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Could California’s teacher-tenure lawsuit come to Minnesota?

On Tuesday, a District Court judge in Los Angeles issued an opinion that was essentially a shot heard round the world. In Vergara vs. California, nine schoolchildren argued that California’s very protective teacher tenure laws violated their constitutional right to a quality education. Judge Rolf M. Treu concurred.

During a month-long, closely watched trial, the pupils argued that the very small minority of California teachers who were highly ineffective were clustered in the poorest, most challenged schools. And that California’s long, expensive and fraught process for dismissing consistent underperformers in practice kept them in those classrooms.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Treu ruled. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The decision is stayed while state officials figure out whether they want to appeal it. Also unknown is whether the California Teachers Association, which was granted permission to intervene in the case, will attempt to appeal.

Most states, Minnesota included, have a constitutional provision that guarantees residents an adequate education at a minimum. The lawsuit that prompted the Minnesota Miracle, for instance, was based on this right. Over the past decade, public education advocates here and elsewhere have filed such suits or have discussed doing so.

Minnesota lacks many of the highly protective features of California’s teacher-tenure laws. But it is one of a handful of states that mandate teacher layoffs be conducted strictly according to seniority. Two years ago, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation mandating the use of other criteria, as well.

With his law partner Roberta Walburn, Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi is one of those who has researched and written about this kind of litigation.  MinnPost asked Ciresi for his take on the Vergara decision. A transcript of the conversation follows.

Because Ciresi very directly calls out Education Minnesota in the interview, MinnPost has reached out to union president Denise Specht. It is our plan to run a similar Q&A with her in this space as soon as possible.

MinnPost: What does the Vergara decision mean?

Mike Ciresi: What it means is that in California, statutes have been found unconstitutional, so they’ve got to go back and either revise them or negotiate a different set of rules with regard to tenure and teacher advancement within the system.

From an overall standpoint what we’re facing here is there’s been an intractability on the part of the teachers’ unions to address these issues from a realistic standpoint. When you don’t undertake to change things that need to be changed yourself, somebody else eventually comes in and forces the change. And that’s what’s happening.

MP: So does it in fact do away with tenure?

Ciresi: No, it does not do away with tenure. What it says is, there’s a variety of ways to address the issue: Some states say you may consider tenure, some states say you must consider it, other states say it’s a factor.

Mike Ciresi
Photo by Bruce Schnack
Mike Ciresi

In California they had to consider tenure. That was not the sole consideration but it was a major factor. So they have to go back and redo that.

Look, at the outset it’s not just the teachers that have led to this failure of learning in the educational system. The teachers are sort of an easy target for a lot of folks.

I think we have to step back a little bit and say, you know, education is really a three-legged stool which includes the teacher and administration, the student, and the parents. And all of those have to be fulfilling their role in order to have an effective educational system.

A lot of the movement, and rightfully so, has been directed toward the teachers because there are these intractable rules that prevent administrations from removing totally incompetent teachers. Which are a very small percentage of the overall teachers, but they’re there and they’re clogging up the system.

Most importantly, they are in the schools where you have the lowest socioeconomic students. So the kids who need the most help are saddled with some of the worst teachers. And that’s true in every school system.

There’s a constitutional provision [regarding education] in Minnesota. We actually looked at whether we should bring an action because kids are not getting educated.

I mean, you’re a reporter. What chance would you have being a reporter if you got the facts right 55 percent of the time? Or if I was making an automobile, I was Ford Motor Company, and 55 percent of the time the cars didn’t work. I wouldn’t be in business. You wouldn’t have your job.

And that’s what’s happening in our educational system. And it’s primarily happening with children of color. We need transformational change, and we need it with a sense of urgency. It’s not happening. And so you’re going to see, I think, a raft of cases like this across the country to address this aspect of the three-legged stool.

We also need to have a clarion call to the parents. They’ve got to be involved, they got to demand that the schools educate their children. And they have to make certain that they’re filling their roles as parents.

MP: In the California decision, the judge recognized the right to due process, correct? Can you talk about whether there’s some middle ground here between what he called uber due process and none at all?

Ciresi: Seniority can be a factor, and speaking from my own viewpoint, it should be a factor. But it should not be the determining factor in whether the teacher stays in her or his position. And “last in, first out” should be eliminated. I think it’s absolutely essential that that be eliminated.

But I do believe that through negotiation, the administration and the teacher unions should come together and find a way to compromise on these issues and make it workable. You can do it.

It’s just like site-based leadership. It shouldn’t be dictated down from the top. Obviously principals have to be involved, but you can do it. Various districts are attempting it, Minneapolis and St. Paul. So we are making progress in those areas.

But the teachers union, Education Minnesota, has been intractable on these issues. And they’ve got to get to the table and be realistic about it.

The thing that needs to be said is, you’ve got to recognize the union is a union. Its job is to protect its members. That’s the reason for its existence. So when a union says, “We’re all about the children,” yes to a degree it’s true, they are all about the children.

But ultimately they’re all about their members. That’s their job. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. And the administrations and the school boards have to understand that they have a job.

And many times we see school board candidates endorsed by a party or parties. And it’s primarily the Democratic Party, and they tend to side with the union because it’s the union that supports them in their elections. And they don’t discharge their responsibility as a school board.

MP: There been repeated attempts in the state to address some of these issues legislatively. They have all failed. What are the dynamics of moving away from the Legislature and into the courts?

Ciresi: I think if the Legislature does not address these issues — and it’s my party, the Democratic Party, that’s in control and that is supported by Education Minnesota — then the courts are going to get involved, because somebody is going to bring a lawsuit here. And we have a very strong constitutional provision.

And I always say as a trial lawyer, the last place you want to be is in the courtroom because you’ve taken the decision-making process out of your own hands and placed it in the hands of a third party, a judge or jury.

That’s what’s going to happen if they don’t address these issues and get to the table. And that’s not the way it should work. It really should be a process of negotiation.

MP: The Star Tribune carried a story that suggests that the California entrepreneur who bankrolled the Vergara suit would be willing to come here. Is that something you would favor?

Ciresi: I favor the process working. But the political process is so broken, not just here but across the country. It’s not that I’m cynical that it won’t work, but I’m highly skeptical. If it doesn’t work, then he may come here. And as I said there’s this very strong constitutional provision that would aid that type of lawsuit.

MP: Here’s what I was fishing for: Is there any danger to the headline that says, “Billionaire from California Pays for Lawsuit”? Is that a credible way to address this?

Ciresi: You always attack the individual because they’ve been successful. Or they have a lot of money or this or that the other thing. Let’s look at the merits. I suppose if he came to Minnesota that would be part of the headline, because that’s how the other side would pitch it.

But the fact is the decision would be made by a judge, not by a billionaire from California. He may be the catalyst—and I’m not saying he is coming, someone would be the catalyst, whoever brought the lawsuit, but the decision would be made by the judge on the merits.

We can’t deny that we’re failing our children of color. We just can’t deny that. The issue has been studied to death. We don’t need to study it anymore. We’re failing. We lost generations of kids who have not been educated.

If people just look at this from their own self-interest, it’s not in their self-interest. In St. Paul, approximately 30 percent of the school-age population is Caucasian. The rest are children of color. This is our economic future.

In Minneapolis we have a very high percentage of children of color. They are going to be the leaders of our state very soon — within 10 years, 15 years. They’re going to be the ones who drive our economy. And unless we educate them, we’re going to fall behind dramatically.

When I say to people is, if you don’t want to look at it as being right — which I think it is, I think it’s the civil rights issue of our time — look at it in your own self-interest.

I look at this as a basic constitutional right of our children to be educated. Their constitutional rights are being violated. In Minnesota we have a constitutional provision that says that all children are entitled to a quality education. And it’s undeniable, they’re not getting a quality education.

As I said, I don’t think all of the cause of that ought to be placed on the teacher’s head. When I ran for [U.S.] Senate, I ran into teachers in every village, town, city in Minnesota. The overwhelming majority are outstanding. They were digging into their own pockets to get supplies for the kids.

We have to be very careful how we discuss these issues. And we have to get away from the blame game and look at how do we more effectively advance quality people within the system. And one of the ways to do that is to eliminate bad teachers, and you can’t tell me there aren’t bad teachers.

Basically, the union takes the position that there are no bad teachers. They won’t say that directly but in effect that’s what their policies are. It shouldn’t take years to eliminate inadequate teachers from the classroom. It’s part of the solution, and has to be addressed. And it is within their power to help address that.

Comments (37)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2014 - 09:27 am.

    Let the market (parents) decide

    It’s time to quit forcing children of color to sit in the classrooms of bad teachers and expect them to receive an adequate education, much less a quality one.

    The taxpayers of St. Paul pay about $15,000 to educate one child in the public school system ($600 million / 40,000 kids).

    It’s time to issue $15,000 vouchers directly to parents of school-age children of color that can be redeemed at any school, public or private. Let the parents decide where their kids should go to school and don’t allow finances to affect that decision. That’s what the judge in California should have ruled, and if I was the attorney bringing the suit in Minnesota that’s the remedy I would be asking for.

    They had such a system in Washington DC when the republicans ran the government, but it was defunded when Barack Obama came to power. His kids go to Sidwell Friends but virtually every other black kid in DC goes to a failing public school.

    It’s time to stop the discrimination and to do it voluntarily before the courts force it upon you.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/16/2014 - 10:02 am.

      But the facts are

      Washington, as well as Cleveland and Milwaukee provided a great test of vouchers.
      In all three cases, many more families applied for vouchers than were funded, so the recipients were selected by lottery. This random selection made it possible to directly compare the performance of students at public and private schools. Overall, the private school students did slightly worse.
      And of course the only private schools that will educate a student for $15K a year are religious ones, who are indirectly publicly funded by tax exemptions.
      And obviously you’re not an attorney; these issues have already been settled in court.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2014 - 10:20 am.

        So once again

        the government decided who got what instead of what I suggested, which is to give a voucher to every family that requests one. No artificial limits. Give it to EVERY family that wants one and then we would allow the market to decide, not the government.

        And it shouldn’t matter which type of school performed well or not. What’s important is that the parents could pick and choose from all the options, public and private, for their children’s education and not leave it up to the union-backed politicians or the bureaucracy.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/16/2014 - 11:03 am.

          Let the market decide!

          Let’s just turn over tax money to individuals with no accountability! Want to use your tax-funded voucher to go to a school that teaches the earth was created in six days, about 6,000 years ago? Go ahead! How about one run by the Aryan Nations? If it’s what the parents want, the marketplace will decide! Do you want to use that taxpayer money to send the kids to a school run by the CPUSA, or Muslim fundamentalists?

          Okay, that last one may be going to far.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/16/2014 - 12:29 pm.

            If public schools were graduating a majority of kids who thought the Earth was created in six days and could speak, read and write about it in fluent English, perform mathematics well enough to describe how that might work it would mark a 45% increase in kids who can speak, read and write fluent English and perform mathematics.

            I’d take that and day over what we have today.

        • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 06/16/2014 - 11:20 am.

          You almost forgot one critical point….

          Mandatory acceptance of EVERY student who brings a voucher to a school. The school MUST accept EVERY student who wishes to attend–as that is the obligation of the public school system. Then we would see the collapse of the private educational school system as well because it would fail for the same reason the public system has problems. Only the private schools would just “go out of business” (after taking the money) and leave the students with NO education of any type–and thus push the students back into the public system. And then the process would repeat ad infinitum. So a massive cash bond from the school would be required in order to prevent the owners from taking the money and then running….

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Reed on 06/16/2014 - 02:46 pm.

      But Michelle Rhee and her vouchers and tenure destruction fixed all the ills of the D.C. school system … didn’t she?

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/19/2014 - 07:38 am.

      One of my brothers is very right wing, and even he can see the

      problem with school vouchers. Most private schools do not want children with behavioral problems or those from poor families who need remedial work. Parents pay good money to send their children to private schools so that they will be educated according to the tenets of a particular religion or philosophy or because they want to place them in an affluent or upwardly mobile milieu.

      If each family received, say, $15,000 worth of school vouchers, the private schools would simply raise their tuition by $15,000 so that only the current clientele could attend.

      Would it not be better to recreate a private school atmosphere within the public schools? That would include small classes (no more than 15 the lower grades, no more than 25 in high school), a culturally-oriented curriculum, lots of extracurricular activities, including musical ensembles, theater groups, creative writing, and non-standard sports like lacrosse and field hockey; and teachers who are subject experts.

      I have come to believe that the so-called “reformers” don’t really want children to learn. They want them trained for a limited range of jobs where they simply do what they are told. The “reformers” do not want children educated to become informed citizens and community members or to learn productive and enriching ways of spending their leisure. The reformers’ emphasis on continual high-pressure testing, sometimes with the banishing of subjects other than math and reading or even the banning of recess, seems designed to make children hate school and see it as nothing but a disagreeable hoop that they have to jump through to get a job. The veterans of high-stakes testing may score well on reading tests, but once they’re out of school, will they ever pick up a book and read it for fun or because they’re curious about something?

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/19/2014 - 08:49 am.

        “Would it not be better to recreate a private school atmosphere within the public schools?”

        You’d have to start by excluding the teachers union. Of course, that isn’t the end-all, but it’s a condition that is necessary before anything else can get started.

        Ready for that?

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/23/2014 - 08:52 am.

          When did teachers’ unions ever object to

          small classes, individual attention, or a culturally enriched curriculum?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/24/2014 - 04:41 am.


            The Union employees demand higher compensation, job security, etc than the market requires, especially for the older / degreed / tenured personnel. Therefore they force districts to have fewer Teachers and higher class sizes. As for curriculum, no one has limited their curriculum as long as the kids have learned math, language and science.

            Education MN puts Teachers first… That is part of the problem.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/16/2014 - 09:44 am.

    Ego Drive Codswallop

    With all due respect to Mr. Ciresi’s legal acumen, he is doing an adroit job of dancing around the issues in the Vergara decision.

    There was testimony in Vergara that perhaps 2-3% of the teachers in California public schools were “very ineffective.” The expert who gave this testimony has said that the court misconstrued it. he based his opinion entirely on the scores from standardized tests, and said that the 2-3% figure (a number one might say is within the margin of error for a sample of more than 300,000 public school teachers) was just an estimate. The judge focused entirely on that estimate to the exclusion of any other factors that might cause a student to perform poorly on the tests.

    It is also relevant to consider the motives of the financier of the plaintiffs. David Welch lives in the wealthiest ZIP Code in the United States, so we can guess that his children are not affected by any of the issues his lawsuit presented (in fact, not all of the nine nominal plaintiffs in the case attended schools with tenured teachers). Mr. Welch is an “investment partner” of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a fund that has invested heavily in charter schools, and which is linked to the textbook publisher Pearson. Mr. Welch is deeply entangled with the school privatization movement. This is not just some random “rich guy:” this is someone who stands to profit handsomely from the destruction of public schools. The fact that teachers are being turned into the enemy of education is of little consequence. Mr. Welch had ample motive to scour California for students to from his flirtation with champerty.

    Mr. Ciresi’s motives are also suspect. Electoral success has eluded him, so perhaps throwing his money and efforts behind education “reform” bullying seem like a clear way to public influence. Should Education Minnesota regret not endorsing him for the Senate nomination in 2000 or 2008?

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 06/16/2014 - 10:09 am.


      I would say the amount of respect due Ciresi for this dishonest tripe is pretty close to zero. He’s throwing around the number 55 percent, when the actual number is 1 to 3 percent, and that number was made up.

      Ciresi, like the funders of this lawsuit, has never worked in education, but feels entitled to “reform” education simply because he is extremely wealthy.

      If I was running a website dedicated to better news (or whatever Minnpost’s long-abandoned mission statement is) I would have interviewed someone who works in education, and asked the lawyer about the flaws in the decision (like Slate did) and the prospects on appeal.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/16/2014 - 10:02 am.

    I agree with everything Mike said here, but he didn’t go far enough in one respect.

    It’s absolutely true that parents are an important component, in fact study after study identifies parents as the linchpin of academic success. And it’s also true that there are many parents that have abrogated their responsibilities to varying degrees ( ); but that’s not the whole story.

    Public schools have made a concerted effort to exclude parents from informed decision making in many aspects. The union doesn’t want angry parents meddling in contract negotiations, the leftist socio-economic scientists and GLBT lobby don’t want parents too well informed on what they’re cooking into the curriculum. It’s a special interest conspiracy in the classic sense of the word.

    It is absolutely imperative public schools not only reach out to parents, they must grab ahold of some of them and drag them into their students lives. It is also imperative to separate the interests of the blue collar, trade labor teachers union from those of our kids.

    • Submitted by Luke Ferguson on 06/16/2014 - 10:44 am.

      Curriculum Cooking

      Please, Tom, expand on what evils you see the “GLBT lobby” trying to hide from parents that is being taught in classrooms?

      And maybe I missed the latest curriculum recommendations from the “leftist socio-economic scientists”. Can you fill me in? I must have forgotten the secret website address, since they’re trying to hide it from the parents meddling.

  4. Submitted by Walt McCarthy on 06/16/2014 - 11:03 am.


    As a former English teacher, it has been my experience that tenure is the last refuge of the incompetent.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/16/2014 - 01:50 pm.

    Lawsuits, lawsuits…

    I hope it’s understood that Mr. Tester’s alleged “solution” would destroy public education. It’s nothing more than “government is the enemy” ideology with an unusually thin veneer of concern for any of the parties involved. If everyone gets a voucher worth ‘x’ dollars with which to educate their child, which costs ’y’ dollars, it does nothing to get at the issue of equity, since some families will be able to supplement voucher dollars with their own, while others will not. As is currently the case, the children of the well-to-do will, once again (or perhaps “still” is the better word) have superior facilities, and will be able to financially support hiring better (i.e., more expensive) teachers. The end result will be to cast our increasingly wide gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in concrete.

    In that context, RB Holbrook’s comment deserves a LOT of attention, particularly the middle two paragraphs. I’ve read in more than one other place that the “expert” testimony was, by the expert’s own admission, “made up.” It seemed to him a reasonable estimate, so that’s what he gave the court, but there was no research – of any kind – behind the number, and Mr. Holbrook is quite correct to suggest that 2%-3% is within the margin of error with a sample of that size.

    I’ve not been here long enough to have any real knowledge of Mr. Cirisi or his views, so I’ll let that slide. I certainly agree with him that education, or the lack thereof, is a crucial issue, and that, as a society, it’s one we’ve failed to effectively deal with. I also think, by the way, that tenure based exclusively on seniority is indefensible, and Education Minnesota should give that one up. Tenure is vital, and absolutely necessary, but it has to be based on multiple factors, including evaluations of effectiveness (ideally by other teachers), of which seniority is but one of several relevant factors.

    That said, I do think it curious that tenure is generally something it takes some time to acquire – in the state where I taught, and in Minnesota, as well, I think, there’s a 3-year probationary period, which ought to be ample time with which to determine whether a particular candidate for tenure either is, or has excellent potential to become, an effective teacher – and yet many of those on the right who would dump the responsibility for academic failure exclusively on the heads of teachers seem intent on devising a system whereby a teacher can be dismissed at the snap of a finger, as in the private, “at-will” employment scenario that far too many employees have to deal with.

    Be that as it may, Mr. Welch is another matter, and RB Holbrook is right on target in pointing out that Welch is not only someone with a specific agenda when it comes to public education, but that Welch also stands to profit personally, and substantially so, should public education be swept away to be replaced by charter schools which will, for the vast majority, produce no better results. He is decidedly NOT “just another rich guy” dabbling in education. He’s an ideologue with an anti-democratic agenda.

    As is often the case, Mr. Swift exercises a selection of facts. Nonetheless, I’m in agreement that parents are crucial to academic success, but that’s a no-brainer. Who among us would argue that parents are unimportant to the development of a child? Dozens of studies show the importance of parents as “first teachers.” I’d also agree that many parents have abdicated their responsibilities in that regard, but that’s hardly a revelation. I was dealing with those issues from my first year in the classroom, and see no sign that they’ve gone away since I retired. Abdication of parental responsibility was just as much an issue in my school district in the 1970s as it is now in the Twin Cities.

    His third paragraph, of course, is pure, right-wing horsefeathers, and a nice illustration of how sincerity of belief bears no relation to truth. I was personally charged with putting together flyers and newsletters mailed to parents to inform them of school events and activities, and as the personal advisor of 16 to 20 students each year for the final 25 of my 30 classroom years, I was in frequent contact with the parents of each one of them about their child’s academic program, their success at any given point (or the lack thereof), the numerous remedies available should the latter be the case, and any other issues with which particular parents were concerned.

    As several recent studies have pointed out, teachers are generally not in the field for the money – a good thing, that, since there’s very little to be had. Issues that are just as important tend toward the practical and everyday – class size, availability and contemporaneousness of materials, subject and out-of-class duty assignments, and so on. In general, they tend toward issues that affect the classroom (and thus the learning) environment. Mr. Swift’s hostility to a “blue collar, trade labor teachers union” would be amusing were it not such a sad example of cant.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/16/2014 - 02:39 pm.

      I wasn’t speaking of the weekly activities notice, Ray.

      I’m going to use the recently passed “anti-bullying” bill as an example, but there are plenty more. [Use of caps mine]

      there is “(i) a PRESUMPTION that a district or school official will notify the parent of any student affected by alleged prohibited conduct of facts related to the incident and any disciplinary or remedial action taken by the school or district, UNLESS notification to the parent is otherwise prohibited by law or the official, in consultation with the district’s responsible authority, determines that notifying the parent is not in the best interest of the student, as consistent with section 13.02, subdivision 8;”

      “Presumption” is clearly an end run around “required”. And if that was not clear enough: “unless notification to the parent is otherwise prohibited by law or the official, in consultation with the district’s responsible authority, determines that notifying the parent is not in the best interest of the student”

      Brazen usurpation of a parents authority? Clearly. How does manufacturing family secrets work in a child’s best interest, exactly?

      The rightness of my reasoned hostility to teachers unions is born out every year, Ray, as thousands of kids are sent to face the life of functional illiteracy. I for one, find nothing amusing about that at all. My categorization of the NEA as a trade labor union accurately describes their mission and tactics.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/16/2014 - 05:20 pm.

      Parents are important

      But penalizing children who have the poor judgement to be born with poor parents simply perpetuates the problem. The only way to have better parents is to educate children better.

      On the teacher front; there’s some basic economics involved.
      Some teachers -say- that they’re not in it for the money. Cognitive dissonance (or common sense if you wish) would predict that poorly paid people claim not to be in their job because of the money.
      Unfortunately, in the United States the people that go into teaching tend to be in the bottom half of their high school graduating classes; people with some job prospect limitations. These are not people who could have gone into finance or engineering (I taught for 40 years in the MnSCU system — I’ve seen the numbers and the students).
      If we want to attract better students into the field, we have to do what the countries that do a better job of educating do — pay them more. This in turn means paying more taxes. TANSTAAFL.
      You can’t fire the poor teachers without hiring better ones to replace them.

      Final point:
      The public schools are filled with problem students from private schools.
      The state laws that guarantee all children an adequate education don’t require private schools to provide that education; public schools must. And these children are more expensive to educate, further raising the cost of public education vs. private (religious schools; the predominant private schools; pay their teachers significantly less than do public schools).
      In other words, private schools are subsidized by tax payer supported public ones.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/16/2014 - 07:10 pm.

    One lawyer’s opinion…

    Here is another high profile local lawyer sharing his concerns about the California decision. Marshall Tanick is more more reputable in that he is not looking to hold an office. He clear takes a position regarding law. Here is the link.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2014 - 09:16 pm.

    The state constituion

    that guarantees all children an education doesn’t specify that the state actually provide the teachers or the school buildings. If the state shut down all the government-run schools and fired all the public employees working for the school system, they could still meet the constitutional requirements of providing an education to all children by simply paying for it by reimbursing the expenses incurred by their parents.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/16/2014 - 09:28 pm.

    One last point

    …which I neglected in my first post, and that is the economic part.

    The cliche is that we make time for the things that are important to us. I’d suggest that a corollary to that sentiment is that, certainly in this culture, we spend money on the things that are important to us. In the private sector worshipped by Messrs. Swift and Tester, it’s axiomatic that if you want quality personnel, you have to pay them, and pay them well. Not “occasionally,” or “on merit, based on my personal definition of merit,” but all the time, every time, year after year. Paul Brandon could not be more correct about that one sentence: “If we want to attract better students to the field [of education], we have to do what the countries that do a better job of educating do – pay them more. This in turn means paying more taxes.” I confess I have no idea at all what the lengthy acronym stands for. But virtually every industrial culture on the planet pays its teachers, as a share of GDP, and in terms of median income for the society, far better than does any state within the United States.

    Throughout my 30-year career in a middle-class suburban school district, not once did my annual compensation equal the median income of the community in which I taught and lived, nor even that of the local garbage truck driver. I would be among the first to note the quite important public health role assigned to that truck driver, but in the process, I would also note that the educational standards and expectations required by the state to hold each job are in different universes, and that mountains of rhetoric from both left and right repeat the theme that our children are our most precious resource, therefore those we’ve charged with teaching those children have to be above and beyond reproach.

    So I have to be far, far better than my garbage truck driver neighbor in terms of education and character, because I’m going to be given the responsibility of educating the nation’s (and neighborhood’s) most precious resource, and I have to be personally licensed by the state, but I’m not going to be paid as much as my truck driver neighbor, despite the fact that s/he won’t be required to have the education, the character, the license or the interpersonal skills, nor will s/he be held to the same level of responsibility. That doesn’t strike me as a prescription to assure quality teaching in any school, anywhere.

    I was not speaking of weekly activities notices, either, nor do I accept as accurate, even for a moment, Mr. Swift’s belief that he knows how to interpret state law better than school districts or their lawyers. Mr. Swift knows nothing of how school districts, school administrators and individual teachers are told to deal with a number of what I’ll call “sensitive” issues regarding student behavior and the consequences thereof. On occasion, I give him credit for snark points, even when his reasoning is faulty, but not this time. He makes as many presumptions about both adults and children as those he’s busily accusing.

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/17/2014 - 09:11 am.

      Yes, Ray …

      Remember what Daddy or at least mine used to say ? It was something along the lines of ,”You get what you pay for ! ” Your comments regarding your salary structure are reflective of the investment made in education over your thrity years and I would add to that my 42 years here and entirely in Minneapolis. Simply put we are getting the results of what was paid for. We saw the piece at Twin Cities Daily Planet regarding the treatment of IT personnel in Minneapols and I am now here stories of likewise treatment of transportation employees. The downsizing continues but it is not just teachers who are being affected. It is and it has been anybody connected to the public schools. An this wronghead concept of charters does better is just about the dollar spent. It is a way to mask the collective shame over not making the investment. If we go down this road in the end the results will be even worse as some statiistics are beginning to bear out. But go ahead with your plan Swift, Tester etal and you can explain what happened to education in this country. It will be on you and yours.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/17/2014 - 12:43 pm.

      “it’s axiomatic that if you want quality personnel, you have to pay them, and pay them well.”

      I agree 100% Ray. The problem is that because they are represented by a blue collar trade labor union, their compensation is calculated in exactly the same fashion a union widget driller is compensated.

      Why would a physics, math or biology undergrad sign up to get paid less than an English major with 5 years in the seat?

      Why would a teacher who consistently demonstrates skill sit still while a jaded, burned out teacher sits it out until retirement at a higher salary?

      There are teachers out there that should be making mid 6 figures…problem is the union has them lumped in with those that should be selling used cars.

      • Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/17/2014 - 11:57 pm.

        and once again …

        you oversimplify Mr Swift. Do at some point show some respect for the evolution of both teacher’s salaries and status in this backwards third world plutocracy. We are not the richest nation on the planet because some are rich. We are not the most gender neutral society because there is some representation. Nor are we racially equitable. Teachers are the underclass. That is a fact unions arose to bring equity. Some came but there is along way to go as Ray eloquently ponits out. Until that day as is sing,”I’m stickin to the Union!” But I can see you are clearly stickin it to the Union through lack of information.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/18/2014 - 07:52 am.


          Why would the best, brightest and most driven college students pursue being a Teacher?

          I mean steps and lanes limit the rate at which their compensation can increase…

          The current Union comp policies are great if you want to attract employees who want job security and Summers off, however they sure are not there to attract the most productive people or to encourage them to increase their effectiveness.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 06/19/2014 - 01:36 pm.

            This might come as a shock to somone like you

            but when compiling the list that constitutes individual happiness, not everyone puts money at the top. I know many wonderful teachers that do it because they love it and they make a difference in kids lives.

  9. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 06/17/2014 - 09:02 am.


    Shouldn’t Ciresi’s presence on the board of MinnCAN (which takes a very clear position on teacher tenure) be disclosed as part of this story? He’s not merely an unbiased legal analyst.

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