Tenure weighs down faculty with part-time staff

Teacher tenure was created with the intent to protect instructors who hold minority opinions or beliefs, but in practice it produces an elite sect of instructors with greater job security and broader intellectual rights than people in comparable part-time positions.

Firing a tenured instructor is like pressing charges on a criminal offender. To fire an instructor, administrators must prove that they are incompetent or have broken contract through a long, difficult and expensive form of due process.

While due process does provide protection for instructors, it means that administration will generally not pursue firing any incompetent instructors unless aggravated by an overwhelming amount of evidence and complaints. Students will inevitably suffer through inadequate instruction in schools and college while administration avoids suffering the bureaucracy required to maintain quality standards.

Under the current tenure laws, job security for instructors is based solely on seniority without consideration of merit.  “Last hired, first fired” policies place new instructors at a disadvantage when trying to keep their jobs through budget cutbacks and layoffs.

In theory, tenure is a good way to protect instructors from being fired for unpopular lifestyles,  opinions or religious beliefs that might alienate them in society. In practice, tenured instructors are segregated from part-time ones, reducing the potential for students to gain superior instruction from newer teachers.

While some protections need to be in place to safeguard instructors from intolerance, the solution cannot be a blanket policy where any instructor with more than 3 years at a job has security. The issue with job security is that an evaluation process is not a factor in firing people.

“[Teachers and professionals] deserve a profession that expects excellence – and school leaders who offer honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses, helpful feedback, and a commitment to their development,” The New Teacher Project said in a statement. TNTP is a non-profit funded by teachers in 1997 to “end the injustice of educational inequality,” according to its website.

“The diminishing appreciation of tenure also reflects the declining proportion of faculty who benefit from tenure,” Ernst Benjamin said in an article for the American Association of University Professors.

Newly hired instructors have little or no opportunity for tenure while older instructors have the luxury of an unrivaled classist position.

“Many younger faculty agree with those non-academic critics who link the protection of a tenured senior professorate to the diminishing number and quality of opportunities for new entrants to the profession and the stifling of academic innovation and improvement,” Benjamin said.

Long term teaching positions are occupied by people with no responsibility, while otherwise good instructors are juggled around campuses in an extended part-time limbo.

Part-time faculty make up 46 percent of RCC staff, and the instructors who have been taken on full time with tenure only make up 22 percent of the staff. The Faculty Union Association and Board of Trustees agree that more full-time faculty would benefit students, but budgetary increases do not reflect that concensus in the 2014-2015 budget that was approved Sept, 16.

“Running the district on the backs of part-time faculty is a recipe for disaster,” said Dariush Haghighat, president of the Faculty Union Association of RCCD.

The California Teacher’s Association argues that inadequate evaluation is what raises issues people may have with tenure.

In that case, a reasonable compromise between absolute tenure and a lack of due process would be an adequate third party evaluation system with a consistent rubric that would serve to protect both students and instructors.

“Parents shouldn’t have to sue to fix #teachertenure – a problem state, district & union leaders could solve tomorrow,” said TNTP in a tweet on its Twitter account.

Something has to prevent administrators from imposing a political belief system or abusing power by using a religious preference in employee selection, but the system doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

The CTA argues that removing tenure is an attack on instructors that would blame them for economic and social circumstances outside of classroom control.

In a recent legal challenge to tenure laws in California Superior Court, Judge Rolf Treu ruled to overthrow state laws when he sided with the nine student plaintiffs.

According to Treu, current tenure policies “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.”

Gov. Jerry Brown is appealing the case that strikes down tenure and is not surprisingly backed by the CTA.

According to http://www.followthemoney.org, the CTA has given nearly $16 million in donations to the Democratic party, and contributed millions to Brown’s Campaign in 2010. Currently it has donated the maximum amount of $54,000 to his reelection effort.

“Ultimately, the interests of students, teachers, parents and the general public are directly harmed by the Superior Court’s sweeping statewide ruling,” CTA said in a press release.

Brown’s Republican rival Neel Kashkari bashed the governor, saying the appeal is against minority students.

“On Vergara ruling: ‘You sided with the union bosses. You should be ashamed of yourself, Governor.’#vergara #cadebate,” Kashkari said in a tweet following the appeal.

“Tenure has become a popular term used as a scapegoat for the real problems, which are ineffective evaluation of instruction, poor administrative practices, and inadequate investment by the public schools in experimentation, research and development and in-service education,” According to the CTA.

Obviously political affiliations come into play which polarize the issue to be all or nothing, but the issue isn’t that black and white.

“Fixing teacher tenure doesn’t mean ending it,” according to TNTP.

While Republicans and Democrats pander to their constituency, the filed appeal threatens to further jeopardize even more student’s education than those already affected. Politicians offer up the quality education minorities deserve as collateral for job security.

We aren’t anti-teacher, we’re pro-student. While we hate to disagree with the CTA on issues surrounding instructors, supporting a law that protects jobs similarly to the way monarchies protected lordships goes against the fundamental beliefs our instructors have tried to instill through our entire educational careers.

We simply can’t support a systemic protection that is not merit based in a democratic society. Sacramento will have to reach a bipartisan solution that moves toward a greater good to get the full support of students and they’re going to have to show us scientific data that supports a policy that seems so inherently idealistic and self serving.