July 15, 2008

Know what union membership means before you write, Ray

Ray Fisman wrote a laudatory article released Friday by Slate about NYC's P.S. 49 principal Anthony Lombardi, an article with themes remarkably similar to what Robert Kolker wrote for New York Magazine in 2003, even down to quoting Randi Weingarten calling Lombardi a tyrant without crediting Kolker. Fisman links to an Inside Schools page summarizing P.S. 49 data and using Kolker's quotation, again without credit. C'mon, Mr. Fisman: if I can find the source by Googling, why couldn't you? (Given that flaw, I am doubtful of Fisman's claim that Lombardi was ever "at the top of the teachers-union hit list" (evidence of any such list or just colorful language to cover up a reporter's lassitude?)

But the passage that had me laughing was the following bit of ignorance:

Currently, New York City teachers get their union cards their first day on the job. In theory they're on probation for three years after that, but in practice very few are forced out. Lombardi suggests replacing this system with an apprenticeship program. Rather than requiring teaching degrees (which don't seem to improve value-added all that much), new recruits would have a couple of years of in-school training. There would then come a day of reckoning, when teachers-to-be would face a serious evaluation before securing union membership and a job for life.

Here is a fundamental conflation of tenure and union membership, or union membership with the legal protections of a collective bargaining agreement, or "serious evaluation" with something. I'm not sure where the root of the error lies, but I do know one thing that's true everywhere, as far as I know: union membership does not change your legally recognized rights under a collective bargaining agreement. It does other things that are important (greater chance of gains at the bargaining table through solidarity, access to specific benefits provided by the union beyond CBA protection, etc.), but Fisman just doesn't know what he's talking about here.

And then Joanne Jacobs repeats the error. Wince time...

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on July 15, 2008 6:20 PM |