NYT Whitewashes Union Details in Story About School Reform

Teachers at a failing Rhode Island high school refused to work another 25 minutes a day in order to turnaround the school’s 48% graduation rate. So the school board fired them all.

The teachers at Central Falls High School already earn over $70,000 a year, compared to a median home income of $22,000 a year for area residents, but their union balked at offers of $30 an hour for extra work, demanding $90 an hour.

You would think that this information might be relevant for an article about the situation, but instead of reporting the facts behind the union’s negotiations, the New York Times whitewashed key details and selectively quoted people sympathetic to the union.

Of eight people quoted, five spoke against the reforms and two spoke in favor of it. Three of those quoted were teachers who espoused philosophies of entitlement like this:

“It makes you feel like all of your expertise, all that you know, any degree you might have, is worthless,” Ms. Evanoff said. “I’ve never been fired from anything, and to be fired, it’s devastating.”

The Times didn’t mention the results of the negotiations with the union at all, nor did it mention the teachers’ already high salaries.

Teachers at Central Falls are already paid between $70,000 and $78,000, well above the median teacher salary of $52,000. The median income of families served by the school is just $22,000.

The Times did mention Central Falls’ poverty, only in an effort to build support for the teachers:

But … some say they are losing one of the few constants in the state’s poorest city…

However, the Times picked a much lower number to represent poverty than is reflective of the school.

The Times reported that 41% of Central Falls children live in poverty, however, the Providence Journal reports that among actual students attending the school, 96% live in poverty.

While the New York Times doesn’t give much attention to the plans for reform and the union’s unwillingness to change, the Times does paint the teachers’ employment as fundamental:

While teachers and students at the close-knit school said they considered one another family, Dr. Gallo said the current model was not working.

“If it’s such a family, then how do you account for losing more than half your family each year?” Dr. Gallo said, referring to the dropout rate. “We are about to change the culture of Central Falls.”

“They’re a transient community. It’s more than test grades,” said Kathy Casalino, a math teacher. “We give them a family. We show them how to live.”

Perhaps the teachers should be concerned more about grades, with half the students failing this year.

It appears that these government employees are experiencing what millions of ordinary non-unionized Americans are experiencing in this recession.