New Contest Seeks to Buy Out the Nation's 'Ten Worst Teachers'

Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:24pm EDT
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( - An anti-union group is inviting the public to name the nation's worst "union-protected" teachers.

It's part of a campaign to show the adverse impact that the powerful teachers' unions -- especially the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers -- have on children, schools, and politics, the Center for Union Facts said.

"Most teachers are doing a wonderful job under difficult circumstances," the group said on its Web site. "The overall effect of teachers' unions on public education, however -- when lawmakers and voters leave their power unchecked -- is far from positive."

The Center for Union Facts argues that teachers' unions oppose education reform, protect bad teachers and misuse teachers' money while their union contracts "wrap school districts in red tape."

Because of "union-defended" labor laws, however, it can be impossible to fire a bad teacher, the Center says. Therefore, the group plans to accept nominations for the "ten worst union-protected teachers in America." It will offer to pay them $10,000 apiece to get out of the classroom for good.

"Dedicated, professional teachers have nothing to fear from this contest," the Center for Union Facts said, adding it intends to "showcase the worst of the worst."

The group's Web site is now accepting nominations. "All submissions will be screened for approval and edited to protect privacy before they will be posted," the Center said.

The Center for Union Facts is run by Rick Berman, a former labor lawyer who says he opposes union corruption and intimidation. Berman also runs the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that represents the interests of the food and restaurant industry.

Edward J. McElroy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), blasted Berman's "anti-union front group" for launching an "assault" on teachers.

McElroy, on the AFT Web site, calls Berman "an ethically challenged attack dog" and "a shameless lobbyist who has shilled for pesticide, alochol and tobacco companies."

According to McElroy, "Berman uses "hidden funders to attack groups that contribute a great deal to society. Now he is coming after teachers at a time when most Americans support education and want to make improving education a top national priority. Teachers and the public deserve to know which businesses are bankrolling Berman's despicable tactics, but he is too much of a coward to reveal the source of his funding," McElroy said.

McElroy describes the AFT as a longtime advocate for "sound, commonsense public education policies, including high academic and conduct standards for students, and greater professionalism for teachers and school staff. He said the union does back education reforms -- "when they are done in a way that improves teaching and learning."

As part of its new project, the Center for Union Facts said it filed freedom of information requests with dozens of major school districts. "From the stacks of paperwork that ensued, we have calculated a variety of statistics that document how teachers' unions -- and the laws and policies they defend -- keep bad teachers in classrooms."

The group examined 22 school districts, all listed on its Web site. It calculated how many "contract teachers" are employed -- and how many of those teachers were fired over a four-year period. In all cases, a very low percentage of teachers were fired, prompting the Center for Union Facts to conclude that unions "have made it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers."

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