Tuesday, January 18, 2011

States look to abolish teacher tenure

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Efforts are underway in several states to eliminate teacher tenure. According to this article in the Christian Science Monitor, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is leading a pack of governors who want to abolish due process rights for teachers.

Other states mentioned in the article are Florida, Idaho, Illinois and Wyoming.

Opponents of teacher tenure say that it it too difficult to get rid of "bad teachers," and can find some extreme examples that they say prove their point.

But tenure serves two vital purposes in our schools, and those who want to abolish it just don't understand how crucial those purposes are.

To begin with, tenure guarantees a teacher's academic freedom. Without it, teachers can too easily fall victim to the political correctness of the day. There are just too many folks out there who would gladly yank a teacher's credentials for recommending the "wrong" reading material. It is a protection that serves without bias - those with small minds on the left, right or anywhere in between would love to restrict what teachers are allowed to say.

But even more importantly, tenure guarantees that teachers can't lose their livelihoods without just cause. Sometimes teachers are victims of administrative favoritism or unfair accusations, and they deserve a fair hearing. Our entire legal system is based on the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Does a teacher deserve less than that?

Opponents of tenure falsely claim that teachers in Louisiana "automatically" earn tenure after just three years. That discounts the facts that teachers must first obtain a degree, pass a difficult examination, earn certification and undergo three years of supervision. During that time, they may be dismissed for virtually any reason. The process is rigorous enough that about half of all teachers leave the profession in their first five years.

If, after all that, an unqualified person becomes tenured, it is the fault of administrators who did not perform their duties. And that is a mistake that can be corrected through a tenure hearing.

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