Minnesota teachers unions defend “fire whites first” policy

Source: Hot Air

Back in March, an ongoing strike by teachers in the Minneapolis school district was settled and one of the concessions made to the union was new language in their contract. The new provision ensured that merit, performance and seniority would take a back seat to race when layoffs are required. Teachers of color would be exempt from layoffs if there were any white teachers available to be eliminated. The resultant uproar drew attention around the nation. Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker weighed in, saying that this was another example of why “government unions should be eliminated.” But the unions are firing back this week, describing the complaints as a “right wing” plot against the unions. They offer a couple of different reasons why this blatantly racist policy should be seen as no big deal and how it’s actually intended to combat racism. (Associated Press)

When Minneapolis teachers settled a 14-day strike in March, they celebrated a groundbreaking provision in their new contract that was meant to shield teachers of color from seniority-based layoffs and help ensure that students from racial minorities have teachers who look like them.

Months later, conservative media outlets have erupted with denunciations of the policy as racist and unconstitutional discrimination against white educators. One legal group is looking to recruit teachers and taxpayers willing to sue to throw out the language. The teachers union paints the dispute as a ginned-up controversy when there’s no imminent danger of anyone losing their job. Meanwhile, the feud is unfolding just months ahead of arguments in a pair of U.S. Supreme Court cases that could reshape affirmative action.

“The same people who want to take down teachers unions and blame seniority are now defending it for white people,” said Greta Callahan, president of the teachers unit at the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

As crazy as the language in the contract may sound, the defenses of it that are being put forth are even more bizarre. The president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers claimed that the controversy was irrelevant because “there’s no imminent danger of anyone losing their job.” That’s probably true at the moment, through there are clearly still many teachers that shouldn’t be in the classrooms. The district currently has three hundred openings they have been unable to fill. But that’s not going to be the case forever. The day will come when enrollment continues to drop due to the poor quality of our public schools and teachers will have to be let go. And then that contract language will be very much in play.

Those same union representatives further claimed that the same conservatives protesting these changes have long argued against the seniority system, but “are now defending it for white people.” This is also an entirely bogus argument. I’ve never seen anyone criticizing the unions’ seniority policies because they didn’t lay off enough teachers of color . The seniority system is terrible because it protects too many teachers who are incompetent or even abusive, regardless of the melanin content of their skin.

The same players from the unions are also attempting to say that the contract doesn’t really call for laying off white teachers first. It actually exempts “teachers who are members of populations underrepresented among licensed teachers in the District, as well as alumni of historically Black and Hispanic colleges, and of tribal colleges.” Pretending that this provision doesn’t target white teachers while protecting all others is a blatant falsehood. They point out that 60% of the teachers in the district are white. But if that’s the case, perhaps they need to look in the mirror and ask why they haven’t been recruiting more teachers of color.

If any school districts want to do away with seniority as part of the criteria for determining layoffs and base those decisions strictly on performance, I’m all in favor of that. But that’s not what’s being done in Minneapolis. They are replacing seniority with racial quotas which is if anything, even worse. When you base these decisions on seniority there is at least a chance that some of the senior teachers will be better than those with less experience. (Though that is far from guaranteed, as we’ve seen far too many times.) Skin color is not a predictor of performance and those claiming otherwise are the actual racists taking part in this debate.