Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Vegara v. California — the ruling knocking down union-backed protections for bad California teachers — is a great result achieved in the worst way. California public schools have done a terrible job providing education to the poorest minority students in the inner cities; it is imperative that innovation be introduced into the system. California’s antiquated rules about teacher tenure and seniority have stood in the way of meaningful reform. Everyone concerned about shaking up the educational bureaucracy to return the focus to teaching students rather than cosseting teachers should support the judge’s good intentions.
But whether teachers should have tenure, how they are fired, and what their rights are as employees should be decisions for the elected representatives of the people of California, not for judges. The theory of this decision is that these policies violate the constitutional rights of students because they produce an inferior education, and that, as a result, the courts can decide to take over the California public school system and make every decision from employees to funding to buildings to curriculum. They could arguably decide how much of the California state budget should go to education rather than police, fire, or roads. These are essential decisions for a democracy to make.
There are two things, however, to say in the judge’s defense. First, judges in California are elected, and so the people could remove this judge if they disagree (though that would take years and would not reverse the decision). Second, the California courts crossed this Rubicon years ago in the Serrano decisions, where the California Supreme Court used this logic to find that funding of schools had to be equal throughout the state and essentially eliminated the ties between the local tax base and local schools. The judge here may have thought he was following Serrano to its logical conclusion, rather than engaging in a fancy bit of activism to achieve an altogether worthy result.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece for City Journal (later adapted for the Los Angeles Times) about California’s largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association. The title: “The Worst Union in America.” Now, writers almost never get to choose their headlines and this case was no exception. But the CJ editors had it exactly right. There’s probably no union in the country that is both (A) as powerful and (B) as malign in its effects as the CTA. There are a lot of reasons for that — the piece isn’t exactly short, after all — but one of them is the extent to which they insulate bad teachers. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
A tiny 0.03 percent of California teachers are dismissed after three or more years on the job. In the past decade, the LAUSD—home to 33,000 teachers—has dismissed only four. Even when teachers are fired, it’s seldom because of their classroom performance: a 2009 exposé by the Los Angeles Times found that only 20 percent of successful dismissals in the state had anything to do with teaching ability. Most terminations involved teachers behaving either obscenely or criminally. The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based education-reform organization, gave California a D-minus on its teacher-firing policies in its 2010 national report card.
Responsibility for this sorry situation goes largely to the CTA, which has won concessions that make firing a teacher so difficult that educators can usually keep their jobs for any offense that doesn’t cross into outright criminality. With the cost of the proceedings regularly running near half a million dollars, many districts choose to shuffle problem employees around rather than try to fire them.
Business owners and those who hope to become one (wantrepreneurs) are a dying breed. First some wonky background: Technically, the U.S. economy is in “recovery”. However, most economists agree growth is anemic and vulnerable. 2014’s first quarter GDP was a mortifying 0.1%, surprising most everyone. Forbes called the growth “glacial”. Now we are informed that […]
My latest piece over at PJ Media concerns the murders in Isla Vista. Among other issues, I discuss the pro forma calls for more gun control, this in a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. A sample:
And still there are those who entertain the childish fantasy that some act of legislation, some magical addition to California’s already voluminous gun laws, might have been the one that impeded [Elliot] Rodger from carrying out what he was determined to do. Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, one of the students Rodgers killed on Friday, has been passionate in his condemnation of the National Rifle Association and the politicians he perceives to be in its thrall. “Why did Chris die?”, he asked reporters. “Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.”
Mr. Martinez can be forgiven in his grief for failing to blame the actual killer, but even in grief one must not disregard the grief felt by others whose loss is just as great. Elliot Rodger killed six people, three of them by gunfire. And he injured 13 others, eight by gunfire. The parents of those stabbed to death or run down in the street might ask, “You seek to ban the implement that harmed your child, but what’s to be done about the one that harmed mine?”
Perhaps it’s all a trick or clever political posturing, but every time I read the news from Sacramento I see articles with headlines like Brown resists Democrats’ call for more spending: Gov. Jerry Brown called on lawmakers to hold the line on spending as they enter a month of budget negotiations in Sacramento amid calls from […]
One of the more talked about political developments of late here in California is a proposed ballot initiative that would split the state into six new entities. With the widespread unhappiness about how the state is governed, the proposal has received plenty of attention in the press. But can it work? As Ricochet editor Troy Senik and I explain over at City Journal, the answer to that question is a definitive no.
First of all, the complaint that California can’t be governed in its present state has some serious problems:
Next week, California shuts off the water. So says the letter my parents received from their local water district, informing them that the water supplied to the district’s farms in Northern California will be no more. This year, the North Valley will not be filling its water canals.
My parents own a 33-acre orchard and my other family members lease or own farmland all over my hometown. A few years ago, when rainfall began to diminish and irrigation prices began to rise (and environmentalists appeared determined to make all water policy beholden to the goal of saving an endangered three-inch fish, the delta smelt), my parents drilled their own well to irrigate their orchard—as did many other farmers in the area.
Ontario’s debt is double that of California, with a population of less than half that of California. Ontario’s bonded debt stands at $267 billion while California’s stands at $144 billion. Preview Open
That’s the question I examine in the newest installment of my column for Hoover’s Defining Ideas. California has recently enacted a series of carbon regulations so sweeping that they have the practical effect of regulating behavior throughout the nation. As I note in the column, it is, in my judgment, time for this issue to be heard by the Supreme Court.
The reason this case is so important is that California’s regulations essentially usurp the powers of the federal legislative branch. As I argue: