Supporting education: tenure offers job security, maintains standards

Art by Joanne Lee.

Effective classroom management arises from experience. A competent teacher’s students will gain 52 percentile points over a year’s time, whereas those of an ineffective teacher will only gain 14 percentile points, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Keeping good teachers means keeping experienced teachers, but experienced teachers won’t stick around if districts can fire them on a whim. According to the National Education Association, 46 percent of new teachers leave their jobs within five years.

At such a high attrition rate, taking away an incentive like tenure will only increase the number of teachers that quit.

Presiding Commissioner of Cole County Marc Ellinger started a petition in Missouri; if it receives enough signatures, it may put teacher tenure on the November ballot, which is one of the worst things that could happen for teacher tenure.

When teachers already earn so little — the starting annual salary in Missouri schools is $29,281 according to Teacher Portal compared to a national average of $41,673.83, according to Social Security Online — they need the little protection tenure affords them, especially for such an important job they perform: teaching today’s youth.

After instructing for five consecutive years in a district, teachers in Missouri may apply for tenure, but tenure does not provide job security. Districts can still fire tenured teachers. Schools may notify tenured teachers 30 days before firing them in cases of inefficiency, insubordination or incompetence. This notification allows teachers to resolve conflicts within the 30 days, giving them a chance to improve.

Tenure also is the only guarantee for due process, a chance for teachers to have a trial before losing their jobs. Teachers may request due process within 10 days of the notice.

Proceedings for firing a teacher are open to the public, and teachers may have up to 10 witnesses. The school board pays for the costs of the proceedings, but the teacher must pay for his attorney.

Tenure has no connection to salary. Pay in CPS, and many other districts, instead, is on a scale. Teachers who have been teaching longer, and therefore have more experience, earn more. However, in economic downturn, administrators may choose to release these older, more expensive teachers, hiring instead inexperienced teachers to save money. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans schools fired most experienced teachers and personnel. Only 45 percent of teachers in the Recovery School District are veterans. The district released experienced teachers to save costs, according to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Tenure mainly provides a sense of security to teachers. Administrators may not prematurely fire them as a result of backlash from the public. Teachers who tackle difficult and often controversial topics, may continue to do so without fear of losing their jobs. Tenure allows teachers to teach without fear of censorship or arbitrary decisions.

Chicago Public Schools fired Allison Bates in the 2010-2011 school year for failing to place her lesson plans in a red folder, as her principal had requested for her evaluation, the Chicago Reader reported. Yet, Bates had her lesson plans; they were just on her computer instead of on paper. Having tenure would have prevented Bates’ unfair dismissal.

Tenure provides teachers time to defend their teaching methods. Districts can still fire ineffective teachers. Eliminating tenure would only generate insecurity in teachers, which will reflect in their teaching. Tenure allows teachers to improve their methods by giving them the time to improve. To keep tenure, speak against the petition and any related proceedings.
To understand tenure, read the news story here.
By The Rock staff