Will California Teacher Tenure Lawsuit Affect Missouri?
Earlier this month, The View’s Whoopi Goldberg spoke out against teacher tenure, “Teachers who do not do a good job in teaching have no right to tenure.” The recently released 2014 EdNext poll shows that 50 percent of the public agrees with Goldberg and thinks that teachers should not be granted tenure. This is up 3 percentage points from last year.
Public sentiment against teacher tenure may have risen due to the highly publicized Vergara v. California case, in which Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled California teacher tenure laws violate the state’s constitution in regards to equality of education.
Tenure laws vary across states. A teacher is tenured in Missouri after teaching in the same district for five years. Tenure laws encourage a system in which school districts undergoing layoffs must keep low-quality, tenured teachers and fire high-quality, non-tenured teachers. This is an ineffective system, as research shows teacher performance has a strong correlation with student achievement.
In a 2013 StudentsFirst poll, Missourians overwhelmingly favored tenure reform—74 percent of those surveyed reported that they would favor a system in which teachers had to demonstrate performance in order to earn or keep tenure. Show-Me Institute Distinguished Fellow James Shuls found that even Missouri superintendents are in favor of teacher tenure reform.
If Missouri wants to be among the top 10 performing states by 2020, tenure reform should be a priority. Teacher tenure may protect good teachers, but it also protects bad teachers. To ensure every child receives a quality education, student welfare must take precedent over the interests of low-performing school employees. This is what the Vergara lawsuit taught the nation.