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August 27 2009

Tenure, Accountability, and Teachers’ Unions

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

The New Yorker has a horrifying article on the ridiculous system that is teacher tenure in New York City.

Steven Brill looks at temporarily reassigned teachers, still on the payroll, accruing their benefits and pensions, while facing arbitration for accusations of misconduct "such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent."

Brill writes:

Tenure guarantees teachers with more than three years' seniority a job for life, unless, like those in the Rubber Room, they are charged with an offense and lose in the arduous arbitration hearing.

In [New York City School Chancellor Joel] Klein's view, tenure is "ridiculous." "You cannot run a school system that way," he says. "The three principles that govern our system are lockstep compensation, seniority, and tenure. All three are not right for our children."

As far as public education is concerned, it's past time to reform the tenure track process for teachers, demanding performance in exchange for merit pay (an idea even backed by President Obama, to the chagrin of teachers' unions) and not giving anyone a free ride just because they know how to game the system.

In the larger scheme of things, families should be allowed to opt out of such a failed system, where teachers cannot teach and where schools will not rid themselves of such a drain on their resources. The Washington Examiner asserts that parents are entitled to a refund of their tax dollars when the education system fails.

Once the government has compelled parents to send their children to public schools, it has entered into a contract with those parents.

Government has promised not only to educate children, but also to do so in a safe environment. If the school either provides little to no education or isn't safe, or both, then the government has reneged on its promise.

At that point, parents have the right to demand that government provide them with an alternative. I've gone so far as to say those parents have the right to demand the government cut them a check for whatever the per-pupil expenditure is in their district for public education.

With that check they should be able to pick between another public school, a charter school, a private school or even a parochial school.

Unfortunately, the real losers in the system as it currently stands are the students themselves (as documented by my colleague Tatiana at last week's rally for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.) For subpar teachers to claim they should stay on because they "love children" is an insult.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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