Tenure does not make it impossible to remove low-performing teachers; inadequate or incompetent supervision does. Tenure does not assign less effective teachers to schools of low-income students; either supervisors make these assignments, or they result from a teacher contract that requires teacher assignments to particular schools by seniority. Both can be changed. And tenure laws can be revised to lengthen the time for teachers to earn tenure, and to streamline the due process provisions to fire teachers.
Tenure does protect students from having teachers fired at will for what they teach (such as evolution in science or controversial art in art classes), or from being fired in order to hire a crony of a school board member or administrator. And tenure protects senior, competent teachers from being fired only to be replaced by cheaper, less experienced teachers.
Tenure was conceived to address these problems. It protects, rather than harms, students’ right to a quality education.
Meanwhile, everybody knows that the real issue in education is socioeconomic inequality. There are good public schools for wealthier children, and everybody knows it. But we are not willing to spend enough money on poor families and children to give them the same opportunities as wealthier children.
Plainview, N.Y., June 12, 2014
The writer is a retired public-school teacher.