Who can forget John Belushi’s now famous question, in the classic movie Animal House, when he was attempting to rally his fellow fraternity members to keep the Dean from shutting down their frat house for it nefarious activities? “Did America give up when the German’s bombed Pearl Harbor?” Why did most of us think that was funny? The simple answer is because we were educated to know better courtesy of our former teachers. Those that failed to see the humor in Belushi’s now classic and humorous question are now masquerading as republican statesmen in the Arizona Legislature.
Changes made to the statutes, with regard the Arizona Legislature’s House Bill 2011, have brought devastating and sweeping changes to state teacher contracts (e.g., removing seniority, salary and contract guarantees). Effectively, every teacher in Arizona now operates without a contract. Teacher pay can be arbitrarily reduced at any time. Your child’s teacher can be fired for any reason, or for no reason. How can this be good for our children and their education?
Under the new mandate, school districts will be prohibited from using tenure or seniority as a factor in determining which teachers can be laid off. Additionally, school districts no longer have to honor seniority when they rehire following reduction in force layoffs due to lack of money or decline in the student population.
The Legislature placed the April 15th deadline, that required school districts to notify teachers of their contract status for the following school year, is now in the rear view mirror. A teacher can simply be fired the day before classes are to commence. In fact, a teacher can be terminated at anytime, for any reason, or for no reason.
These draconian changes to teacher contracts was signed into law September 4th by Gov. Jan Brewer and too effect on November 24th.
“Rep. Rich Crandall (R), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the changes had bipartisan support. The changes remove seniority as a factor in determining retention and rehiring but do not replace it, giving districts local control. Crandall said he believes districts should devise systems of tying teacher salaries to student achievement.
"The bottom line is teachers need to be retained based on their achievement, not on how long they've been at a job," said Crandall, R-Mesa (http://www.azcentral.com/12news/news/articles/2009/11/23/20091123edcontracts1123-CP.html).”
Sounds nice, but most teachers will tell you that their performance in the classroom will not be the deciding criteria on whether most teachers keep their jobs. Simply put, Rich Crandall is a typical politician that you know is lying because his lips are moving. This measure did not, and does not have bipartisan support as not one democrat voted for this travesty.
In reality, this statutory product of the Arizona republican party has three visible purposes:
(1) To break the back of the teachers union for being a thorn in the side of the legislature during the recent budget fiasco brought on by Napolitano's reckless spending. The Legislature, seeking to balance its budget did not look to make cuts on their sacred cows (e.g., government sponsored corporate welfare recipients which was clearly designed to ensure that the campaign donations keep rolling into the legislative re-election campaigns from grateful corporate recipients). No, this law seeks to enact revenge against teachers and their union for collectively speaking up against the drastic and institutionally crushing budget reductions levied by legislative republicans against Arizona’s most vulnerable victims, its school children. Crandall and his cronies are saying to teachers and to any other public employee, “How dare you question what we do as a legislative body?).
(2) To enable districts to fire teachers, without cause, and to replace them with much younger and much cheaper workers. The state republicans seem to be saying to the parents of our children: “Any warm teaching body will do so long as it a young and inexpensive body which does not require much compensation). Arizona is currently 51st in the nation in spending for education. “Look out Puerto Rico here we come” as Arizona is behind every state as well as Washington DC). We have the distinction of having the most punitive policies towards teachers in the nation. If a teacher is willing to leave Arizona they can make more money, have better job security, and better working conditions. How can this be good for our children?
(3) This law invites a practice well known to the state republicans by inviting further nepotism. Now this nepotism will invade our schools with the force of corruption which invaded New York City during the Boss Tweed era. Because of the state republicans, an administrator, district or building, can fire a competent teacher and replace them with a friend, political ally or family member. Teachers can be fired for political activity, expressed or suspected political beliefs, religious beliefs, or even ethnicity because no justification has to be offered to remove a teacher. A teacher can be fired for being too old and be making too much money. All that a district has to do to successfully engage in these illegal behaviors is to issue a pink slip without a reason. This law erases any semblance of academic freedom and tenure. Much wiser politicians previously enacted tenure and academic freedom to protect against these corrupt practices. Now Crandall and his short-sighted republican colleagues have ensured that many competent and future teachers will seek to apply their trade in another state which does enact revenge on its teachers for daring to defend it most previous resource, the children.
Every teacher and every parent, in Arizona, should ban together, pool their resources and get this amoral politician, Rep. Crandall, removed from office. Following a Crandall recall, in November 2010, Crandall’s republican colleague’s should be turned out as well. If there is no tenure for teachers, then there should be no tenure for the decimators of Arizona’s teaching profession.
As if it means anything anymore, the republican’s actions levied against the teachers are unconstitutional because the Arizona Constitution prohibits nonmonetary issues from being in the state budget. Further, nonmonetary issues are forbidden to be mixed with policy issues (i.e., teacher tenure). Another detail that is left out in this story is that the state constitution forbids non money issues from being in the state budget. This is NOT a money issue, it is a policy issue! Then why is it in the budget? Answer: Because the republicans did not read the constitution that they swore to uphold and most still apparently believe that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and that any warm, young, cheap and inexperienced teacher can convey that teaching lesson to their students!
In yet another case of yellow journalism, the Arizona Republic is unwilling to tell the entire story. Now, Arizona is 51st in spending for education (i.e., Arizona is behind every state and Washington DC courtesy of the Belushi advocates of American History) and Arizona has the most punitive policies towards teachers. If a teacher is willing to leave Arizona, they can make more money, have better job security, and enjoy far better working conditions.
Ask yourself, how does Arizona retain quality teachers over the age of 40 in this kind of environment? How will your children compete in a global economy with an educational system filled with nepotism, favoritism and authoritarianism which will clearly undermine its most experienced teachers? How does Arizona attract and retain its best teachers? The simple answer is that has not been able to for a long time. Arizona’s education just took its final leap off of the proverbial cliff.
It is baffling why Arizona’s teachers would not engage in a walk out in order to call attention to this travesty. It is even more baffling why Arizona’s parents are leading the way. When Johnny cannot read, or he comes home in tears because his favorite teacher was let go to hire the nephew of a school board member, don’t blame Crandall and his anti-education republicans, parents should blame their own inaction by failing to enact the same level of revenge on these child abusers that was enacted our children’s educators.