I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Not "Tenure" If You Can Lose It

So the NJEA is offering its vision of a tenure plan. Fine - great! But understand that we haven't really explained to folks what exactly tenure is; if we had, they wouldn't say stuff like this:

Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the school boards association, said the proposed tenure change would be a first for the union but did not see it as a concession.
"This is the first time they’ve proposed a change in the length of time needed" to be granted tenure, he said. 
Belluscio called the residency plan an "interesting concept," but said it "still doesn’t get to the structural change necessary" to allow districts to replace ineffective teachers when necessary.
"A major compromise (by the union) would be if they agreed to eliminate lifetime tenure," he said.
Frank, you really need to understand something: you can replace ineffective teachers even if they have tenure. If you want to argue it's too hard to do that, OK, we can fix that. But you don't have to eliminate tenure to do so.

And let's be clear: if you can take tenure away, you are essentially eliminating it. Remember, if a teacher does not have tenure, they can be fired at any time for absolutely no reason. A mechanism that removes tenure is functionally the same as not having tenure at all. And the only protection tenure provides is that doesn't allow a teacher to be fired without a hearing.

It's really so simple: cap the process. 90 days max, including appeals. Clear standards to define inefficiency. Dedicated adjudicators. Easy - problem solved.

I'm telling you: the first time a good teacher is removed through this process, there is going to be hell to pay. You think the costs of removing a tenured teacher are high? Just wait until some board of education somewhere removes a competent teacher who gets a lawyer willing to work on contingency. That district is going to be paying for years to come.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Anonymous said...

Hi JM! You seem to be for an expedited process for removal of ineffective teachers, regardless of tenure status, and I think that is a position on which that the vast majority of parents, children, taxpayers and voters would concur (or demand).

The last comment you make about the lawsuit threat is curious. I can tell you with absolute certainty that no lawyer in his right mind would take a "contingency" solo case stretching out years against the DOE or state for extremely questionable damages and a client with "dirty hands" -- i.e.: a determination of ineffective teaching. The only way I could see such litigation is if it was underwritten by the NJEA or an allied entity, overtly or covertly.

Would you support the NJEA being barred from underwriting those sort of suits using their membership dues? And would the union go along with making that review/removal process binding and indeminified from endless appeals?

Anonymous said...

Why the hell are we even talking about tenure? Tenure has been around for generations, even before unions. Why is teacher tenure such a big problem? I guess the anti-public school crowd feel that our schools are brimming or bursting with bad, ineffective teachers? I do not think that's true. If there were so many awful teachers in NJ, then why do NJ schools always rank in the top tier of schools. Tenure's not the problem, poverty, unemployment, broken homes, crime and violence are the problems of the urban school districts like Camden and Newark. Tenure only guarantees due process, why should it be easy to get rid of a teacher? The easy-to-get-rid-of teacher plan will become rife with abuses. They will look to get rid of the older or more expensive teachers whether they are great or not. So you think we will be able to man our schools with 100% or 90% super teachers just as you're cutting pay, cutting benefits, cutting pensions and treating teachers like dirt and greedy hogs?

Anonymous said...

I don't know anyone who thinks NJ is "brimming and bursting with bad teachers". I do think that a poor, ineffective teacher is one of the most destructive people in our society, much as a great one is one of the most valuable. Doesn't it make sense to identify between the two? Doesn't it make sense to reward the successful, talented, inspiring, energetic one, and remove the lazy or ineffective one? And don't say they don't exist -- everyone who works in a school knows who the great teachers are and who the terrible teachers are. By saying it is okay to have weak teachers continue teaching our kids is to demean and devalue the profession itself.

Anonymous said...

Who hires the teachers? The teachers don't hire themselves. The onus is on the administrators and principals to hire effective teachers in the first place. Stop bashing the teachers, bash the ones who evaluate teachers. Then there is the 3 year trial period when a teacher can be fired for any reason or no reason. The ultimate elimination squad are the children themselves. A teacher who can't control the class will be forced to find other avenues of pecuniary reward. If there are supposedly ineffective teachers, then they deserve a fair hearing and a chance to improve themselves. So you are going to fire a 20 year teacher who maybe has a couple bad years out of an otherwise good career because of whatever happens to them on a personal level? Shouldn't they get a chance to redeem themselves or improve if they have a good overall history in the school system? Eliminating tenure will lead to egregious abuses, why do you think tenure was enacted in the first place. If you think eliminating tenure will rid the system of non star teachers or even ineffective teachers, think again. The administrators have all the tools they need right now to get rid of bad or ineffective teachers. Stop blaming the teachers, blame the administrators and principals who do the HIRING, who do the EVALUATING. If the administrators and principals don't have the guts to do their job, that's not the teachers' fault.

Mr. S said...

@the first anonymous.... Why should NJEA be barred from using membership dues to underwrite lawsuits for teachers who it believes were let go for illegitimate reasons AND agree that the process that caused the termination should be without appeal?

Anonymous said...

Stop NJEA from underwriting lawsuits using memembership dues??!! Legal representation is a large part of what teachers are paying for when they pay their dues. Get a clue?

Anonymous said...

If there are "bad" teachers in public schools, it's because "bad" management put them there and leaves them. All these chuckleheads whining about tenure and NJEA... it's all a bunch of "stuff." If a teacher is truly "bad," then dismiss them. The reason it takes so long is that management drags out the process and that often times, the "bad" teacher turns out to be a "good" teacher who is a victim of "bad" management. Anyone who says that tenure is a lifetime job guarantee is either uninformed or a liar. These "reformers" with their "secret" agendas love to confuse the public with inaccuracies or propaganda against teachers, unions, etc. Geez, without the union every public teacher in the state would be at the mercy of power hungry dishonest politicians (ie. Fat Boy) or avaricious moguls looking to make loads of $$$$ with their "charter" schools.

Duke said...

Thx for responding to Anon #1, everyone. Just to add:

My friend, look at a great school system like Chatham or Millburn or Haddonfield or Ramapo.

Compare it to Trenton or Asbury Park or Camden.

Are you going to tell me the problem is that one has great teachers, and the other doesn't?