Detroit: Fire Teachers Who Don't Pay Union, Not Those Who Can't Teach

Detroit Public Schools is far from the model of educational success. In fact, it’s one of the worst-performing school systems in the country. For example, look no further than the abysmally low graduation rates.

One of the problems that could be addressed would be the tremendous difficulty to remove ineffective classroom teachers. It is so difficult and costly to do that on the occasions when Detroit (and the problem isn’t isolated there by any stretch of the imagination) actually tries to remove poor performers, they have to resort to offering settlements worth many months of pay and promises not to reveal the reason for their terminated employment.

That’s for teachers who show extensive evidence of not being cut out for the job — or in some cases, even worse.

As the Education Action Group has uncovered (PDF), though, there is one sure way to ensure the removal of a Detroit Public Schools instructor. From a local union official’s own mouth, fire him or her for not paying union dues or fees:

Although the union fights to save jobs for teachers, we are in the unfortunate position of having to notify 70 teachers that they may be terminated for nonpayment of union dues.

Paying union dues, or alternatively agency shop fees, is a condition of your employment. Occasionally, the district makes a mistake and fails to withhold the correct amount of dues. When this happens, we send an invoice to the member for the amount of dues owed.

When members do not fulfill their responsibility to pay their dues, we are in an unfortunate position. We have to notify the district that employment will be terminated in 35 days if the delinquent dues are not paid.

Way to really look out for the kids’ interests there! (cough, cough) Make it really, really, really difficult to ax the teachers who are holding back kids’ learning, but drop the delinquent union fee-payers like a lead balloon.

Of course, teachers unions aren’t to blame for all the problems in public education, but their leaders wonder why they face so much “scapegoating”. Well, I say look no further than this story as a prime example.