“This court finds that both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily and, for no legally cognizable reason – let alone a compelling one – disadvantaged by the current permanent employment statute.”
-Judge Rolf M. Treu
The reactions from state and Los Angeles teachers unions to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision striking down state laws governing teacher tenure and when teachers can be fired as unconstitutional were as expected. Sadly, their reactions, such as calling the decision an “attack on teachers,” do little to address the core issue: Current tenure laws contribute to the disproportionate number of inexperienced and bad teachers at schools in low-income communities with large ethnic populations, reinforcing an unequal education system.
We, like the majority of the public, do not believe that all-out warfare has been declared on teachers, nor do we believe the judge’s decision to be unfair or based on misinformation.
Teaching is a noble profession complicated by many societal problems. Teachers can make a profound and lasting impression on our society’s youngest and most precious members, both in positive and negative terms. But recognizing the challenges is no excuse for continuing a system that is more focused on the outcome for the teacher, than the outcome for the student and for society as a whole.
Does that mean we think that measuring teacher performance is easy? Absolutely not.
We recognize that using evaluation strategies designed for other classes of workers make no sense, but neither have the rules that have been used too often to protect poor performing and even dangerous teachers.
It is clear to us that time is needed to evaluate a teacher’s true capabilities, and it will most likely take longer than the 18 months some have proposed, but it should not be a process that can be prolonged indefinitely through appeals and the like.
We have to say we were disappointed by the failure of teacher unions to put forward real solutions and less complicated processes to fire problem teachers and failure to come out with solutions to make it less complicated to fire problem teachers like former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt in the scandalous child sexual abuse case.
It’s not enough to say the current system was designed to protect teachers from politics and favoritism and call arguments against the system anti-teacher rhetoric,
It should also be noted that the court also found that the present tenure system is also unfair to the many good teachers removed from jobs just to make room for a tenured teacher, regardless if the tenured teacher is as capable.
EGP was one of the first newspapers to support the rights of teachers to organize and we still support those rights today. But we believe that the time has come to reassess teacher hiring and firing practices, and believe Judge Treu made the right decision on a difficult issue that is important to us all.
Our hope is the decision will lead to real dialogue and change, rather then more useless accusations and continued obstruction to change.