Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Teacher Tenure is Important

It is fashionable right now to attack education and teachers - at least, it's politically fashionable. These attacks are being led by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And they are being pushed along by the billionaire boys club, led by Bill Gates, that seems hell-bent on taking over and privatizing education in the US.
Oh, they pay lip service to how much they respect teachers. But the rest of what they say flies in the face of the reality of the respect they claim to hold.
There's a lot to be concerned about, and I applaud those who are attempting to put their concern into action.
The problem is, they haven't bothered to really find out what they're talking about, and they conveniently ignore pertinent research that does not support their ideas and strategies.
There's a lot wrong with the "initiatives" being touted by this happy band. To keep this post focused, and short, I would like to remind readers about why teacher tenure exists.
I think we can agree that children are best served by teachers who are established, confident educators. And our schools need experienced teacher leaders. So the point is not jobs - it is serving the needs of children and the school communities of which they are part.
But, because we work in the public sector, we are not part of for-profit companies that can raise prices or sell more widgets when times get tough. We are in the business of people, and it is a different world. And, as in most every occupation, personnel is the most expensive part of the budget.
As a result, without tenure, come budget crunch time, school boards and superintendents might be inclined to simply fire the experienced, self-assured, established teacher-leaders in favor of hiring inexperienced, raw teachers right out of college.
I am not knocking young teachers. Indeed, the best faculty teams are comprised of a balanced roster of seasoned veterans and enthusiastic younger folks.
But, absent teacher tenure, I believe - no, actually, I'm sadly confident - that we would face the wholesale loss of all of the "expensive" people - our veteran educators.
The argument I most often hear against tenure is that it stops administrators from "getting rid of" the older, lazy, ineffective place-holders who are resistant to the changes being tried in schools. This argument is, quite frankly, bunk.
Administrators with some guts who are willing to follow the contractual process would find themselves able to take care of those issues. Unfortunately, it seems we have few administrators willing to do the job.
At any rate, tenure is an important factor for educators, and it is my hope that this little reminder of why it exists in the first place will help people understand why we must not lose it.

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