I was granted tenure—a job for life—at the ripe old age of 26.
So imagine how far I spit my Saturday morning coffee when, listening to Ian Donnis’ podcast Political Roundtable on The Public’s Radio, state representative Liana Cassar cited job security for teachers as one of the reasons she voted for a bill that would allow teacher and municipal employee contracts to remain in effect indefinitely after they have expired. Municipal leaders—almost all of whom are Democrats—across the state have called the legislation “crushing” and “damaging”. Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena warns that “if this passes, we may as well shut off the lights, give the unions the key and give them the checkbook.”
No one can claim that the issue of continuing or “evergreen” contracts isn’t serious. Perhaps that’s why the lack of seriousness in Cassar’s comment feels almost insulting.
Here is her exact quote:
We want our schools to be reliable, we want our teachers to have a sense of job security.
I first reacted on Twitter:
But the more I think about the comment, the more it rankles me. Countless Americans walk into work every single day knowing that they could be fired before lunch time. My experience as a former teacher—and union member in two states—informs my inability to let the comment pass. And so does my time on the Cumberland school committee. And so do my years working in charter schools where school leaders had the much needed autonomy to hire and fire educators based on what was in the best interest of students.
Reasonable people can disagree over the bill—though I firmly believe that if it was an election year, these labor bills would not be zipping through the General Assembly as if guided by Buzz Lightyear’s jetpack. The unions in this state virtually own more elected representatives than I care to count—and that influence even has sway when fiscal disaster is literally knocking at the door.
One has to wonder if Representative Cassar’s talking points were actually written by union officials. That is the only explanation for such a ridiculous comment about teachers by an elected official.