Eighty-two hundred poor teachers in California is 8,200 too many—but why is it assumed that firing these individuals and replacing them with new teachers will solve the nation’s education crisis?

If as many as 3 percent of teachers are deemed “grossly ineffective,” that means 97 percent are not. So, why are the education “reformers” behind the Vergara lawsuit focusing so much time and money on a problem that affects only 3 percent of the student population? And how do they explain the disappointing achievement of so many other students?

It’s no secret that a Silicon Valley magnate and charter school entrepreneur, David Welch, has spent millions of dollars to finance and publicize the Vergara suit. Welch and other corporate school reformers have been playing a massive shell game by focusing the public’s attention on teacher unions as the root cause of education’s problems, while diverting attention from other, more significant factors that decades of research have identified—such as poverty, inequitable funding, and a lack of parent involvement or accountability.

It’s insulting that this campaign is being framed as a civil rights issue, and that these so-called “reformers” claim they’re just trying to help poor students. You know what would really help poor students? Funding their schools at the same level as those in Atherton, Calif., where Welch makes his home—reportedly the wealthiest ZIP code in the country.

But addressing issues such as poverty and inequitable school funding would require systemic changes that address the widening gap between the rich and poor in this country, such as raising the minimum wage to a living wage for full-time employees, closing the tax loopholes exploited by large corporations, taxing capital gains on those with annual incomes over $250,000 at a higher percentage, and … well, we can’t have that, can we?

The Vergara case might result in fewer demonstrably bad teachers, but it ignores the larger, more complex reasons why our public schools are struggling to produce students who are ready for college or careers. And that’s the real crime in this lawsuit, because until these other issues are addressed, true large-scale improvement won’t be possible.

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Dennis Pierce

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