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Education Government The Almighty Buck

California Students, Parents Sue Over Teacher Firing, Tenure Rules 399

Posted by timothy
from the good-work-if-you-can-get-it dept.
The L.A. Times reports that a group of students and parents, fed up with what they see as overarching job security in California schools, are suing in the hopes of making harder for poor teachers to stay on the books. From the article: "The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit, advocacy group Students Matter, contends that these education laws are a violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because they do not ensure that all students have access to an adequate education. Vergara versus California, filed on behalf of nine students and their families, seeks to revamp a dismissal process that the plaintiffs say is too costly and time consuming, lengthen the time it takes for instructors to gain tenure and dismantle the 'last hired, first fired' policies that fail to consider teacher effectiveness. The lawsuit aims to protect the rights of students, teachers and school districts against a "gross disparity" in educational opportunity, lawyers for the plaintiffs said." Perhaps related.
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California Students, Parents Sue Over Teacher Firing, Tenure Rules

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  • Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by broken_chaos (1188549) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:05PM (#46075147)

    While in rare cases job security is a problematic issue due to incompetence (or worse, in extreme cases), stripping away job security typically creates even more, worse problems in the long term with an even faster race-to-the-bottom. If this succeeds, they could find themselves, instead, fighting against the school board hiring cheap, less-competent or less-experienced teachers because they can get rid of the expensive, experienced ones quickly and easily.

    Also, teachers are, in most places, unionized (the article doesn't seem to mention if California teachers are or not). Go against the union in such a drastic manner and you may find yourself with a widespread strike on your hands.

    • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bhcompy (1877290) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:10PM (#46075187)
      California teachers are unionized under the California Teachers Association, which is the first or second most powerful union in the state. The other most powerful union is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (prison guards).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      stripping away job security typically creates even more, worse problems in the long term with an even faster race-to-the-bottom.

      Citation needed.

      Go against the union in such a drastic manner and you may find yourself with a widespread strike on your hands.

      You're making a profoundly good case for the abolition of all unions. Our children and our future ought not be held hostage to these thugs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bloodhawk (813939)
      You honestly believe they could find less-competent teachers? the current system is an abomination that has come from unions having too much power and the system being too weak to fight back when they have demanded insane conditions. Tenure should NOT exist full stop. The primary concern of the education system should be the students and the current system sacrifices the students in favour of the teachers. Now it isn't all teachers that are bad, but not being able to get rid of the rotten apples makes the w
    • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:43PM (#46075411)

      While in rare cases job security is a problematic issue due to incompetence

      It is NOT rare. 90% of teachers are competent and conscientious. But about 1 in 10 needs to go, and 1 in 10 is not "rare". Nearly every kid will have one or more incompetent teachers during K-12. Both of my kids have had bad teachers. My daughters 7th grade science teacher spoke English so poorly that the kids could not understand her. So she assigned each student a chapter to teach. For the rest of the semester they taught each other, while the teacher sat in the back of the room and watched Youtube videos. Many parents complained about the situation, but that was several years ago, and she is still "teaching". It is absurd that someone like that continues to be employed at taxpayer expense.

      There was a recent report [urban.org] that estimated that a bad teacher can cause $250k/year in economic damage when you consider the lost future earning potential of the ill educated students.

      • My experiences (Score:4, Interesting)

        by raftpeople (844215) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:02PM (#46075529)
        My experiences: each of my 3 kids encountered two completely ineffective/incompetent teachers in junior high and zero in elementary and high school (although we were aware of 1 in elementary that we fortunately did not have to deal with).

        It wasn't that many but the level of incompetence was astounding and nothing could be done.
        • Re:My experiences (Score:4, Informative)

          by winwar (114053) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:31PM (#46075715)

          I'm sorry but the statement that "nothing could be done" is a lie.

          If the teachers were truly ineffective or incompetent, then you should have complained to the school's administrators and insisted that your students be removed. That is your right. If they refused, then you take the issue to the school board. If that doesn't work, you file a complaint with the state (and also against the teachers license if you actually have evidence).

          If you failed to do that, it indicates to me that maybe the teachers really weren't that bad. Because if you did nothing despite knowing there was a problem, you are part of it. When you find ineffective teachers you also have ineffective administrators and schools boards. You can't have one without the other.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ShanghaiBill (739463)

            I'm sorry but the statement that "nothing could be done" is a lie.

            Baloney. I have personally complained about bad teachers, and I know other parents that have as well. I have NEVER heard of a teacher fired for incompetence, or anything other than blatant criminal behavior.

            If the teachers were truly ineffective or incompetent, then you should have complained to the school's administrators and insisted that your students be removed. That is your right. If they refused, then you take the issue to the school board. If that doesn't work, you file a complaint with the state (and also against the teachers license if you actually have evidence).

            Can you cite a single example of any of these things resulting in a California teacher being fired?

            If you failed to do that, it indicates to me that maybe the teachers really weren't that bad.

            This is an idiotic statement. That is like saying that global warming isn't a "real" problem because if it was you would have personally volunteered to stop breathing. The fact that I haven't dedicated

      • Once when I was in 10th grade, I copied an equation I saw in a Superboy comic book. I showed it to my math teacher and asked what it meant. His response? "That's Calculus. I don't know." Granted, he probably meant: "That's Calculus. I don't want to waste my time explaining it to a 10th grade Algebra student." but either way it was the wrong thing to say. This was 1966. It's not a new issue.
      • Re:Dangerous... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:46PM (#46075783)

        I had my run-in with the occasional terrible teacher, who should not have been teaching. I also had some really excellent teachers, who can be credited with a large portion of my success in life. Guess who gets driven out first when working conditions are made increasingly shitty? When teachers are underpaid, overworked, disrespected by management, then the ones who are best (combination of academic excellence and natural leadership) will eventually burn out on their altruism and take one of the many much higher paying jobs that they are more than qualified for. The ones who are petty authoritarian teach-to-the-test dimwits, with no prospects for better employment, stick around forever. Unions aren't keeping the bad teachers in --- self-serving slimeballs will cling on no matter what, and will gladly game the system to look good on a shallow management-driven metrics system. Unions are keeping the good teachers in, giving people a rewarding professional career.

      • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:56PM (#46076293)
        And adding to this, the 90% of the teachers that are competent and conscientious really would LOVE to have the remaining 10% shown to the door. They really would, as those 10% are a drag on the rest of the faculty.

        The problem is the double-edged sword of tenure. Remove the tenure protections and yeah, you get to fire those 10%. But in the meantime you've put those good 90% in the position where they have no job security and get watch their already low salaries stagnate relative to the rest of the economy, and they also need to worry about being fired for personal politics. A lot of those 90% are going to throw in the towel and walk out the door at some point.

        So who will be left teaching your kids? Any recently graduated kid with a bachelor's degree who can pass the mirror test. And they'll stick around just long enough to A) get fired for complete and gross incompetence or B) get some experience and quickly move on to something else far more rewarding and lucrative. Oh sure, you might get a handful of golden souls who really give a damn and can suck up these crappy conditions because they are already retired from another profession or have a spouse who is making good money, but these folks are one in a million.

        Tenure is a flawed system for sure. Bad people will look good just long enough to get tenure, then they will drag their feet until retirement, not caring a whit about anything. But that same tenure is a huge perk that the good 90% enjoy and desperately need for them to do what they do for the pay that they get.

        Full disclosure - I am a tenure-track college professor and a member of my state teacher's union.
      • So she assigned each student a chapter to teach. For the rest of the semester they taught each other, while the teacher sat in the back of the room...

        Truth be told, that was probably a better outcome than you might think, if the students actually did teach each other. And 7th graders just might. They certainly are capable. Of course paying a union salary for no service whatsoever is absurd, but as far as learning environments go, that was one of the better ones. There have been studies that indicate that type of learning environment is actually the best possible. The kids would have been far worse off if she'd persisted in standing up in front of th

  • Suing won't help (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:07PM (#46075155)
    The union negotiated contracts are designed this way to protect the union members that have paid the most dues. This is common across the board with union contracts. The unions care about the union members first, then the job itself, even though the individual union members may have different priorities. I'm not saying this is bad or wrong, as looking out for your own is generally a noble thing, but it's something that the courts have supported for forever and it's unlikely to change anytime soon.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      The union negotiated contracts are designed this way to protect the union members that have paid the most dues.

      Tell that to the GM, Ford and Chysler employees who had their collective agreements null and voided by states, provinces and federal governments. Just because you think that's what'll happen it doesn't mean it always will. And in the case of the automakers, those cases are still before the courts.

    • Re:Suing won't help (Score:5, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:43PM (#46075407)

      There is FAR more to union protection of teachers than featherbedding.

      The people to blame for many school problems and whose effect is largely ignored in the current debate are school administrations.

      Here's a classic written by a (now retired) terrific science teacher who fought the Rutherford, NJ, administration over how they tested students and won in court after a protracted struggle. Steve Masone greatly inspired many of his students, self included. He had the guts to take on a pretty toxic administration when he could have just coasted and sacrificed his students instead.

      http://www.hammerofchalk.com/ [hammerofchalk.com]

      The administrators concerned retired comfortably without consequences to their careers.

    • by winwar (114053)

      I'm curious why no one ever mentions the school board. You know, the ones that negotiate and approve the contracts?

      If these contracts are so bad, why exactly are these people given a pass?

      You cannot have poor teachers without poor administrators and a poor school board.

  • see: Leandro decision in NC. Of equal significance, the Supreme Court ruled that the State of North Carolina, not local school districts, has the ultimate constitutional obligation to actively safeguard and successfully deliver every child's Leandro right. No exceptions. No excuses. link: https://law.duke.edu/childedla... [duke.edu]
  • Tenure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:11PM (#46075199)

    Sorry, did I read that correctly?

    Tenure? In state-funded primary and secondary schools? In a country as brutally meritocratic as the US?

    Tenure is meant to promote academic freedom and allow brilliant scientists with a proven track record to express potentially unpopular idea.

    It's not meant as lifelong guaranteed employment for people who can't cut it in the real world.

    Any idea that seniority should come ahead of ability is fucking bullshit anywhere, but especially when educating our youth. Japan does this, and it's a fucking basketcase. We are better than that.

    • by isorox (205688)

      Sorry, did I read that correctly?

      Tenure? In state-funded primary and secondary schools? In a country as brutally meritocratic as the US?

      Who was the last poor president?

    • by fermion (181285)
      Tenure in higher education reflects an ability to publish. It reflects a freedom to do research,to work with young people and develop them into future educators, researchers, and leaders.

      Tenure in other education setting working with people who are not adults. Teachers are rewarded for connecting with kids, not called an African American child the n-word as a principle recently did, have a week of lesson plans every week for the entirety of your career, showing up to work on time every day for the entire

    • Re:Tenure? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @06:30PM (#46075703) Homepage

      Tenure? In state-funded primary and secondary schools? In a country as brutally meritocratic as the US?

      Well, let me tell you of a couple of situations in my hometown in which tenure saved teachers' job.

      The first teacher in question taught history, and one of his elective courses was focused on radical protest movements from 1950-1975. The thing was that many conservative elements in town wanted the course to not exist, or at the very least state quite clearly that all the radical protest movements were because of spies from the USSR. They had the ear of the dyed-in-wool conservative mayor, who in this city's structure was also the chair of the school board. They tried several tactics to fire him, including trying to convince the union to accept some nice cash benefits if they allowed a provision in the contract to create a process for firing teachers that were presenting content "detrimental to the community" or similar nonsense. The teacher continued to teach until his retirement, which allowed students to learn about that period in US history in a way that neither their textbooks nor their parents were really showing them.

      The second teacher in question was the advisor of the award-winning school paper. Said award-winning school paper did some investigative journalism and discovered some not-nice things about an assistant superintendent, which they duly published. The assistant superintendent reacted by driving to the school, barging into the paper office, and almost physically threatening the student editor who happened to be there at the time. The paper of course duly reported on this incident in their next issue, so the assistant superintendent went to the advisor and demanded that the advisor give the entire editorial board suspensions for insubordination or some-such. The advisor refused, so the assistant superintendent immediately tried to get him fired.

      So yes, tenure can and does matter, even for primary and secondary teachers.

    • by winwar (114053)

      It would help if you would understand what tenure is and what it is not in state funded primary and secondary schools. That does require some knowledge, however

      If you are against "tenure" you oppose the following: the right to bargain, contracts, due process, and property rights.

      It has little or nothing to do with: seniority, lifelong guaranteed employment, academic freedom.

      Furthermore, the US is not very meritocratic. If you think it is, you are deeply ignorant. For one thing, I couldn't largely predict

    • How is it that Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, etc all have decent educations PUBLIC education systems while managing to pay teachers very competitively with union representation? Until you can answer that question stop blaming the unions. The teachers here are paid much less than other professions and the parents here all want their kids to get A's regardless.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:12PM (#46075201)

    if when you as parents fail to live up to your responsibilities the teacher can have your child permanently removed from class because they are there to teach and not babysit?

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @05:26PM (#46075301)

    It's easy to talk of "bad teachers" and say that unions keep them employed. But the truth is that "bad teachers" are the minority. Unions keep more "good teachers" employed at a livable wage than "bad teachers".

    It is normal that the minority get the spotlight, just as it is normal that the Chihuahua barks the loudest.

    • Unreasonable hours and unreasonably low pay have been the norm in public education for decades.

      If the unions did their job in public education, teachers would be working 40 hours a week and making at least 50K a year.

  • They are both 2 big things that hurt schools and take away for things that are needed.

    In asia they are very big on tech test and why should teachers be ranked on how good people are at test cramming?

    College-for-all kills stuff that works better for some people like trades, career education, tech schools, and apprenticeships.

    internships are some times tied to the old College system for jobs that are better set in an trades, career education, tech school settting.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In higher ed, tenure is about academic freedom. In K-12 it's a misnomer. All that tenure means (and the technical name is continuing contract) for teachers is that the district has to follow due process to get rid of the louses. They can't just fire at will, which they can do if the teacher has a provisional contract. Admins simply have to do their job, but they tend to want to be buddies with the staff, or use their position to hire relatives, so quality goes to hell. That is not the union's fault; the adm

  • 1. The subject is about children. Why are the Dark Money types standing in the shadows transmitting commands? Why does dark money hide from children?

    2. Is there anything about computers or their use in the parent?
  • by phmadore (1391487) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:23PM (#46076045) Homepage Journal
    I thought everyone else on here would feel like me, and that's that school was a goddamn bad and nefarious joke after the 6th grade or so. I muscled through it because I've always understood that you have to play by the rules to an extent, you have to do a certain number of things to keep the system satisfied with you or you'll lose out in some major way or another. EG, had I not graduated, it might have been a lot harder to get into the school I'm now attending. Still, though, the fact that all these educators who were such fucking rank-and-file, stick-close-to-curriculum (party line, that is, in Mass.) bullshitters earned such a great living doing it... it really opened my eyes to exactly how fucked this world is. I think the goal of the education system should be to get kids to want to seek knowledge on their own. Any teacher who doesn't do that is failing. All of the teachers in my school career who did that? They were way before high school. High school is a bad joke, I'm sorry. Elementary school is where the most money should be spent, if you ask me. And I think there should be a lot - a lot - more technology instruction at that level. I think kids who show aptitude in technology and science should be given the tools, no matter their background, to continue to succeed in those fields -- if it interests them enough to fill out these forms and do these steps. Later it leads to internships? Imagine if they had something like that when we were going to school, 20-somethings. Think of where we'd be.

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