Updated! Now with Videos! Former LA Teacher Union Head Starts Charter, Now Hates Teacher Tenure


Not long ago, A.J. Duffy was a fixture at Reason.tv. Though Gollum-like in stature and human affect, Duffy was a big wheel at the Los Angeles chapter of the California Teachers Association union and he was one of the great villains of our online universe due to his barely repressed rage at slights real and imagined. Like Ernst Blofeld in the Bond franchise or Magneto in the X-Men, Duffy was such a good bad guy we put him in as many videos as we possibly could.

Here he is addressing a teachers union rally, sounding more like Humongous from the Road Warrior than a latter-day Mr. Chips. Click on the link for a ringtone-ready exhortation about "twisting arms" and "threatening people":

Boy have times changed! As my old scoutmaster used to say, give a troublemaker some responsibility and he'll become the best company man you've ever seen. Reason Foundation education analyst Lisa Snell points me to Duffy's latest gig. These days, the only arms Duffy is twisted are those of his staff at the charter school he's heading up. Charters are schools that are funded by tax dollars but freed from most of the collective bargaining and bureaucratic hassles attending to conventional public schools. Charters get a fraction of the per-pupil dollars that go to conventional schools and they live or die on the number of students they voluntarily attract. When he headed up the LA teachers union, Duffy was an unwavering opponent of charters.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The longtime anti-charter crusader wants to make it harder for teachers to earn tenure protections and wants to lengthen that process. He even wants to require teachers to demonstrate that they remain effective in the classroom if they want to keep their tenure protections.

And if a tenured teacher becomes ineffective, he wants to streamline dismissals. The process now in place can stretch out for several years, even with substantial evidence of gross misconduct. Some union leaders, notably Duffy, have defended this "due process" as a necessary protection against administrative abuses.

"I would make it 10 days if I could," Duffy now says of the length of the dismissal process….

Duffy will have a unionized school, preferably with his former union, but not at the expense of sacrificing his vision for how a school should operate, he said.

Skeptics, who criticized Duffy's management of the union, now question his qualifications to run schools. Charter school advocates responded cautiously, but were generally positive.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had called the union under Duffy "one unwavering roadblock to reform." The mayor had no comment, but Patrick Sinclair, a spokesman for a group of schools overseen by the mayor, said, "We're glad he's pursuing a lot of the changes and reforms that we and the mayor would like to see."

Read the whole thing here. Good luck at the new school, Mr. Duffy, and remember: However tough it is to deal with teachers, at least you don't have to deal with yourself.

Bonus video: Duffy takes a star turn in this video about LA's Locke High School, whose transformation from failing school to charter was kind of like the Prague Spring of SoCal educational reform.