Vergara, Oliver & the Appeal to Authority

In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court decided not to review Vergara v. California, which challenged the constitutionality of the state’s teacher tenure, seniority and dismissal laws.

The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers declared this a “victory for students” because, as we all know, parents choose schools for their children based on whether the teachers receive tenure after two years, and if they are laid off in reverse order of seniority.

I’m not surprised by this result, but I entirely understand why the case was pursued. California’s education labor policy is entirely under the thumb of the teachers’ unions, to the point where even watered-down reform bills introduced by Democrats are rubbed out. The mercurial Gov. Jerry Brown will sometimes halt a union scheme with his veto pen, but he has no stomach to confront CTA and CFT on education reform. With two branches of government closed to them, Vergara supporters had to try the third.

“Eliminating teachers’ ability to stand up for their students and robbing school districts of the tools they need to make sound employment decisions was a well-funded but wrong-headed scheme developed by people with no education expertise,” said CTA president Eric Heins.

Ah, the old expertise argument, designed to stop everyone in their tracks. No matter the evidence of our eyes, we must defer to the experience and expertise of teachers. Well, not all teachers. Not private school teachers. Not Teach for America teachers. Not charter school teachers. Not non-union public school teachers. And not agency fee-paying teachers.

Oh, wait. There is at least one non-teacher to whom we must listen: John Oliver!

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post Your Talking Points Here had the on-the-nose headline regarding the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight and his lengthy segment on charter schools: “John Oliver hysterically savages charter schools — and charter supporters aren’t happy.”

It was hysterical, all right.

John Oliver might be an expert on charter schools, but I doubt it. He’s certainly not an educator. Since he opines on a vast array of topics it is probable that the sum total of what he knows about charter schools is what he presented in that segment. But since he said exactly what charter school detractors want to hear, he is celebrated by them instead of ignored as a know-nothing.

By the same token, charter school supporters should avoid getting too worked up over Oliver. While he was savaging charter schools, he also ripped into Pitbull, NBC’s Mysteries of Laura, the Olsen twins, the state of Pennsylvania, John Kasich, Papa John’s, Billy Joel, and the state of Nevada. I also think Papa John’s makes nasty pizza, but I don’t lobby for state laws to prevent people from going there.

I like pointing out inconsistencies in union arguments as much as anyone, but it’s mostly irrelevant. Unions use situational tactics, and if arguing one way gets a win today, and arguing the opposite gets a win tomorrow, they are perfectly happy to do so.

But if winning is all that matters, then just remember that 25 years ago there were no charter schools. Today there are 6,700 in 42 states. Who’s winning?


2 thoughts on “Vergara, Oliver & the Appeal to Authority”

  1. let’s see – 6400 charters in 25 years after both Dems and Republicans all over the nation – national and local – see Cuomo to Bush to Obama and the entire billionaire class on all sides supporting them – see hedge funders, Gates, Buffet, etc, — and a zillion astro-turf orgs pushing charters, vouchers etc — and the little bitty teacher unions themselves under assault – and run by an oligarchy – are all that stand in their way? At the rate they are going with Oliver just skimming the surface of the crooked ops – watch the real estate deals — what will be sse in another 25 years as the public which is not often a fsn of union seems to be waking up while the unions play the game of “let’s not offend too much so we can organize teachers in charters who will join those expeienced TFA people and go off into the sunset. Most CS people I know in NYC are dying to get into the public schools.

  2. If it were just charters it might be containable but public anger’s also showing up in a whole raft of voucher, tax credit scholarships, education savings account bills all over the country.

    Much of what supports the public education establishment is the assumption that there are no alternatives. It’s school districts or nothing. But that assumption’s challenged by charters first and now all the other policy ideas that set teacher’s unionistas teeth on edge.

    Oh well.

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