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June 13, 2014

States getting rid of teacher tenures, returning to annual contracts

Corporations opting to return teachers to annual contracts

(Continued)

While the ruling affects just California, proponents of rolling back tenure protections say the landscape is ripe for change. They predict the judge’s ruling will spur a flood of new legislative action and more lawsuits. They say that too often all K-12 teachers have do is show up for work for a set period of time to earn tenure protection.

That’s the case in 31 states, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. Sandi Jacobs, a vice president from the organization who testified in the California case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said tenure protections for teachers aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but obtaining tenure status should be meaningful and the due process should be reasonable. Jacobs said California is one of a small number of states that requires seniority to be used in making lay-off decisions.

“Nationally, I think we’re going to see a real ripple effect because it’s a wake-up call to policymakers that policies that aren’t in the best interest of students can be challenged in court,” Jacobs said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said taking away due process rights ultimately hurts low-income schools because teachers won’t want to take a risk to teach in such schools without strong labor protections.

Due process allows good teachers to “take risks on behalf of their kids,” Weingarten said.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, which also represents teachers, says the tenure fight is a distraction that takes away from other important education issues. He said school districts perhaps need to focus on hiring practices.

“I think there ought to be a good system to dismiss incompetent bad teachers in every system. It ought to be fair to the employer and employee, and it ought to be cost-effective, but that should be used very rarely,” Van Roekel said. “Because if you have a system where that number is high, there’s something wrong with your recruitment and hiring.”

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