Another View: Good teachers deserve respect, and tenure, not discriminatory dismissal

08/02/2014 12:00 AM

07/31/2014 3:56 PM

California lawmakers create laws to avoid capricious and discriminatory dismissals from public employment.

To become a teacher in California, you must complete one year beyond a bachelor’s degree and a year of student teaching. You must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test, and a test in subject matter. You must convince a school district personnel expert that you will be more effective than all the other people competing for the position.

Once in a school, you must withstand scrutiny from administrators for two years, and only after you are deemed satisfactory do you receive tenure. This process eliminates the least qualified.

Tenure is provided as a protection against dismissal for religious, political, racial, ethnic, sexual preference and other reasons not related to effectiveness as a teacher.

Other means exist to dismiss a teacher: immoral or unprofessional conduct; committing, aiding or advocating criminal acts; dishonesty; unsatisfactory performance, evident unfitness for service, and more.

These causes are laws. Just as with any laws, there must be proof that they have been violated before they can be used to dismiss a teacher.

Writer Ben Boychuk blurs the lines between effective and ineffective teachers in his column (“ Democrats stay silent on teacher tenure ruling,” Viewpoints, July 26).

There is a great range among the effectiveness of any group, including newspaper columnists, school board members, school administrators, teachers, parents and students.

This is California, not Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. The perception that one teacher is more effective with some students than with others does not mean he or she is unsatisfactory or unfit.

He or she was chosen among many candidates, scrutinized for performance, trained by the district, and given chances to perform to the desired level. There are plenty of ways to move someone to another field of endeavor, which is why the number of teachers dismissed legally is small. The vast majority are given unpleasant assignments and quit.

There is another reason for tenure: the salary schedule. Without going into great detail, a beginning teacher makes roughly one half of what a teacher with 12-plus years of experience makes.

If there were no tenure, administrators could dismiss a senior teacher and hire two new teachers. In a money-making business, this might make economic sense. It happens all the time, to the chagrin of the senior employees.

But children are not widgets. We should never dismiss a senior, experienced and loyal teacher, a parent away from home, to hire someone with no experience.

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