Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teacher Tenure Under Attack: Time to Rise to Our Own Defense

In case you missed it, earlier today a California judge ruled in what is known as the Vergara case, that teacher tenure and other job protections are unconstitutional. While this ruling only relates to California and is sure to be appealed, rest assured that this ruling will lead to similar, well-financed suits in other states very soon.

What is a teacher to do? The first thing is to make sure your teacher association leaders are up to speed and ready to fight. Teachers cannot be fragmented on this issue or else they will lose. The opponents are very well-financed. While the name on the Vergara case is a parent who wants the best possible education for his child, the entire suit was financed by a wealthy, Silicon Valley entrepreneur named David Welch.

The big money plutocrats are after your job protections. Make no mistake about it. This move is part and parcel with the entire "blame the teacher" narrative of the corporate education reformers. By keeping the focus on teachers, the 1% can deflect attention from the real issue in education - income inequality.

You may find it difficult to argue for job protections with your friends and neighbors, when many of them do not have those protections. Here is a quick and dirty list of seven reasons teachers need tenure. You can also read more at this earlier blog post of mine. I also recommend reading Peter Greene on talking to parents about tenure here and another piece here. And here is a list of articles on tenure from Diane Ravitch's blog.


  1. Tenure Prevents Teachers from Being Fired for Non-Performance Reasons - Without tenure you could be fired because you weree hired by a Democratic board and then Republican board took over or because a new principal wanted to hire a friend. Long ago my second grade teacher was fired because she got pregnant. 
  2. Innovative Teaching Requires Risk Taking - Engaging instruction is often noisy and messy instruction. If teachers are afraid to take risks to provide good instruction, learning will suffer. Good teaching is also often experimental. If teachrs are afraid to experiment, learning will suffer.
  3. Professionalism in  Teaching Requires Student Advocacy - The teacher must often act as an advocate for a child. Occasionally, this advocacy may come up against some goals, finacial or other, of the administration. A teacher must feel secure in the knowledge that advocating for children will not cost her her job, otherwise who will speak for the children?
  4. Tenure Prohibits School Boards from Firing Experienced Teachers to Hire Cheaper Inexperienced Teachers - If you believe this can't happen look at what is happening in Newark, NJ with Teach for America.
  5. Tenure Protects Teachers from Being Fired for Teaching Controversial Subjects - Any volunteers for teaching evolution or sex education or civics in a world without job protections?
  6. Tenure Assures Due Process When a Teacher is a Target of an Accusation from Student or Parent - This should resonate with any teacher who was not backed by an administrator after a parent complaint.
  7. Tenure Protects Teachers from Punitive and Unreliable Evaluation Systems - Think aboout the combination of value added measures basing teacher evaluation on student test scores and no job protections. That should scare us all.
If you have not already had your consciousness raised by the attacks on public education form the corporate education reformers, perhaps this California ruling will be your wake-up call. Arm yourself with knowledge and start advocating for yourself. Work together with others in our proud profession and do not stand idly by while the 1% work to destroy public education.