Due Process for all

“Tenure does not afford any advantages in pay or job assignments, or guarantee permanent employment. Its most important benefit is to grant teachers certain protections against dismissal without justification, including the right to a hearing before an arbitrator. Teachers and their unions embrace tenure as an important defense against indiscriminate or politically tinged hiring and firing.” notes Al Baker, NY Times, Friday, August 17 titled “Many NYC Teachers Denied Tenure in Policy Shift.”

We need to publish the opening long sentence everywhere we have access to. (Maybe even in the sky! Anyone here fly?) The nonsense written on this subject is so infuriating,

3 Responses

  1. Having served on a school board for 10 years in New York (albeit not NYC) the tenure law must be reformed. If a teacher does not get tenure after 3 years of probationary employment — by law– that teacher cannot be retained. That’s lunacy. The fix is relatively simple. Extend the probationary period to 5 years — this would be fairer to both the teacher and the school district. Also — Deb thinks that due process works like one thinks it should –but it doesn’t. The legal process is skewed in favor of the teacher — there’s no process differentiation for those with valid defenses and those who need to get out of the classroom. So unless administrators are practically certain that a teacher (after a mere 3 years on the job) will be a great teacher — they should deny that teacher tenure. Because the cost of terminating a weak/mediocre teachers just too high given current legal constraints. Also — make tenure renewable every 5 years. This renewability could have some reasonable due process component. But so long as we have the laws we have — potentially great teachers who need just a little more time and mentoring –will be forced out of teaching before they can fully bloom.

    • Well, David, I too was on a school board–in NYC. I’ve also spent about 25 years as a teacher and 25 as a principal in NYC and Boston. And I have several friends who lost their job–with tenure. Mostly very good teachers who annoyed the authorities. Like any due process procedure it requires good “lawyers” on both sides. If the principal and district have not followed the rules and have good documented reasons, even a good lawyer is stuck. and that’s hardly proof that i”due process” doesn’t work. The system of due process is a negotiated process–and requires management and labor to agree upon the mediators. In my experience it’s a slam dunk to get rid of someone who is really bad, harder if they are mediocre, and not much harder if they are great but irritate their principal or the system. What would be your alternate suggestion?

  2. Deborah,

    Thanks for your response. I think two issues are in play here. One deals with the probationary period (where a teacher can be terminated without due process. I believe that in part due to the short 3-year time frame for tenure determination — administrators may choose to err on the side of not granting tenure in close cases (i.e., where a teacher may be decent in some areas and weak in some) due to the essential finality of tenure. I would stretch out the probationary period to 5 years. I think then administrators will have a better handle on a teacher’s worthiness for tenure. This would also benefit teachers who may need a bit more time, experience and mentoring. I believe you would see a much higher percentage of tenure candidates getting tenure.

    The second issue deals with post-tenure terminations. I don’t believe tenure should be eliminated in k-12 public schools. Tenure remains an important check against cronyism in teacher hiring. And if the probationary period were extended to 5 years — you would see less of a need to fire teachers post-tenure. In our system of,jurisprudence, due process grants the teacher a property right in their job. As I wrote above, this skews the process (both in time and taxpayer dollars) in a way that discourages firing less than great teachers. A possible solution here would be some form of renewable tenure every 5 years.

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