Class Warfare Blog

June 11, 2014

Teacher Tenure Rules Have a Negative Effect on Public Education?

A Los Angeles County judge struck down California rules on tenure for teachers in the Vergara v. California case. The plaintiffs argued that the rules made it too hard to fire ineffective public school teachers. Judge Rolf Treu concluded that tenure did have a negative effect on the education of children, especially black and Latino students, saying it violated those “students’ fundamental right to equality of education” under the state’s constitution.

Okay, let me see if I get this right. Teacher tenure rules are simply that there must be a process by which a teacher can be demoted or fired and that process must include a fair hearing. The public understanding of tenure being a “job for life” is mistaken.

To put this in perspective, the vast majority of public school teachers are competent and not a problem. The question is what to do about those who are incompetent. Every school district I have been a part of had such a procedure (as it was required by law). And, in almost every case of an attempted dismissal based upon competence, a court (or NLRB hearing) threw out the district’s case for the same reason: the districts violated the rules of their own procedures. So, apparently this judge threw out California’s tenure laws because of administrative incompetence. Adding to this the greatest number of teacher “dismissals”  resulted in the teacher in question “retiring” or leaving “voluntarily” and so did not appear to anyone as a “dismissal,” but were the equivalent.

And, do not get me wrong, the general population of teachers are frustrated that people they consider incompetent stay on due to administrative incompetence but at the same time support tenure laws to protect themselves from that same administrative incompetence (or perfidy).

Also, to focus on black and Latino students and the role of tenure is appalling. Did they consider that teachers are often assigned to “poor” districts as punishment or to encourage them to resign. Did they consider that administrators “reward” teachers by giving them the cushiest assignments in the schools with the best infrastructure and the best performing students instead of challenging them with the schools that really need the good teachers? Is tenure really an issue at all in struggling schools?

It should not be, but a conservative challenge (funded by the usual billionaire suspects) put in front of a conservative judge who found it to be so.

We will see as this legal charade continues.


  1. I’d never heard of tenure being awarded to school teachers.


    Comment by john zande — June 11, 2014 @ 9:58 am | Reply

    • It is not a process like is used at University. It is much more bureaucratic. If you work for 3-4 years and pass all of your evaluations, you are “in,” meaning you cannot be fired without cause (there is a list of causes, usually starting with incompetence, but also includes a number of unforgivable actions, e.g. child molestation, etc.).

      In California, there were cases of “principals” firing teachers to make a job for their cousins, for example, or firing people they didn’t particularly like. The tenure laws are non-controversial except on the right-wing which wants to be able to fire the bad teachers … fire, fire, fire! What they seem not to distinguish is that there is a difference between businesses run by business owners (who can hire and fire at will legally) and schools which are run by “other employees” of the school (administrators). You can’t cashier a soldier or demote and officer in the Army without a hearing and due process. This is no different.

      My problem is the methods by which the “bad teachers” are identified. Using current VAM assessments, the Teacher of the Year from last year gets fired for being incompetent this year. Flawed systems and flawed management do not make for good public schools. Teachers are underpaid for their levels of preparation. This is compensated for by providing good pensions and due process as a form of job security: basically do your job adequately and you have no fear of losing it.

      Please realize that if the District runs out of money, or if the number of students drops precipitously, teachers can be laid off in seconds. Again, there is a procedure in place for doing this. This is not a lifetime sinecure.

      On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 9:58 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 11, 2014 @ 10:29 am | Reply

      • Understood.


        Comment by john zande — June 11, 2014 @ 10:35 am | Reply

        • I knew you would! ;o)

          Beware! FIFA are coming! FIFA are coming!

          On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:35 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



          Comment by Steve Ruis — June 11, 2014 @ 10:36 am | Reply

          • Shhhhhhh, they’re already here…. 😦


            Comment by john zande — June 11, 2014 @ 11:26 am | Reply

            • I will be werry, werry, qwiet … he, he, he. (Elmer Fudd reference)

              I hope you survive and Brazil benefits somewhat (I see that FIFA makes all of the cash).

              On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 11:26 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



              Comment by Steve Ruis — June 11, 2014 @ 11:43 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for that “other side of the story” Steven


    Comment by lbwoodgate — June 12, 2014 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

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