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Teacher tenure and why it must go

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Dear LA Teacher,

There’s a teacher at my school who shows up with the kids and zips out the door ahead of the JDs [juvenile delinquents]. Why is a guy like that still permitted to teach in our schools?

Teacher Assistant

Dear Teacher Assistant,

The teacher you mentioned is still working at your school because of tenure.

The concept of tenure has roots in 19th Century America. If a new mayor or superintendent were elected, he would routinely fire all local teachers and replace them with his supporters.

In the early years of the 20th Century, the woman’s rights campaign helped American teachers because they were subjected to many arbitrary, degrading, and intrusive employment conditions. Back then most teachers were women. If they were seen on a city street after a certain hour they could lose their jobs. If they didn’t dress conservatively or wear their hair a certain way, they could get fired. Tenure was an effective remedy. So by 1950 80% of American teachers were under its protective wing.

This is the 21st Century and society has changed. Today the tenure system subverts students’ rights to a quality education because it is near impossible to fire incompetent teachers.

In a court hearing, Superintendent John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) said, “Tenure can cost the District as much as $450,000 to fire even a flagrantly ineffective teacher in a process that may stretch over years.” Even if the Board of Education decided to fire the ineffective teacher, every tenured teacher has the right to an appeal heard by a Sacramento board dominated by union appointees sympathetic to the tenure system.

Charter schools are proof that non-tenured educators work more effectively then their tenured colleagues. A recent study by the California Charter School Association found that non-unionized charter high schools produce four times the number of graduates who have completed all college-preparatory coursework as traditional schools under the tenure system.

In Los Angeles charter schools graduate 79% of their students where traditional LAUSD schools graduate 66%.

Twenty-first Century employment is about knowledge-based jobs in this digitalized and globalized economy. If we don’t educate our young so they can compete, they will suffer and the inequalities between the poor and rich will continue to grow. Former Los Angeles Mayor, Richard Riordan recently wrote in a recent Los Angeles Daily News editorial, “Tenure is a luxury we no longer can afford to provide at the expense of our children’s educations—and our country’s future.”

Best wishes,
LA Teacher

Learn more about LA Teacher on his Website and Blog.

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