An article published in The Advocate on Aug. 2 (“Public school tenure system questioned”) discussed state figures showing that public school teachers who earn tenure rarely lose their jobs, ultimately creating the mindset, “I got a job; I can keep this job once I get tenure.” I’d like to say this is simply not the case.
Tenure is not the guarantee of a job for life, nor does it protect incompetent teachers. Tenure is simply a right to due process. It provides job security for those who have successfully completed a closely monitored process after three years of proving themselves. It’s about one thing — fairness.
The article left out key context that is crucial to fully understanding the effectiveness of the process of tenure. The piece failed to mention a source for the figures on the number of tenure hearings, and should have expounded upon the reasons for which these hearings were held. We must keep in mind that each tenure hearing is unique; therefore the purpose of a hearing must be clarified. The piece also failed to mention how many individuals opt to settle with the school system instead of moving forward with a hearing.
The process of tenure is multifaceted. It’s not just about evaluation; it’s about having a fair procedure for just dismissal. Tenure protects K-12 public school teachers from false allegations of wrongdoing, coercive education practices and political reprisals. It has a long history in this state; the process has been “acceptable” for decades. Why is it now, in a time when public school teachers across the country are being attacked, is there an issue with it? Perhaps it’s because there are certain individuals pushing for an alternative agenda — one that would destroy public education as we know it. Public school privatization interests are ruling this state. They want to have free rein to take out teachers in order to transform the public school system into a small “business,” with small salaries and no benefits. These same individuals want to employ “teachers” for only two years, pay them less and get them out. Simply put, they want teachers to be “employees at will.”
You must remember that teachers’ working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. There are currently no raises or praises for teachers who work hard every day — those who pay for student uniforms and school supplies out of their own pockets. Tenure is just a small benefit earned in lieu of the salaries we rightfully deserve. Instead of pushing to eliminate the process, our lawmakers — the representatives of the people — should be advocating to keep it.
JOYCE HAYNES, president
Louisiana Association of Educators