Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tenure Laws Run Amok: New York City Has Trouble Giving Unfit Teachers The Boot

Here at the 'Wonks, we like to keep an eye on those whose wrong-doing is a detriment to the Education Craft. We will continue to do so. As we profiled before, The City of New York has a great deal of trouble getting rid of many of its teachers that have had....er...um...problems.

This is due to a combination of union rules, and government statutes. The allegations of bad behavior run the gamut from being drunk in the classroom, to being arrested with crack cocaine and other forms of criminal behavior.

So, when I saw this article in The New York Post titled "Class Clowns," I just knew that the news was not going to be good.
  • Nearly half of all public-school educators that have been brought up on disciplinary charges over the last five years---allegations ranging from drug use to corporal punishment--are still in the school system and earning full salaries.
  • In some 37% of cases, the educator kept his or her job by order of an independent arbitrator of by settling their cases with the Department of Education.
  • Only 74 of the 555 educators charged with wrong-doing have been fired since the year 2000.
  • In a move allowing them to keep their pensions, more than 180 resigned under pressure.
  • There are currently 68 educators who have disciplinary cases pending.

I used to live in a town near Niagara Falls, New York. So I know a little something about The Post. It is a tabloid. And like many tabloids, it has an axe to grind. The use of "shock headlines" are The Post's stock-in-trade. But I think that in this case, they may be right.

Usually, where there is smoke, there is fire.

We firmly believe that educators, like all citizens, should be entitled to the full protections that are guaranteed by their "due process" rights. Having said that, we believe that the current system is in urgent need of modification.

Tenure laws were designed to ensure that teachers received "due process" and were not fired for being candid (regarding educational programs) or dismissed en masse by capricious superintendents wishing to distribute teaching jobs to their cronies like so much Halloween candy.

Concerning the problems in New York City, the teachers union has traditionally been resistant to change. But perhaps even the union has had enough of the shenanigans that are pulled by some of its members. The United Federation of Teachers (led by Randi Weingarten) has indicated that it would be willing to compromise by shortening the current disciplinary process from as long as two years to 90 days.

That would be progress.

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