Education Is A Vital Sign

A movement to bring the highest level of prestige and honor to the teaching profession.

Teacher Tenure Ruled Unconstitutional

*A Response to Time Magazine's "The War On Teacher Tenure" Oct. 30, 2014

Maureen Benson

First and foremost, as a former high school principal in Oakland, I have to call the "unstoppable" forces of tenure FALSE. I have been able to evaluate bad teachers out or mostly convince them to retire or leave. However, tenure is problematic for a few reasons. I've always said that I'm a big proponent of unions as a theory in our country to protect the rights of workers and ensure fair pay and good working conditions. BUT, that changes significantly when we're moving from talking about the product of the work force going from cars to students. There's a more complicated stake in the game for us to consider and balance. That being said, this is also a MUCH needed victory (this case) to make a case for some of the following governmentally funded initiatives:

1. HIGHER PAY- teachers should be making 6 figures within 5 years. They are executives, treat them as such.

2. HIGHER QUALITY PREPARATION AND ONGOING DEVELOPMENT - treat teachers like doctors, require residency training before issuing credentials, have more authentic assessment and evaluation, develop and implement rigorous standards to maintain a teaching credential instead of just paying a fee every so many arbitrary amount of years.

3. BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS- like in Finland and Sweden where teachers teach 12-15 hours per week and have the rest of the time to prepare, plan, assess, engage with students or families or professional development. 

I'm glad this court case came down. We need to have some leverage that calls out the lack of prestige and honor for our teaching profession. If having bad teachers in the classroom is a violation of student rights, then we DAMN well better prepare, compensate, continually develop and retain excellent teachers.

Finally, the fundamental problem (and how this ruling is inherently perpetuating racism and classism, despite the good intentions) is that it demonstrates Interest Convergence (a tenant in critical race theory) where NO ONE cared about this until privileged people invested money to show how this was directly causing an economic burden and legal liability for the state. Until then, TFA has been RAMPANTLY increasing (well intentioned but woefully unprepared teachers that demonstrate a huge lack of retention--70% in the first 5 years) and we've had decades of the most marginalized communities with a revolving door of the most inexperienced (and often ineffective) teachers in the country. This ruling is a start. I'm glad for it. Sad for the origin, but glad for the impact.