Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Union blocks badly needed principal hiring rule change

House committee dismally fails to do its job

It’s clear that the children of Kentucky don’t have enough friends on the House Education Committee.

This news release from the Kentucky School Boards Association nicely captures the committee’s contentious discussion, and ultimate rejection, yesterday of a badly needed improvement in the way Kentucky’s public school principals are selected.

In the process of yesterday’s voting, the majority on the House Education Committee turned their backs on the Kentucky School Boards Association, the Kentucky Association of School Councils, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

But, most importantly, the committee turned its back on the students of Kentucky.

As a consequence, the state is losing a chance to improve the far too many schools across Kentucky where the adult staff culture isn’t working well for kids.

Under Kentucky’s current, highly deficient process, principals are hired – not by the local school superintendent – but by the School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) in each school. This creates some very unsatisfactory situations.

Local district superintendents have no effective control over the hiring process. The superintendent can try persuasion but is prohibited by law from active interference with council activities. The SBDM is supreme. The SBDM alone selects its principal.

Because teachers have the majority vote on SBDMs, they solidly control every single council in Kentucky. Thus, the employees hire their own boss in our schools. That makes the principal more beholden to the employees than to the local board of education or the superintendent.

One very unsatisfactory consequence of this upside down policy is that there is no effective way to change schools where teachers are not working for kids. Rather than change, teachers in poorly performing schools can simply select a boss who will go along with the existing, unproductive school culture. Meanwhile Kentucky kids suffer.

It gets worse.

Incredibly, while a superintendent can fire a principal, the rules for principal hiring are so dysfunctional that the SBDM can actually rehire the very same person who was fired. This isn’t hypothetical – it has actually happened!

Basically, local school boards and superintendents are effectively locked out of control over their schools. Teachers have total and absolute control.

This crazy quilt situation means local boards and principals can’t be held responsible for anything. Boards and superintendents simply have no authority where it counts, in the schools.

Meanwhile, because SBDM can protect their principals from firing, teachers can perpetuate damaging school cultures with little fear of consequences, not even if kids are not learning.

Basically, there is little real accountability anywhere in the system. And, despite all the rhetoric about KERA, teachers basically face no inducement to make change if they don’t want to do so.

Naturally, the teachers’ union loves having teachers in the real drivers’ seat. It enhances the union’s power base.

Sadly, it was abundantly evident during yesterday’s meeting that the union alone was behind the failure to get a more rational principal hiring law on the books. The union holds puppet strings for too many of the legislators involved, and yesterday those strings got yanked tight.

Now, kids will continue to suffer because too many legislators forgot they are not elected just to serve well-heeled special interests – they are elected to serve all of us.

You can view the committee discussion for yourself. Move your time slider about half way across to the 57 minute point to hear the specifics and see how the union shot down House Bill 322.


Anonymous said...

Until there is real accountability in school performance nothing is going to change in KY. Legislators clearly do not have the courage to risk the union not going door to door to reelect their puppets. Hats off to the union. They know how to work the system to perfection. Maybe someday the legislators will grow some hair and represent the kids - but don't hold your breath.

The union successfully got crab crawl to top negotiated behind the scenes, shot down any school choice option and blocked any chance for reform through a principal.

You have to admit that is one great job to stop any needed reform.

Pay them more! Pay them more!

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