Even though he’s one of the biggest blowhards in state politics, never say that Louisiana Federation of Teachers Pres. Steve Monaghan can’t go over the top on demand. And he did so again, in an address to the Baton Rouge Press Club, delivering a stunning lesson on what it is to witness a hypocrite.
Monaghan bleated that Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent education policy speech to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry was uninformed and insulting to teachers. He classified Jindal’s rhetoric as demeaning and therefore it discouraged any engagement by “fair-minded” opposing interests in the determination of education policy.
Of course, engagement just for engagement’s sake never is a good idea but let’s assume there’s value in it, and also that Monaghan therefore himself would act and use rhetoric in a way consistent with fostering respect for all parties and their opinions. Yet if you counted on that, you’d be in for surprise.
Just as one recent and specific example, take his speech last year at his union’s convention. Referring to educational reformers in general but many times specifically to Jindal, in it he termed legislation last year backed by Jindal an “attack” on teachers and school employees, that his views on education threatened the “social fabric” of the state, and declared him “anti-public education.” He also claimed Jindal as “ideologically driven,” even though these criticisms he launches against Jindal and reformers are nothing but ideologically-determined without any supporting facts.
More generally, Monaghan is one of several talking heads of special interests who routinely ascribes sinister motives to anybody supporting anything to empower the concept of charter schools, as these nimrods at every opportunity float a conspiracy theory that reforms are here to allow some kind of private sector takeover – even though they well know all but a half-dozen charter schools in the state are run by government or nonprofit entities. He also routinely calls those with different views, as he did Jindal, “uninformed” and their ideas not “based on research” – even though he has been humiliated publicly by reference to facts and research that demonstrated the exact opposite of his ignorant ramblings. Nor does he often display any logic or accuracy in drawing comparisons in trying to make arguments or refute those of others.
Ironically, while accusing Jindal of being uninformed, he demonstrated his own ignorance concerning state law regarding state support for private school tuition for students in underperforming schools, when implying any expansion of this should require holding private schools in this program to the same accountability standards (which he previously has bitterly opposed) as public schools – which is current state law, did you know?
He seemed most put out about Jindal’s assertion that, absent some kind of immoral/illegal behavior on the job, teachers with tenure remain in the classroom. He seemed to think that pouting about that procedures were in place and that some teachers with tenure occasionally actually did get removed in and of itself refuted that argument.
But saying something was in place to do something doesn’t mean it works to fulfill its intended purpose. The latest annual statistics show that only 2.38 percent of tenured teachers in Louisiana were fired (remarkably, almost twice the rate of those in their probationary periods), which is a lower rate than deaths on the job. By contrast, the average national rate in private schools is nearly 10 percent, and in the private sector as a whole it’s over 20 percent. Surely such a low rate cannot be explained by the teaching profession (apparently, just like being in the classified civil service in Louisiana) disproportionately attracting such high quality workers – dismal educational achievement statistics refute that strained possibility in any event.
Some argue that incompetent teachers get forced out, thereby artificially lowering the very low rate of tenured discharges. However, aside from the fact that most stay in teaching (only about 8 percent left the profession nationally in the latest year statistics are available) some portion of the low 7.6 percent who moved to a different school do so voluntarily. Again, these mobility numbers are much lower than those of the private sector, indicating an ability to stay ensconced in a job. Given these figures, it’s hard not to conclude that Jindal – if using only slightly overblown rhetoric – is essentially correct, and yet Monaghan will not admit what everybody else perceives easily.
The fact is, if Monaghan is going to assert that opponents of his issue preferences express themselves with much too vitriol that creates unproductive exchanges, there’s no better person to know that because he has practiced it for so long. For years he and his ilk have accused those who have opposed their issue preferences of bad faith, leading conspiracies for private interests against the public interest, and of being malignly untutored in understanding education. Change their clothes and have them grow beards out, and with their attitudes they could pass for Iran’s mullahs. Just as these mandarins brook no compromise in expanding or protecting the power of their state, particular religion, and personal power, so do the likes of Monaghan in their quest to separate as much money from taxpayers for as little effort on behalf of their members as possible, bloviating to match, as they have proved time and time again.
You don’t reason with such shrill, closed-minded people. You do, as Jindal noted in his second inaugural address, tell them to get out of the way if they aren’t going to be part of the solution. And if they don’t, you have to run over them. Elections have consequences, and it’s the right of the minority produced by them to scream and holler all it wants and to obstruct at every turn. But it’s the height of hypocrisy to then accuse of the majority of being uncooperative and hostile when you’ve been nothing but that for years on end.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:30