Teacher Tenure Under Scrutiny

When reports surfaced that the American education system was lagging behind that of other countries, people began pointing fingers and blaming different practices.

Now, politicians are blaming teacher tenure, claiming it is one of the reasons for America’s subpar educational system, according to an article the New York Times.

This action was motivated by President Barack Obama’s call to reward effective teaching, which was restated in this year’s State of the Union Address.

Some Republican politicians have interpreted this as removing the ineffective teachers or removing teacher tenure. Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have called for the complete removal of teacher tenure, claiming it will help improve the overall quality of public education.

This legislation could pass because many schools are experiencing tighter budgets, which has decreased the authority of teachers’ unions.

“It’s practically impossible to remove an underperforming teacher under the system we have now,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada. Nevada has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation.

Sandoval told the New York Times that eliminating teacher tenure would help schools select and use the best teachers. Districts could then remove teachers based on competence, not seniority, claims Sandoval.

Others believe that districts should invest more in the hiring process, ensuring that every teacher is competent. “Why aren’t governors standing up and saying, ‘In our state, we’ll devise a system where nobody will ever get into a classroom who isn’t competent’?” Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, told the New York Times. “Instead they are saying, ‘Let’s make it easy to fire teachers.’ That’s the wrong goal.”

The current tenure system is not bullet-proof for teachers. Public school teachers usually get tenured after two or three years of teaching and can still be removed if deemed ineffective. However, once teachers are tenured they have a right to a due-process hearing before they can be removed.

This process can be time consuming and expensive; so many politicians are calling to end the system, giving districts freedom to remove ineffective teachers without a due-process hearing.

Many organizations have been performing studies, attempting to link students’ achievement directly to teachers’ performance. These organizations believe that teachers should be compensated based on their students’ achievements. Politicians are now taking this notion a step further, claiming that if strong student achievements can give teachers a raise, then poor student achievements should be enough to remove a teacher, even if tenured.

Many of these politicians are forming their arguments around a student-first mentality, claiming that public school systems need to provide students with the best possible education and resources, rather than catering to teachers’ wants.

Teachers unions are expressing strong concerns, claiming that this system could be abused. They are concerned that if tenure is removed then districts that are facing drastic budget cuts could simply remove “expensive” teachers with high salaries.