Teacher bashing comes under many guises and one of the most virulent is the movement to abolish tenure.
Not surprisingly, this idea is the darling of the privatization gurus who will adopt any measure that de-values the experienced educator. For them, stripping basic rights only adds to their own cachet of voodoo reform in which all teachers are mere chattel.
Public school administration wants the demise of tenure, too. It makes the process much easier to remove a “loose cannon.” Tenure and basic bargaining rights/protections make it more difficult to dismiss a veteran educator because of the prickly “just cause” mandate.
Policy makers and ivory castle theorists nix tenure, as well, because it gives them a sense of “moving the chains,” giving the false appearance of being proactive in the so-called education reform movement, no matter how much of a detriment it is to the goal of retaining good teachers.
Witness the opinion of Lawrence Tribe, Harvard professor of Constitutional Law that appeared in USA Today, Sept. 24, regarding successful efforts to end tenure in California:
“My support for curtailing teacher tenure and last-in, first-out layoff rules when they put the needs of adults before children “¦ is a natural and common-sense outgrowth. “¦ The right to unionize must never become a right to relegate children to permanent second-class citizenship. “¦ The laws (California courts) struck down make no sense for the teachers they were intended to protect, or for the students.”
Professor Tribe’s diatribe against teacher tenure was in response to an aberrant and absurd notion in California that teachers ought to be tenured after little more than a year.
But what is not aberrant nor absurd is the case of Gus Morales, a teacher in Holyoke, Mass., who is being called “a poster child for teacher tenure” by the online news feed Salon. “Data walls,” according to the recent article by Sarah Jaffe, caused the non-tenured Morales to advocate for students in “protest of a directive from higher-ups” that posted test scores and students’ names on the classroom walls. Addressing the school committee of Holyoke, “teachers questioned whether posting data publicly violated the Family Educational Rights and Family Act.”
As reported last winter by Jaffe, administration (as is their custom) “tried to turn the tables on teachers “¦ but the teachers released a PowerPoint from their training session that clearly showed photos of data walls, with first names and last initials.”
Shortly afterwards, Morales’ situation became tenuous. Bad things began to happen to him in school where — as Morales told Salon — “his evaluations just got so unbelievably negative where (previously, before his student advocacy) his evaluations were stellar.” Later in the 2013-14 school year, Morales was elected head of the Holyoke Teachers Association. “A month later he was fired.” While being non-tenured, Morales, essentially, had no rights to appeal his dismissal, but as a union representative “the Mass. Department of Labor Relations board found there was probable cause “¦ non-renewal was because of protected union activity.”
There is no coincidence here between Morales’ bad evaluations and subsequent dismissal when one considers his “whistleblowing” in support of his students/families’ right to privacy. Administration does not like to be questioned nor held accountable for anything as long as there’s a teacher to blame for their mistakes.
The case of Gus Morales and his misfortunes as they related to taking a stand happen more frequently in the teaching profession than the general public might guess. His case is perhaps more newsworthy because he appears to be about to beat the system that tried to fire him. That, traditionally, does not happen in school districts.
All because he felt empowered and morally responsible to stand up for children and their families. Retain tenure. Continue to empower good teachers with the courage to do what’s right for students. When teachers have that confidence, ultimately, it’s the students who benefit the most.