Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tenure - Going, Going, Gone!

       I read another editorial in the Ledger today about a new great savior of the Newark Public School system, Cami Anderson. “Cami Anderson sees her job as helping all kids in Newark to learn, charter schools are not a threat, they are a help” she is quoted.
My question is “help” to do what?
Maybe “help” to gain ground in the efforts to privatize the New Jersey Public School System?
Additionally, the editorial goes on to tell how she has placed a hundred staffers in an “excess labor pool” because of their poor performance and how she can’t fire them due to tenure laws.
When I read this several questions arose.
I know that it is not good to have poorly performing anybody in any job but should tenure for the vast majority be eliminated for the sins of a tiny minority?
I looked up the statistics pertaining to the Newark School System. It employs 108,591 full time teachers. One hundred therefore represents 0.092%.
Another question is, did these poorly performing people receive unsatisfactory evaluations in the past from the well performing administrators who supervised them? If not, then maybe the administrators who are said to be performing well really weren’t performing that well after all.
Were any increments withheld in these prior years? Tenure charges are not required to allow increment withholding and costs the district almost nothing except possibly the costs to respond to a grievance filing by the teacher.
I also decided to look at the biography of Ms. Anderson. I found that she has excellent credentials however when I noticed her actual teaching experience, it was very disappointing. It appears that she has taught a mere two years (1993 – 1995) in California. It seems to me that this is another case of those who really haven’t done the job are assigned to tell others how to do it! I guess it plays right into the Christie proposal of allowing those with no teaching experience but having “managerial experience” (maybe even managing a Wendy’s) to be appointed as superintendents.*
As I was searching the Internet for information pertaining to this article, I happened to notice some other interesting facts relating to tenure and its elimination.
Tenure was originally established to prevent the kind of thing that will surely occur if it is eliminated and public schools are privatized.
“Tenure emerged in response to the spoils system in public schooling, under which teachers were hired (and fired) as a consequence of the political process rather than their competence or fit. Advocates intended it to be part of teachers’ total compensation, helping to attract and retain teachers by making up for relatively low starting salaries and back-loaded pension benefits through long-term job stability.”
I also discovered other interesting statements and facts. The well publicized documentary (or should I call psuedo documentary after reading the facts) called “Waiting For Superman”, made numerous erroneous statements about teaching and tenure that those who seek to eliminate tenure constantly cling to.
Here are some, " Illinois, 1 in 57 doctors loses his or her medical license, and 1 in 97 attorneys loses his or her law license, but only 1 teacher in 2500 has ever lost his or her credentials."
“In reality, only 121 doctors lost their licenses in Illinois in 2009, out of 43,670 physicians, rather than 1 in 57, as the movie claims. That means an average of 0.3% of doctors per year lost their licenses; or 3 out 1,000 per year. And according to data reported by the American Bar Association, 26 lawyers in Illinois were disbarred in 2009, out of a total of 58,457 - in some cases, by mutual consent. The total number of lawyers disbarred in the entire country, either involuntarily or by mutual consent, is 800 per year out of 1,180,386; which is about .07%”**
To summarize, it appears that many who desire to place our educational system and its teachers in the hands of corporations and profitable companies are playing hard ball. They will go to any means necessary to disparage teachers and the teaching profession. Meanwhile teachers and teacher's unions chose to play Whiffle Ball!

* We do however unfortunately, have kind of a precedent for this. The previous NJ Commissioners of Education was a lawyer and I don’t believe had any public school teaching experience.



With regard to Christie's latest tyrant about NJEA, here are some of my thoughts.
So eliminating tenure, starving the pension plan, eliminating benefits, firing well paid teachers so as to hire cheaper replacements and connected people, bashing teachers and privatizing schools so as to enrich corporations who will run the schools will cure the ills of "failing schools"?
Who the hell is he kidding. What a bunch of arrogant, ignorant  BS.
Is NJEA the best? Absolutely not! Why?
They don't have the courage to demand respect and call for a state wide strike! Instead they hide in their Trenton offices, put out sappy ads and engage in name calling. Name calling will never suffice for meaningful action.
As my mother used to say " If you're willing to take a lot of crap just wait, there's more coming."


  1. I will have to respectfully disagree a tad. It really is not a fair fight between Christie and the NJEA. Christie has the bully pulpit, he has the megaphone of the governorship, he has all of right wing radio, Fox News and other right wing media outlets as his allies. He has NJ 101.5 as a staunch echo chamber. NJ 101.5 is waging a 24/7 decades long war against the NJEA. Do you think that Fox News or NJ 101.5 will give the NJEA a fair hearing? Ever? In our lifetimes? Blaming the NJEA for not being able to combat all of Christie's venom is like blaming the victim for a rape. We are living through a very anti-union environment in this country from top to bottom. I meet ordinary working Americans who spout the anti-union garbage not just against teachers' unions but against any union. Talk about What's the Matter With Kansas and voting against your own best interests. The NJEA is doing the best it can under the circumstances, it is literally walking on egg shells. The members of the NJEA leadership are cursed if they do and damned if they don't. They are fighting a well funded anti-union propaganda machine that operates at maximum volume morning, noon and night all year long for years and years. One political party is devoted to the total annihilation of unions. Most of the US billionaires are committed to destroying the union movement in this country.

  2. I agree. NJEA and teachers are out gunned but that's not a reason to lay back and keep taking it. At some point even a worm turns if attacked.
    Putting ads on TV saying "We're really nice people" will never turn the tide.
    What will? I'm not sure but I do know that what is being done now won't.
    Maybe weekly ralllys, maybe door to door campaigning, maybe picketing school events or even a strike!
    I know that NJEA will immediately say "we can't do that, striking is against the law". Well, how about the Governor breaking the law year after year by not contributing to the pension fund?
    I guess it's OK to break some laws! Then, based on that, maybe it's OK to break the "no strike" law?

  3. Teachers lose licenses only if they commit criminal offenses; they don't lose them necessarily if they have been fired. Firing is very, very common in teaching, including non-renewal of non-tenured teachers, which is the same thing as being fired, just no possibility of a hearing. Districts also force teachers out by forcing them to resign or retire, and the teachers don't have to do anything wrong. There are tens of thousands of teachers who have never done anything warranting being fired who have been forced out of teaching. The real problem in public education is with the obscene power principals hold, and those principals have utterly NO accountability whatsoever.


What do you think?