A.J. Duffy's turnaround
Last week, former UTLA president A.J. Duffy dropped jaws, froze Hell, and launched squealing swine high into the sky when he announced the creation of his very own charter school, Apple Academy Charter Public School. The move turned heads for a few reasons, the least of which was that Duffy vehemently crusaded against charter-school growth as UTLA president. Furthermore, at Apple Academy, teachers (who will be unionized) will not be tenured, at least in the traditional sense of the word. (Teachers with positive performance reviews will receive a degree of greater job security, but it won’t be granted for life.) Further, teachers who are “tenured” at Apple Academy can still be fired—with “due-process” dismissals taking ten days (instead of the seemingly requisite three years they take now). The move has left even the most foresighted education pundits guessing as to why. But here’s Gadfly’s speculation: As head honcho and mouthpiece of UTLA, Duffy was forced to speak for the collective voice of union members—which meant speaking to protect the worst among them. With UTLA’s bullhorn retired, Duffy is free to articulate, and act on, his own opinions—no matter how inflammatory they are to his ex-union cronies. The lesson for reformers: As Mike Antonucci has implored forever, we’re naïve to think of union leaders as independent actors, when in fact they are simply politicians who must please their base. We ignore the internal political dynamics of unions at our peril.
|Click to listen to commentary on Duffy's charter school from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
“At his charter school, ex-UTLA head would target tenure,” by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2011.
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