On Tuesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge called the teacher tenure law unconstitutional. Beyond the immediate implications, the case opens the doors (in California as well as other states) to questioning on teacher hiring and firing, a system that in place for over a century. What's it all mean?
What caused this reassessment of the teacher tenure law?
Vergara Vs. California is the case that started the ruckus. Nine Southern California students brought the law to court, claiming that ineffective teachers that were kept in front of classes, because tenure was based on seniority rather than capability. The judge agreed, saying that tenure makes it almost impossible to fire an unqualified teacher.
Most teachers are tenured after only 18 months, which is hardly enough time to thoroughly assess their performance or quality and when schools are faced with budget cuts those tenured are secure, while new teachers are never even given a chance. The “Last-In, First-Out” layoff system ensures that teachers are kept or laid off based on seniority alone. The system offers teachers a job security that other state and school employees are not bestowed with and in turn is hurting the students who are taught by the incompetent.
What does this mean for students?
Education reformers claim that this case has brought to light how unfairly the tenure law has been affecting students. To rid the school system of the tenure law would hopefully mean equal hiring and firing, weeding out the bad teachers and allowing the good to remain in the classroom.
What does this mean for teachers?
Teacher unions tend to argue that teachers are immensely important and thus should feel safe and secure in their position and establishment. But why should they get a safeguard that other state employers do not? Why is it appropriate to keep inadequate employees in a schoolroom when the same would not fly in a doctors office? It's a trick argument with many points of view.
So, what happens now?
Smack! Pow! Hiii-ya! Teacher unions are going to fight and appeal this case for as long as they can (presumably years). Stay tuned.