make that choice now, or let your relatives make it for you.

Whatever choice they make doesn’t affect you any more anyway.

But In the marketplace of goods and services for the living, most of us have choice.

One of the most important decisions many of us have to make concerns health care. Which doctor will operate on our knees? Our hearts? Which doctor will administer chemical therapy?

Many of us conduct research about medical centers  and doctors, ultimately choosing the place and the person whom  we believe we can trust with our lives.

Who will care for our teeth? Who will service our cars? Who will cut our hair? And draw our blood and package our food and cut our nails?

But when it comes to public education, we do not have a choice about who will teach our child. We cannot do our research and then choose the English teacher in whose classroom our high school student will sit in for 180 days. Most of the time, the computer chooses our child’s teachers and schedule.

As students ourselves, we have all had that one magical teacher who inspired us, maybe, to pursue a course of study. Some of us have been lucky enough to have 3-5 magical teachers.

Alas, we have all experienced more than one terrible teacher from whom we learned nothing.

Our children and grandchildren, those raised in the 70’s until the present time, have had a few great teachers, some good teachers, and many bad teachers.


You do not have a choice because of the powerful and member-driven teachers’ unions, which stymie school choice at every corner of every street in every town across this country.

Their  predictable narrative emerges:

Poor black urban children will not be afforded the educational opportunity they deserve.

Good teachers will lose their jobs to teachers to those at charter, private, and religious schools.

The entire public school system will be stripped of the funding necessary to educate United States citizens, (and a number of illegal aliens), leaving our country at risk.

Be clear about one thing: teachers’ unions exist not to protect the educational rights and opportunities of students; rather, they exist to protect their  members—the teachers—the good, the bad, the incompetent.

For twenty-six years, I worked at all levels of public education—elementary, secondary, and adult education. During that time, I met about 20 teachers who were just the type I would want for myself, for my son or daughter or my grandchildren—positive, smart, engaging, dedicated, and instructive.

The others, well, they varied from the average to the fair to the poor to the incompetent.

Choice—and thus, competition—is the only option left which has a chance to provide a quality education to those who might not be afforded one, especially poor kids in urban ghettos.

Choice will not take away the jobs of competent teachers. This is the weakest argument made by the union. The evaluation procedures conducted by public schools administrators are laughable.

Choice might get rid of bad teachers simply because we consumers will go elsewhere.

The terrible irony of the new Democratic Party is that it purports to be the party of the people but by protecting lousy teachers, the people , especially those who are poor and underrepresented, are poorly served.

Let’s give Betsy DeVos and School Choice a chance.

Why not?

What do you have to lose? (Same comment Trump made regarding Chicago)


About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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17 Responses to The NEA protects incompetent teachers

  1. shoreacres says:

    There’s nothing I can add to this, except to say that my limited experience seems to confirm what you say, and there’s no question that, were I to have children today, I’d be home-schooling. (I would have to deal with my math aversion, but I could do it.)

  2. Cheri says:

    Home schooling presents its own set of challenges. When I opened Mill Creek Academy, I had several home-schooled students enrolled in my writing classes. Their parents were also concerned about socialization. The same issues came up when students who were attending boys-only or girls-only secondary schools.

    Considering the tremendous risk to academic self-esteem under the tutelage of a lousy teacher, today’s parents should be as vigilant as a hawk…but unfortunately, they are so busy in their own careers, many of them to not keep a careful eye on what is coming home. Any corrected papers?

    Throughout the years, I have met a number of home-schooled adults who thrived–went on to successful university life and are now more-than-productive citizens.

    Interesting that Senator Cory Booker, whose city, Newark, has profited greatly from the DeVos money coming into inner-city schools refused to vote for her. He is concerned about the shrill scream of the union, especially since he hopes to run for president.

  3. Brig says:

    Having worked in the system, both district & county, for some years, all I can say is you are spot on. The CTA and the CSEA have long out lived their usefulness.
    I had to raise holy hell about one of the tenured math teachers that my daughter had, in order to get her in another class. They told me my job was a risk if I put a complaint in his file, ha, bring it.

    • Cheri says:

      Good for you, Brig. As you experienced, but were not cowed by, one of the tactics the union and administrators use against classified and teachers is fear. Teachers are some of the most fearful people I know. I never understood why or what they were afraid of in terms of job stability. As I have written before a teacher has to molest a child or commit a felony to lose his/her job. I have never witnessed a teacher being fired for incompetence. Thanks so much for this contribution!

  4. Teachers are an educated bunch but do, indeed, live in fear for their livelihood. Curious? Not sure I understand the dynamics, as I spent my whole career in high-tech where merit pay and merit based advancements were the norm.

    • Cheri says:

      I remember well the faculty meeting during which the vice principal announced the specifics of a new award, one in which, by the vote of the student body, one teacher would win Teacher of the Year. I thought this to be a splendid idea.

      Most of the faculty raised concerns, the chief one being the feelings of all the other teachers on the day the award was announced in June.

      This example sums up the herd mentality of most teachers.

      I won that award, which instead of receiving a faculty congratulations, was met with behind-the-scenes jealousy and resentment.

  5. Christopher says:

    “……..Choice—and thus, competition—is the only option left which has a chance to provide a quality education to those who might not be afforded one, especially poor kids in urban ghettos…..”

    Are you advocating, then, a state of affairs (a scenario) whereby any parent – particularly if poor – has the freedom to choose (“School Choice”) which school to send his/her children to?

    If “yes”, how should this be done? What would your ideal state-wide, or nation-wide, educational scenario look like? Perhaps you might expand on this in a future posting?

  6. Cheri says:

    Yes. That is exactly what I am advocating. It would not be a nationwide program as I have little faith in the Federal government to implement school choice. Whether the states could take school choice on is another question.

    Local control has the best chance of success.

    Let’s take Oakland California, one of the most mismanaged and poor school districts in Northern California.
    I would gradually implement the idea of school choice, over a period of 3-5 years. All students in Oakland Unified would be in a lottery, sort of like the draft. Each student would draw (the computer would have to do this) and in order, be able to choose the school they wish to attend. School choice is not like vouchers which offer a cash amount for parents to use to select a for-pay school, be it charter, religious, or the like.
    When most students’ parents select Skyline High School in Oakland, that tells the folks at McClymonds that they had better improve or there will be no more McClymonds. Oakland has more charter schools, religious schools, and military schools which have sprung up in contrast to the declining discipline and academic rigor in their public school system.

    Even Governor Moonbeam supported a military charter school in Oakland where high school students learned structure and respect.

    Atlanta could benefit from school choice. Newark, N. J, New York City, Los Angeles…

    The black community, especially the women–who in many cases are raising their kids and grandkids without a man in the house, understand the power of a good education.

    • Christopher says:

      Being totally ignorant of the California school system – or indeed of any other school system, because I don’t have, nor ever have had, children (thank goodness) – I had to go into Google to understand some of what you said in your response to my comment.

      I learned that “Oakland Unified” means “Oakland Unified School District” or OUSD, and that it administers 116 schools, has 37,075 students, and a student teacher ratio of 16 (that I take to mean there are 16 students to each teacher – which made me think of the high school I went to, where the ratio was between 35 and 40, to 1).

      Investigating further, I received the impression that in the OUSD, parents can already apply to have their children educated at any public school they choose within the OUSD.

      Was my impression correct? If “yes”, what would be the point having the sort of lottery you spoke of?

      • Cheri says:

        Hi Christopher,
        I used Oakland as my example because of the many fiscal and educational problems the district has had. I do not know if parents can choose whichever school they want their children to attend. If so, Oakland would be in the minority of school districts here in California.

        In Fremont Unified, where I taught for so many years, parents, mainly Chinese and East Indian, lied about their home locations, rented apartments strictly for the addresses, and other shenanigans, all to have their kids attend school in the Mission San Jose High School attendance area. The other 4 high schools in Fremont had nothing of this kind of craziness happening, mainly because their test scores and college admissions rates did not compare to Mission’s. Why go to Kennedy H.S. when you could go to Mission?

        My experience was that there were pockets of excellence at each school and a great deal of teacher lethargy too. It was the students–and the parents– and all of the outside tutoring these students were getting (why would one need outside tutoring if the job was being done property within the school system?) that drove test scores up.

        This is a long complicated story…

  7. Cheri says:

    And sorry for the poor sentences…I wanted to answer you but am in a bit of a hurry.

    • Christopher says:

      Your sentences were just fine. I hope my sentences are just fine too.

      I’m going to guess that in public-school districts anywhere, the schools, when accepting students, will give preference to those who live in the school’s neighbourhood? So that students wanting to go to a desirable school, but which is on the far side of town, will have difficulty being accepted there?

      If yes, is this also the situation with the charter schools – which I understand are also in the public school system?

      If I’ve understood your school-lottery idea correctly, students lucky enough to get one of these vouchers, could, within their school district, apply to any public school they like, and be accepted, no matter that they live on the far side of town – thus giving them school choices they don’t now have.

      Is your school-lottery idea practiced in any school districts you know of?

  8. Cheri says:

    In your first graf, you ask if students living closest to the school receive preference. In San Francisco public schools, this is not the case. Students are bused all over the city which is why many young families have left San Francisco. I understand that with vouchers, parents can choose the school to which the voucher money will go.

    You have asked so many excellent questions, that I simply must do my research so that I can provide accurate answers. Please understand that I have not kept up with current practice. When I left the educational system, I was SO frustrated (as you well know having loyally followed my rants throughout the years) that I let go of any hope that the unions would lose power and school choice might have a little chance.

    I should look into all of this before I spout off, right?

    • Christopher says:

      “…..I should look into all of this before I spout off, right?…….”

      Well, who of any of us doesn’t “spout off”!! I most particularly. But for your “spouting off “, I wouldn’t, in the last day or so, have learned stuff about American education that I’d been woefully ignorant of.

      What you said about students being bused all over the city of San Francisco (that I’m going to assume is a single school district) suggests that in most school districts anywhere, students in the public school system do have quite a lot of freedom to choose – within their particular school district – which public school they wish to attend.

      This may be why – in the course of my Google searches – I came across no evidence, or even discussion, of public school-choice lottery systems of the sort you advocated.

      I’m going to opine that the parents who lie about their home locations, so that their children can go to a desirable public school, actually live in another school district, different from the school district in which the desired school is situated.

      While I came across no discussions of public school-choice lottery systems, I came across a plethora of discussions (mostly heated) about school-choice voucher systems, of the sort that Betsy De Vos and her ilk are passionate advocates of, in their quest for meaningful “school choice”.

      From what I gather, these voucher systems do operate already in certain areas of the US, but their results have been, at best, mixed. The main problem seems to be that they’ve had the effect of leeching badly-needed public monies out of public school systems, thereby exacerbating educational inequality.

      I may continue digging……….!!

  9. Cheri says:

    Let me clarify a few things.
    In SF, students in the same large public school system ( those whose parents cannot afford private schools) do not have choice. They are not guaranteed their neighborhood school. They are assigned a school. No choice, other than to leave piblic education.

    The parents in Fremont who lied about their addresses reside in Fremont, which has only one unified school district.

  10. Chris says:

    I worked in the public schools system for over 40 years both as a teacher and as an administrator. I always held dear to my heart the belief that public education was the great “equalizer.” I believed with a good education, all children regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or upbringing could be successful, productive citizens of this great county of ours. That belief made me proud to be a teacher. Not so much anymore.

    Because of the NEA, children are being cheated. A poor teacher can destroy and demoralize a student – those results last more than one year. Public education is in the predicament it’s in because it refuses to take action and do what is right for kids. What is right, is that every day, every child should have a teacher in front of them that is caring, supportive and has the knowledge and skills to help them grow and learn and be the best they can be. I support School Choice and DeVos because I support children first. It makes me sad to write this.

    • Cheri says:

      Your long experience, both as a teacher and an administrator, lends credence to my points. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I support children first too. I take no joy in writing about incompetent teachers, either.
      But unless we speak out, with our long and sincere experience, the shrill and selfish call of the union leaders will drown us out. I have no shame in telling my readers that I drove through three strikes…do you know what type of courage it takes to break a strike line? When for the rest of the years, you will be working with these people? I do not regret any of my past educational decisions because I was true to myself, my students, and their parents.

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