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Hypocrisy flows from LA teachers' union leaders

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.


Anonymous said...

WOW! Your anger is showing again.

For some one who castigates attacking the messenger, you seem to go over the top doing so in this piece.

I don't agree with him, either, but I do not think he is a bad, stupid person.

Jeff Sadow said...

I'm not angry about it, more like resigned to having to issue another reminder. But, at the same time, I do not suffer fools gladly. If this were a rare thing, it might not even be worth commenting about.

But the thing about Monaghan, as well as Haynes and, to a lesser extent, Walker-Jones (although he gave himself a great case of athlete's mouth recently), is they are such hypocrites and they take every opportunity possible to act as such. Nothing they've done or said is with improving education in the state in mind. They're union leaders, and that's fine, being concerned about members first is their job, but they need to be honest about their motives in fighting to improve the lot of their members regardless of what impact it has on education. Instead, they try to justify their attempts to transfer public resources to private interests as the optimal way to run an education system, while in the process accusing everybody who doesn't agree as against quality education. As a public service, I'm not going to give them a pass on this but will remind the public about who these people are, what their real motives are, their strategy, and how it leads to hypocrisy, as often as need be.

Stupid is as stupid does. If somebody who has a years-long history of denigrating those who oppose him on issue preferences, always accusing them of bad faith when by his own actions and words he's done nothing to prove he actually supports what he says he does, and then whines about how a perception of the same tactics he uses now are being used against his interests makes you, in the context of the issue at hand, a bad, stupid person (for all I know, outside of politics, he might be a pleasant, reasonable chap). It also makes you something else -- a bully, and we need to stand up to them.

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Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

So funny to read Jeff complaining that someone is being "demeaning" to the man he worships, Bobby Jindal. Jeff professors the highground, and won't stoop to personal attacks, but then in the very next breath, you see Jeff say all sorts of garbage out of the other side of his mouth, in the very same piece: His enemy (today) is some guy named Monaghan, and Jeff insists he is a blowhard, hypocrite, ignorant ramblings, pouter, bloviator, vitriolic shrill, closed-minded, screamer and hollerer, and, of course, the suggestion that he is the equivalent of an Iranian mullah (which appears to be just the equivalent of the worst thing that Jeff could think up when he gets heated). Let me make the suggestion that Jeff himself is the bitter, pouty neocon, stewing in hate. And let me make the suggestion that it is Jeff Sadow who "routinely ascribes sinister motives" to people he doesn't like. Obama is always some sort of demon, evil cretin, "puerile" and naive, yet all-powerful and just about to seize that last bit of power that will doom freedom for all eternity. It's the same garbage coughed up by the same ancestral procession of hate-stewed conservative idiots from Rush Limbaugh to Nixon to Goldwater to Santorum to George Wallace to Leander Perez to Rick Perry and the whole carnival of the professionally indignant down here in the conservative cesspools of the south.

Also, what's up with the Iranian mullah swipe? I don't even know who this Monaghan guy is, but is it really an accurate comparison to say that a guy who leads the teachers union is somehow an Iranian mullah? How does this first sentence lead to the second: "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."

Per Jeff Logic, if a person claims another has bad faith, holds conspiracy theories and doesn't understand education, then that person is an iranian mullah?! What the hell, Jeff? And it's not like you don't regularly make all three of those claims. Hell, that's what your crappy little blog is all about. Look in the damn mirror, you stupid "Iranian mullah."