Support Tenure for Public School Teachers
The public school system is the foundation of democracy in America
Public school teachers are the heart of the American public school system.
Every citizen and every resident of these United States should support the concept of permanent, long-term employment — tenure — for public school teachers.
The Judge who struck down tenure protection for classroom teachers in California ruled that tenure imposes “a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education,” but neglected to consider the broader effect on the quality of classroom education when all the many good public school teachers must fear being attacked in their professional roles for insisting on high academic and behavioral standards in their classrooms.
As L.D. Davidson poignantly observed in the July 13, 2014 edition of the Schenectady Sunday Gazette, “It is often the good teachers with the highest academic expectations that are most threatened by arbitrary and unfair complaints. … A good teacher must often dare to challenge students on the academic and social levels. It is the best teachers who need tenure protection… because it is already too easy for some students to justify lack of their personal effort by blaming individual teachers. The protection of Tenure is absolutely essential to maintain a robust system of public education in America.”
It seems that public school education in America is the only enterprise where workers are held accountable but their managers and supervisors are not.
At the present time the existing procedures for terminating employment of a tenured teacher just don’t work. If the public school system is to fulfill its mission of providing a free and appropriate public education to every student according to their ability, classroom teachers need protection from firing based on discrimination, nepotism, patronage, favoritism or ever-shifting political winds; while school administrators and school boards need reasonable freedom to manage the human resources of the school district.
A modest proposal
The procedure for terminating employment of a tenured teacher should be patterned after procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice where the jurors responsible for determining the facts and determining whether those facts support the charges are chosen from the actual peers of the accused.
While allowing the use of numerical metrics and test scores as some measure of public school teacher performance and accountability, such a proceeding allows teacher performance to be judged in the context of the classroom in the school where the teacher works. It avoids arbitrary and capricious termination of employment based on questionable evaluations of teaching ability and success.
The individual presiding over the hearing should have some “judicial” experience and must not be a member of any school system whether public or private and certainly not a retired superintendent of schools or charter school headmaster. The primary function of the hearing officer is to maintain order and assure procedural regularity and substantive safeguards during the presentation of evidence and formally report the determination of the “jury panel”.
For example, any proceeding to terminate employment of a teacher with tenure would begin with a detailed statement of charges; then the accused teacher and their representative as well as the school administration would select a panel of classroom teachers to hear the evidence, listen to the witnesses testify under oath, and finally make detailed findings of fact and determine whether the evidence presented sustains the charges against the accused teacher.
If the charges are sustained, the administration would be free to terminate the teacher or impose such other discipline as they feel appropriate. If the charges are not sustained, the teacher would be returned to the classroom immediately without any discrimination or retaliation.
Bringing these procedures to the public school system of tenure review by amending Education Law §3020-a would assure classroom teachers both procedural and substantive due process under the Constitution of the United States. These procedures would conform with the fundamental principles of civil and constitutional rights which are the basic guidelines for living and working in the United States.
What are the real but hidden agendas behind the lawsuits challenging tenure?
The attack on tenure in the Courts is really an attack on the American public school system.
It is a thinly veiled attempt to sanctify a two-tier public educational system of elite charter schools and publicly supported private and parochial schools which will skim the best and brightest of our youth with the most supportive parents. The remainder of our young people will be consigned to what is left of the public school system without adequate resources to provide even a modest education.
It is all about money and power
Despite their pious protests, the real goal of those business “leaders” behind the attack on tenure, is to obtain their “educated” knowledge workers from outside the United States and import them as indentured servants at the lowest possible wages with the least amount of support and benefits necessary to keep them “productive” in these new high-tech corporate sweatshops.
Everyone else need only be “educated sufficiently” to enter the “service industries” which exist to serve the wealthy elite and are the only employment sector in America which is experiencing rapid growth.
If truly concerned, creative, and experienced teachers can be driven out of classroom teaching as a profession, then we are well on the way toward re-creating the society of Victorian England and establish a permanent “servant” class with no possibility of upward mobility.
As if that is not enough, the well-financed organizations hiding behind the façade of public interest litigation are attacking the right of public sector employees to bargain collectively.
This attack on the collective bargaining process is as fierce today as it was in 1937 when company goons violently attacked striking autoworkers on the River Rouge overpass in Dearborn, Michigan. Yet public school teachers today and their unions are blindly retreading the tragic course of the highly skilled steelworkers in the 1892 Homestead Steel strike.
Classroom teachers as learned professionals are now an endangered species!
“No Child Left behind”, “The Race to the Top”, and now “Common Core” have all been efforts to degrade the professional status of teachers and make them fungible commodities no different than “sales associates” in any big-box store.
The public sector unions have long wielded significant political power with generations of state legislators and a succession of governors. Unfortunately, the vast profits from unregulated financial manipulation by shadowy hedge funds and their more visible allies, the major commercial and investment banks, have made campaign contributions a greater influence on legislative policy and executive action today than the votes cast by rank-and-file classroom teachers.
The real issue is whether the American public school system which has produced the first successful inclusive pluralistic society since the Roman Empire will be allowed to collapse and doom all but the pampered princes and princesses of privilege to acquiring their education on the streets and in the school of hard knocks.
Protecting tenure for public school teachers in America is critical to survival of the American public school system.
The American public school system with it’s commitment to educating all children regardless of their gender, race, color, national origin, religious faith or lack of religious faith, requires courtroom advocacy and litigation skill of the highest order. All our children, and the classroom teachers in our public schools who educate them demand and are entitled to nothing less.
Conventional responses to legal challenges to the American public school system have had a singular record of failure since the financial collapse of 2007–2008.
It is not hyperbole to say that Armageddon has arrived for classroom teachers and the American public school system.