Minnesota Faces Lawsuit over Teacher Labor Protections; California Court Upholds Tenure

Secret rich people are attacking public education in Minnesota, suing the state over its teacher tenure and “last in, first out” teacher layoff policies. The plaintiffs, backed by out-of-state anti-labor crusaders Foundation for Educational Justice, claim that labor protections for teachers deny children of quality education.

The litigants might want to check California, where a state appeals court just reversed a 2014 decision and upheld California’s teacher tenure laws, finding that protecting teachers from arbitrary firing and retribution does not cause kids to get a bad education:

“The challenged statutes do not inevitably lead to the assignment of more inexperienced teachers to schools serving poor and minority children,” Presiding Justice Roger Boren said in the 3-0 ruling. “Rather, assignments are made by administrators and are heavily influenced by teacher preference and collective bargaining agreements.”

As a consequence, he said, if some students are now being deprived of a decent education, they will still be deprived even if the laws are struck down [Bob Egelko, “Teacher Tenure in California Upheld by Appeals Court,” San Francisco Chronicle, 2016.04.14].

I’m surprised and relieved we didn’t revisit this old argument in South Dakota this year during our debate over raising teacher salaries. But with big-money interests trying to push school privatization with stealth vouchers, we must watch for other attempts to undermine public schools. “Tenure”—and it really belongs in mocking quotation marks, since no real tenure exists in K-12 education, just “continuing contract”—does not stop conscientious school administrators and boards from getting rid of bad teachers. It just requires them to get their ducks in a row and give all teachers due process, just as we do in the justice system, to protect good, innocent teachers from being removed for bad reasons. Let’s hope the Minnesota courts follow California in recognizing that fact.


9 Responses to Minnesota Faces Lawsuit over Teacher Labor Protections; California Court Upholds Tenure

  1. Good Sense

    There needs to be a system of removing bad teachers as well as rewarding great teachers.

  2. how can you tell a bad teacher?

  3. Good Sense, do you mean a system like SD has in place now?

    http://doe.sd.gov/secretary/TE.aspx

    Owen, you can “tell a bad teacher” by having a competent, trained administrator use the carefully crafted system SD (or their local district – if locally negotiated and meeting the criteria of the state model) has put together to determine teacher effectiveness through objective evaluations and student performance growth. Said administrator can also work to make that “bad” teacher a good teacher by creating a plan of assistance that again uses those objective criteria to move that teacher to more effective instructional techniques.

  4. bearcreekbat

    Good Sense should take the time to at least read our current statutory scheme before recommending that we re-invent the wheel by establishing “a system to remove bad teachers.”

    SDCL 13-43-6.1 currently provides:

    “Just cause for termination or nonrenewal of teacher. A teacher may be terminated, by the school board, at any time for just cause, including breach of contract, poor performance, incompetency, gross immorality, unprofessional conduct, insubordination, neglect of duty, or the violation of any policy or regulation of the school district. A school district may nonrenew a teacher who is in or beyond the fourth consecutive term of employment as a teacher with the school district pursuant to § 13-43-6.3 for just cause, including breach of contract, poor performance, incompetency, gross immorality, unprofessional conduct, insubordination, neglect of duty, or the violation of any policy or regulation of the school district.”

  5. spectacular, revealing coverage cory. thank you

  6. Goods, please heed O’s and Bear’s sensible responses. They point to exactly what you ask for, the system South Dakota has for removing bad teachers. It’s all there; administrators just need to document facts and follow that process.

  7. And as O says, a school’s first response need not be simply to remove a bad teacher, any more than a manager’s first response need be to fire a poorly performing worker. We can consider whether we can save that teacher and instead of throwing away good material, reform a teacher into a useful professional. I by no means say we should give every poorly performing teacher infinite chances, but in the midst of a teacher shortage, we should remember that we have alternatives. Sometimes bad is really bad, to be gotten rid of immediately, but sometimes bad is fixable.

  8. owen reitzel

    I a perfect O is right and the plan is good. But it’s not a perfect world. I’ve seen parents go after teachers because they somehow feel how their child wasn’t treated right. However other parents love the same teacher and will go to bat for them.
    I’ve seen school boards go after a teacher for the simple the teacher was too old.
    Again it’s not a perfect world

  9. As a student I saw low pay cause such a shortage of teachers that “bad” ones were retained because there was no way to replace them! Now we not only have a shortage but I have reason to believe that administrators, for whatever reason, often fail to address or document shortcomings in their teachers! The problem is rarely that there isn’t a procedure to deal with poorly performing teachers, just a lack of will or of “good” teachers!