Revealing interview with Randi Weingarten, who has been head of the American Federation of Teachers

There were a lot of thought put into the answers to these questions. It is actually scary to think that she might believe them. All the answers are self-serving.

I ask Ms. Weingarten about union-backed laws in 14 states mandating that teachers be laid off by seniority instead of job performance, and whether they help improve public schools. Why can't teachers who have been chronically absent from work be the first to go? Or the ones who have been convicted of crimes? Or the ones who are languishing—with full pay and benefits—in some "reserve pool" because no school will hire them? Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said that "last in, first out" policies hit low-income kids hardest because the poor are more likely to attend schools where teachers have less seniority.

Says Ms. Weingarten: "It's not the perfect mechanism but it's the best mechanism we have. You have cronyism and corruption and discrimination issues. We're saying let's do things the right way. We don't want to see people getting laid off based on who they know instead of what they know. We don't want to see people get laid off based on how much they cost." She praises New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for defending the state's seniority system.

What about teacher-tenure rules that offer lifetime sinecures after two or three years in the classroom and compel principals to hire bad instructors? "If you eliminated due process, what we would get is we would lose innovation and risk-taking in schools," she says. . . .

But in the next breath she shoots down suggestions for changes—vouchers, charter schools, differential teacher pay and so on—that have become important parts of the reform conversation. . . .



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