Bad teachers. We've all had one. A Connecticut judge is ordering the state to stop spending money on teachers who can't or won't teach. State Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled last week that Connecticut must overhaul how it evaluates and pays public school teachers, including expediting firing the worst performers.
Connecticut claims 98 percent of its public school teachers are competent. The judge smelled a rat. How can that be, he asked, when only 10 percent of Bridgeport's high school graduates are ready for college or a job?
Connecticut's teacher-protection racket is similar to what's going on in most other states. In New York, desperate parents are also suing. The courts are their last resort, because state pols — intimidated by the powerful teachers unions — refuse to reform the system. Never mind the little children who never learn to read.
Reform is mostly a state issue. But Donald Trump is putting a national spotlight on it, taking a stand for "merit pay" and against paying the "bad ones" the same as the "good ones." Hillary Clinton is endorsed by the unions and wedded to the status quo. This November, voters get a chance to weigh in against the unions' chokehold on their kids' schools.
That chokehold is costing Connecticut taxpayers a bundle. The state pays the third-highest teachers' salaries in the nation.
It's irrational, says Judge Moukawsher, when teacher pay is not in any way linked to teacher quality. Teachers are paid based on seniority and whether they have a master's degree. Yet there is no evidence — none — that after the first few years, teachers continue to get better the longer they're on the job, or that a master's degree makes a difference.
"Good teachers are the key to a good school system," Moukawsher argues. He calls the teacher evaluation system in Connecticut a farce — like "cotton candy in a rainstorm" — virtually nonexistent.
Moukawsher's ruling also compels Connecticut to adjust the allocation of money among rich and poor school districts. But his key insight is that spending on teachers without evaluating them is money down the rat hole.
Across the country, parents who have watched their own children set back by an awful teacher are going to court challenging teacher protection laws.
In Minnesota, parents are fighting against granting tenure after a mere three years and shielding teachers with the most seniority from layoffs. Quality needs to be part of the equation.
Quality is never considered in New York state, which like California, which has a LIFO — last in, first out — rule that protects teachers with seniority from layoffs.
And in New York City, even after a teacher is tagged unfit, the chances of termination are only 5 percent. It's that hard to fire a bad teacher.
No wonder parent groups are suing. One plaintiff, the mother of a little girl forced to repeat second grade, explains that "her daughter fell behind due to an incompetent teacher who didn't assign homework and didn't help her child read."
These parents have quit asking politicians to act. They know lip service is all they'll get. In his January 2015 State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ridiculed the notion that over 98 percent of public school teachers are rated effective or highly effective. He called that "baloney," and promised teacher evaluations based on independent observers (not the school principal) and student test scores. But now he's backing away.
It's the same story everywhere: Unions and their Democratic Party allies are blocking reform. The biggest victims are poor children, whose parents rarely have an option except their local school.
Trump, who backs school choice and merit pay for teachers, calls it a civil rights issue: "The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth" in failing schools. It's time to put the kids first.
Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution." To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.