The Difficulty of Firing Teachers in L.A., or, Hey! Kids! Leave Those Teachers Alone!


The L.A. Times has a lengthy report on the difficulties of firing teachers, due to convoluted processes, endless second-guessing, and powerful unions. Some good details:

….L.A. Unified officials were also unsuccessful in firing a male middle school teacher spotted lying on top of a female colleague in the metal shop, saying the district did not prove that the two were having sex.

The district fared no better in its case against elementary school special education teacher Gloria Hsi, despite allegations that included poor judgment, failing to report child abuse, yelling at and insulting children, planning lessons inadequately and failing to supervise her class.

Not a single charge was upheld. The commission found the school's evaluators were unqualified because they did not have special education training. Moreover, it said they went to the class at especially difficult periods and didn't stay long enough.

The story starts with a tale of a still-teaching teacher who mockingly encouraged a failed suicide among his students to try harder next time. Why is it so hard to fire bad teachers, even when they are hurting the kids they are supposed to serve? "Kathleen Collins, associate general counsel for L.A. Unified, explained it this way: 'Kids don't have a union.'" And: "Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare. In 80% of the dismissals that were upheld, classroom performance was not even a factor."

I blogged further on this topic at my "City of Angles" L.A. news and politics blog at KCET.org.

Reason magazine was on the how-hard-it-is-to-fire-teachers story back in an article by John Stossel in our October 2006 issue, focusing on the New York system, and with a great Terry Colon cartoon chart.