Vergara Wasn’t About Tenure!
Among all the hoopla surrounding Vergara v. California and the loss of so-called teacher tenure, I noticed some strong voices yesterday that rose above the fray.
They argued, essentially, that Vergara wasn’t about tenure. California teachers never had tenure to begin with. It was only about due process.
This claim is serious business.
If the country is led to believe teachers in California, and around the country, have lost tenure, and they believe they had these rights to begin with, when they only had the right to appeal their jobs if they were threatened arbitrarily, this whole fiasco is a cruel ruse.
Beating on teachers for having something that, Americans are led to believe, made them more powerful than they actually were, is a lie of grand proportions.
Tenure, most of us associate with the kind of privileges university professors earn. Merriam-Webster defines tenure as “the amount of time that a person holds a job, office, or title; and the right to keep a job (especially the job of being a professor at a college or university) for as long as you want to have it.”
K-12 teachers, however, are not afforded the same kind of tenure as university professors. The public needs to know this.
Myths about Due Process
Current misconceptions regarding the law have created several myths about tenure, popularly held, but all false. Paramount among these are:
MYTH #1: “There is a tenure law in California for K-14.”
The truth is, California dismissal law doesn’t refer to tenure. The concept of tenure as it developed in the medieval university has no connection with current practice, which provides only dismissal procedures guaranteeing due process rights and pertinent reasons for dismissal actions. Tenure has become a popular term used as a scapegoat for the real problems, which are ineffective evaluation of instruction, poor administrative practices, and inadequate investment by the public schools in experimentation, research and development, and in-service education.
MYTH #2: “Tenure is a lifetime guarantee of employment.”
The truth is that teachers have permanent status, not tenure. Within permanent status there is a procedure for dismissing teachers which guarantees due process and impartial consideration of the facts when disagreement about the facts exists.
MYTH #3: “You can’t fire a tenured teacher in California.”
The truth is that teachers are fired every year under the dismissal laws in California. In addition, when difficulties in dismissing teachers arise under the law, it is inadequate application of the law by administrators, and not the law itself, that is at fault.
MYTH #4: “Tenure is designed to protect teachers.”
The truth is that due process was developed and exists primarily to protect pupils and schools from political, social and economic interference with pupils’ right to a continuing program of quality education. The major function of due process is to insist that decisions about the quality of instruction in the schools be based on educational reasons, rather than on prejudicial or inappropriate selfish reasons.
MYTH #5: “Tenure protects the incompetent teacher.”
The truth is that California Teachers Association policy for many years has insisted that “Evaluation Is the Key to Excellence.” Where sound evaluation practices exists, it is the teacher whose inadequacies are identified and who is most affected by the need to improve, or in the absence of improvement, will be dismissed under due process provisions. Therefore, due process is a mechanism for evaluation of instruction which exposes rather than protects incompetence.
MYTH #6: “A good teacher doesn’t need tenure.”
The truth is that teachers who perform satisfactorily need the protection of due process and it is the competent teacher who is most needed to maintain and improve the quality of education for pupils. Every educational employee is entitled to due process. The broad spectrum of instructional practices require that differing methodologies require equal protection guaranteed under California laws. The competent teacher needs the due process laws!
From CTA’s “Evaluation: Key to Excellence” (2005)
So while everyone, including myself, has gone on about Vergara and tenure, this case wasn’t really about that at all.
The Vergara case was more about taking away any due process afforded to teachers. Now they can be fired without reason. They will be told even more than they were already, what to teach and how to teach. They will not be able to stand up for what they believe is right for their students. They literally will have no protections at all.
For those of you who wonder why your teachers don’t fight harder against Common Core State Standards, take a look at Vergara. No teacher who needs employment will say anything against any draconian program that comes your child’s way. They have been silenced…if they had much of a voice to begin with.
This case was also about humiliating teachers even more than they have already been humiliated. Like there hasn’t been enough of that lately. I will say the USA Today full page garbage ad was pretty lowbrow. See here for the background.
What teachers had in California was the opportunity to be heard and afforded some professional treatment in case of a dispute. Now they no longer have that. With no professional status, they are merely workers like you would find in a fast-food restaurant. Which makes sense when you consider students are now considered a product…nothing more than a common core cheeseburger.
And college professors, you might want to worry as well, they’re coming after your real tenure too. Cases like Vergara have long tentacles.
The overall goal for years has been to destroy the teaching profession, the unions, and set up a cheap teaching workforce made up of the Teach for America types that will do what the business tycoons of the world want them to do.
Vergara brought all of us one step closer to that reality.