The Epitaph Issue 4

Published: January 29, 2015

By Shauli Bar-On 

Why the laws should be reconsidered

Aside from judges and teachers, no other career awards tenure.

The official purpose of tenure is to protect teachers from getting fired for non-work-related reasons. However, there is no need for a strict procedure for firing teachers – especially if these procedures cost over $200,000 per investigation as reported by the ProCon organization.

While awarding tenure may sound like a difficult achievement, the amount of time teachers have to prove their worth is exceedingly short. According to ProCon, the average tenure is granted to a teacher in three years, clearly not enough time to reflect a teaching career.

According to a study by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, the first years of teaching are simply not enough to accurately predict a teacher’s work after they are granted tenure. Additionally, very few teachers with three years of experience are disallowed tenure. The New Teacher Project’s 2009 study discovered less than one percent of elementary and high school teachers eligible for tenure are ruled unsatisfactory.

Due to this fact, tenure creates a natural incentive for administrators to release teachers before they are granted tenure.

Eliminating tenure would create more job competition and ensure only high-quality teachers educate the youth generation, since the unsatisfactory teachers are released and the quality teachers are kept, no matter how long they have been teaching.

Thanks to tenure, school officials tend to make their dismissal decisions based on seniority rather than teacher quality. The “last in, first out” policy is senseless and does not assure students the best possible education.

Teacher tenure’s real purpose is to provide an incentive for the next generation to become teachers, who, according to the National Education Association, are paid 15 percent less than members of the work force with a similar education and work experience. This salary difference is even more apparent in the Silicon Valley.

According to Indeed.com, a website dedicated to informing the public on salaries in areas of the United States, the average teacher salary in the Silicon Valley is $78,000. In comparison, the average salary of all workers in Silicon Valley is $82,000.

While the purpose of teachers is to teach students, tenure does not benefit students but rather the teachers.
A far better incentive to attract ambitious workers to the profession of teaching is to raise salaries. Higher salaries would allow teachers to be equal members of society and would work as the best way to attract teachers for the job.

The purpose of tenure is flawed – it intends to attract those who aim to secure their job and be less concerned with their work quality. These are not the people we want preparing the next generation for adulthood.

In June 2014, a Los Angeles judge agreed with the flaws of teacher tenure and ruled California’s tenure laws unconstitutional in the case Vergara v. California.

Judge Rolf M. Treu agreed that there are many ineffective teachers in California schools, and tenure compounds the problem. California governor Jerry Brown has appealed the court’s decision, and the case is still pending.

Our society cannot continue progressing with teacher tenure laws in place. Teachers deserve higher salaries, but they do not deserve the immoderate job security rules that tenure currently provides.

The teaching field calls for dedicated workers who are willing to adapt to each individual class and accept criticism to make the most of education in our country.

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