July 24, 2014
Jul 22 - Rev. Lonnie C. Crowe
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV): Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The struggle with teacher tenure continues. In years past, unfair labor practices, personality conflicts and difficulty accepting the professionalism of women caused many teachers to lose their positions unjustly. We can be grateful to teachers’ unions for alleviating much job discrimination and unjust treatment; however, the system has generally run amok. The job protection gained through the unions has also made it nearly impossible to remove those teachers from the classroom who are not doing their jobs.
StudentsFirst is a grassroots organization seeking to improve education in the United States and endeavoring to keep the best teachers in the classroom. Below is their concise evaluation of the situation.
Tenure in K–12 education today means that teachers (and, in many cases, principals) are granted a “job for life” after a relatively short time in the classroom — usually without any serious attempt to evaluate the teacher’s effectiveness. In most states, tenure is essentially automatic after two or three years, barring criminal or extreme misconduct. Once granted, the rules and regulations accompanying tenure or permanent contracts make removing even the most unmotivated and ineffective teachers nearly impossible. These policies do nothing to advance the interests of students, but instead serve only to protect adult jobs.
If tenure merely protected teachers from being fired for arbitrary or capricious reasons, StudentsFirst would support it. Professionals should never be concerned they might lose their jobs because of their age, sex, religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Similarly, we support professionals’ rights to fight back if they are wrongfully terminated. Fortunately, well-established federal and state policies allow teachers to challenge wrongful actions and prevent discriminatory firing in public education. Tenure is simply not needed to protect such rights. (1)
In June, a California judge ruled that teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights. The decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.
“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
The bad news is that, of course, teachers’ unions are challenging the decision. The good news is that the challenge is elevating the debate. Those in favor of eliminating teacher tenure are citing research which indicates that teacher tenure often makes it nearly impossible to fire ineffective teachers, even some who are sexual predators.
Teachers unions have long built their base on the premise of fear. As one who long ago stepped out of the union, I have heard all the arguments. I taught in Wyoming, which is a right-to-work state; therefore, I did not have to join the union in order to be awarded a contract.) The arguments from the unions included:
- The only teachers to be fired in Wyoming are non-union teachers.
- You are riding on the backs of those who negotiate for your salary and who protect your job through teacher tenure.
- If you get into trouble, do not expect the union to assist you.
My answer was that I would do my best work, earn that salary, and rely on my good work and not the union to protect my job. After two or three years, the union representatives left me alone.
In a free market economy, doing good work is the best job protection. In the Kingdom of God, we are to encourage one another “in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). In the battle for a better educational system, many good teachers have become the walking wounded. They are sorely in need of encouragement.
▪ That Christian educators will set high standards for themselves and be an example to others. (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8)
▪ That good teaching practices will be recognized and honored. (1 Peter 2:12)
▪ Encourage educators who are doing a good job in both the classroom and extracurricular activities. (Romans 2:10)