The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Attack on Tenure Is an Attack on Students

Apr 4, 2011

State legislatures are voting to remove teacher tenure in a number of different states across the country.

Teacher tenure is always painted as an iron-clad way for teachers to keep their jobs, no matter how bad they may be – a “job for life,” no matter what.

This is a complete lie. “Tenure” for K-12 public school teachers is really nothing more than a right to due process in discipline and firing, a way to make sure that if teachers are fired, they have the right to a meeting where the administration has to show the reason they were fired. It does NOT keep bad teachers in guaranteed jobs. If a teacher truly is bad, they can lose their jobs – through due process that requires administrators to demonstrate it.

Removing teacher tenure removes that basic protection. It opens up teachers to arbitrary firings with no justification: If a teacher clashes with an administrator for whatever reason, they could be fired. If a science teacher insists on teaching the real science of evolution or plate tectonics, a right-wing school board would remove them. Teachers could be fired for racist reasons or sexist reasons; women who refuse sexual harassment from their administrators could be fired. And finally, older, higher-seniority, higher-paid teachers could be removed – just because they ARE higher-paid.

And THIS is the REAL reason for the removal of teacher tenure: Legislatures and administrators want the ability to clear out the higher-paid, experienced teachers and replace them with low-paid, young teachers who would be easily controlled because they would constantly fear for their jobs.

This is not a bid to get rid of bad teachers. If bad teachers are kept on the job today, it is not because teacher tenure holds them there. It’s because the budgets are too low to provide good conditions where teachers can teach well. More often than not, teachers simply become overwhelmed by these bad conditions after years of trying to compensate for them by putting in long hours and putting out their own money to try to make their classrooms liveable. The conditions they face burn teachers out.

Don’t blame the teachers who have been burnt out. Blame the conditions and low funding of the schools that destroys the schools – and the teachers and the students with them.

Removing teacher tenure rights will make sure that students are taught by young, inexperienced teachers who are afraid to sneeze without their administrators’ approval; teachers who will drive themselves into the ground and be replaced every few years, disrupting all continuity in the schools. It can only mean a worse education for the students.