This post originally appeared at AFL-CIO.
If awards were given for the sleaziest attack ad used in this year’s election, it’s difficult to see how the Committee to Protect Florida wouldn’t walk away with a first-place finish for its recent mailer against Karen Castor Dentel, the Democratic nominee for Florida House District 30, Think Progress reports.
While Dentel’s opponent, incumbent Rep. Scott Plakon, has denounced the ad, the Committee to Protect Florida is a group largely funded by members of his party’s leadership in the House. The key funders for the group are two of the next three designated speakers of the Florida House, Will Weatherford (R) and Richard Corcoran (R).
The ad is about as extreme as it could get. On one side of the mailer is a picture of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, who was convicted of molesting numerous children he met through a youth athletic program he ran. The caption reads “Karen Castor Dentel would rather protect bad teachers and the union than…/…young and impressionable students.” The implication is clear that Dentel supports rules that would protect people like Sandusky.
The other side of the mailer has a picture of Dentel and the following text:
Karen Castor Dentel’s priorities are clear:
-Use tenure policies to protect bad, burnt-out, longtime teachers at the expense of younger, better teachers.
-Use the courts to keep all teachers in the classroom—even those who prey on young people.
-The right to use our tax dollars and valuable student learning time to promote her political campaign.
Karen Castor Dentel: Good for the union, bad for kids.
The text refers to the fact that Dentel is a member of the Florida Education Association, which opposed legislation that would’ve eliminated teacher tenure in Florida. The objection is an oft-repeated one by anti-union forces across the nation and relies upon the false notion that union-backed tenure rules make it difficult, if not impossible, to fire bad teachers, even if they engage in criminal activity such as child molestation.
As any number of observers have correctly pointed out, union contracts and tenure rules never prohibit teachers from being fired if there is just cause for the firing. They only prohibit teachers from being fired without cause. Evidence suggests that the rate of teacher turnover is not only higher than the people who argue against tenure suggest, but that it is increasing in recent years. The National Center for Education Information reports that some 26% of teachers in the United States have five years or less of experience, more than four times what the rate was in 1986. Clearly, if tenure rules were keeping teachers in the classroom for life, such turnover rates wouldn’t be evident.