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Tenure laws

Posted: June 17, 2014 9:31 a.m.
Updated: June 18, 2014 5:00 a.m.

A California judge did a good service kids when he declared unconstitutional that state’s teacher tenure laws, which virtually prevent classroom instructors from getting fired, no matter how poorly they might perform. The concept of tenure -- granting job permanency to teachers -- first arose decades ago on college campuses, where it was argued that it was needed to allow professors so speak their minds without having to worry about being fired. Today, with all sorts of free-speech guarantees, it’s an outmoded concept, and even more so at the elementary and high school level.

Teachers’ unions have always fought change and accountability, and indeed, with many of them, they are much more concerned with keeping bad teachers from getting fired than they are with improving education and giving an advantage to students. Most teachers’ unions, especially in places where schools are the worst, are in favor of maintaining the status quo, no matter how bad that status quo might be. And of all educational practices, granting tenure might be the worst.

This practice has become controversial not only in California, but in other states as well, including neighboring North Carolina. And we certainly don’t mean to imply that most teachers don’t do a good job, for that's not true. Most are dedicated, hard-working instructors who have their students’ best interests at heart. But we can’t help but think that this ruling in California could spread quickly, eliminating one of the biggest roadblocks to better public education.

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