The United States is known for containing some of the most prestigious universities world wide. Thousands of international students flock here to attend schools throughout the nation. You could say the United States has bragging rights when it comes to college education. We have some of the best educators in the world teaching at our universities. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the education that is supposed to prep us for college. Why? Because of a “little” thing called teacher tenure.
Unless you had the opportunity to attend private high school, or you lived in an affluent area where the public school outranked even the best private schools, you know what I am talking about. I attended a local public high school in my hometown back in California, where the budget was slim, and the rate of firing teachers that should be fired, even slimmer. With the cuts in California’s education budget, there is literally no money left to fire incompetent teachers. You might be asking, well it shouldn’t cost that much to fire a teacher who obviously needs to be fired, right? Wrong.
After two years of a probationary period, teachers receive tenure. After that, it is nearly impossible to fire them even with evidence that proves them guilty. Why? In a survey by the Center for Union Facts, there is only a 2.03% experienced teacher-firing rate (California). When I say experienced, I mean two years or more. The California Teachers Association, or CTA, and the California Federation of Teachers, or CTF, maintain firm grips on legislature that protect these “experienced” teachers. These union organizations staunchly back the teacher tenure law, which can turn firing a teacher into a politically impossible process. Why? Because the most powerful unions in California stand up to protect them, making it costly and time consuming for schools districts to fire teachers. In 2009, the Los Angeles Times did a review of every recorded, successful firing, of a teacher with tenure in the last 15 years, and found that only 159 lost their jobs. Their investigations found that “Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don’t make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.”
Notice incompetency didn’t fall into that category “vast majority of firings.”
To begin with, it is very difficult to prove some of these cases. Oftentimes teachers are called in and give excuses for their behavior, saying “I had an off day,” or “that student deserved that punishment” because of x, y, and z. Meetings end with the teacher receiving a warning, but nothing more. When administrators attend classes, by law they must give advanced warning before they give a review. This defeats the purpose of a teacher review however, since teachers can be on their best behavior when forewarned, instead of being caught off guard with a sporadic evaluation. Even when students and parents constantly complain, sometimes their evidence isn’t enough, especially when the cost to fire a teacher can begin at around $50,000 and go upwards to $100,000 and above.
I know this isn’t just a problem in California. Fellow classmates have expressed their concerns with some of the teachers they had in high school as well. Here’s my feeling. Protecting teachers rights is important, because teachers shouldn’t be fired on a whim because of capricious administrations. However, the current laws, especially in my home state, protect teachers who do an inadequate job of teaching. I do not believe the two year probationary period in California is enough time to determine the quality of a teacher, and the protection they receive after those two years is just too much. High School educators need to be held accountable for their actions, and currently, those teachers who show obvious incompetence are able to hide behind their tenure. Our generation is supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, but how can we be those leaders, if incompetent teachers are teaching us?