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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

And The Beat (Down) Goes On!


The definition of Tenure - Merrian Webster
: the act, right, manner, or term of holding something (as a landed property, a position, or an office); especially : a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal
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I read in the Ledger again today about the Governor's plan to “reform” tenure. I decided to lookup the exact meaning of the word. 
Based on that definition it appears to me that  the tenure “reform” plan is not to “reform” tenure but instead to eliminate it.
Awarding five year contracts is not at all tenure as it is defined.
“Reform” evidently means to allow the awarding of consecutive, short term contracts granted at the employer's whim. That certainly is not cited in the definition of “tenure”.
The Ledger went on to praise the Newark School Superintendent (Cami  Anderson) for her removing eighty “poorly performing” teachers from the classroom.
It described her anguish regarding tenure in that she was unable to readily dismiss “poorly performing” teachers.
And could  it be that some of her angst arises from the fact that she and all superintendents in New Jersey have lost tenure and therefore no one else should be tenured? I’m just asking!
Needless to say the Star-Ledger editor and she both fully support the elimination of  teacher tenure and seniority rights in New Jersey Public Schools.
I looked up some statistics pertaining to the Newark School System.

“Newark Public Schools, with 75 schools, 7,000 employees and a student population of 39,440, is the largest and one of the oldest school systems in New Jersey. Its origin dates back to 1676 and Barringer High School in Newark’s North Ward, is the third oldest public high school in the nation.”

A little fourth grade math tells me that eighty out of seven thousand is 1.1%.
So let me get this straight!
We should eliminate teachers rights for the 98.9% so as to enable the easy dismissal of the 1.1% of “poorly performing” teachers?
Let's pretend I was teaching a class and 1.1% of the children failed a test. Should I then justifiably punish the entire class for the poor performance of those few? 
Do you think I might be called to the principal’s office if I did?
Suppose I were to tell him that I punished everyone because just punishing the 1.1% was far too difficult for me to do? How do you think that excuse would work?
I'm sure you get my point.

The straw man issue of the expense and difficult of removing “poor performing” tenured staff which is constantly cited as justification for “tenure reform”.  Please take a moment to read my article of Sunday, February 19, 2012  - “$100,000 Questions About Tenure” (which I have added below) and you will see what I mean.
Teachers have spent fifty years, legitimately building the profession into one with a modicum of respect, decent wages and benefits. Now within just a few years those gains are being er
oded and destroyed, all without protest.
In spite of the Governor's claim of a powerful NJEA, it has done little in response to the current attack on teachers. The union has been docile and completely ineffectual at best.
Trust me, all this is a guise to lay the ground work for the complete privatization of public education in New Jersey and throughout the country.
The loss of tenure and seniority will further weaken and destroy what is left of the teaching profession.
 When privatization is finally accomplished the corporations which will run the schools will then not have to deal with teacher rights and tenure issues. They will be able to hire and fire at will, pay low wages and reap great rewards for themselves and their executives.

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$100,000 Questions About Tenure

The constant cry from those wishing to eliminate tenure is that the cost of firing a tenured teacher is extreme (the claim is up to $100,000).
Why does it cost so much to remove a poorly performing, tenured teacher?
Because lawyers charge school districts exorbitant  fees in order to carry out the process.
Instead of ending tenure for all teachers, the majority of whom are doing well, why not limit the cost of firing the poor ones?
We should look at capping the outrageous legal fees that are paid by school systems each year.
The State is certainly very good at capping all other aspects of school district spending why not cap these?
If this was done, some questions might arise.
Would lawyers take tenure cases filed by school districts at reduced fees?
Last year,  New Jersey admitted 3037 lawyers to the Bar. Estimated job openings were 844 leaving a surplus of  2193 . The median wage for New Jersey lawyers is $43.84 per hour. *
If the law of supply and demand works, it should be easy to hire lawyers to pursue these actions.
Another question might then be, would districts be able to obtain the “best” lawyers if legal costs were capped?
Well, if the charges brought against an individual are valid and well documented, I don't think districts need Johnny Cochran to win the case!
Another cost saving measure might be, having the State hiring a group of salaried lawyers to be leased to school districts at  nominal rates. These lawyers could then pursue tenure charge cases instead of having districts spend outlandish sums by hiring independent law firms.
If the real motivation behind ending tenure is only so that “poor” teachers can be fired without huge cost why not investigate these alternatives?
(My own opinion, this is not the real motivation for the elimination of tenure.)
PS
Does anyone really think that the Governor (who is a lawyer) and the legislature (which is in majority composed of lawyers) would ever even suggest much entertain these types of action?
It's much easier and more fun to beat up on teachers!



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