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California case challenges teacher tenure

david welchfavicon This one’s a doozy.

I predict that traditional policies of teacher tenure in California will come to an end in the next few weeks after the decision in Vergara v. California.

Nine students of color are the plaintiffs in a case in which they argue that they received an inferior education because of tenured teachers who could not be fired. Multimillionaire David Welch has has spent more than $3 million so far on counsel, which includes Theodore Olson.

Check out this excellent report by the PBS NewsHour:

My initial response is: Yes, every single student deserves a high-quality education, and ineffective teachers should not be in classrooms. It is also true that students of color are more likely to receive incompetent teachers.

But I’m very worried that this case is just a means to dismantle teacher unions. Depending on how the judge rules, teacher protections could be weakened or even eliminated. An outspoken teacher could be let go for her convictions.

Unions exist in education for a reason. Teachers serve a public interest. They are not paid well, especially in urban districts. They are not respected by society.

My friend and former colleague Ninive Calegari argues that teacher salaries should be doubled. Founder of The Teacher Salary Project, Ms. Calegari cites a 2010 McKinsey report that concludes that teacher salaries have dropped over the past 30 years. If salaries went up at the same rate as educational spending, Ms. Calegari writes, a typical teacher would now earn $120,000.

Therefore, there’s something about Vergara v. California that is missing the mark. If the plaintiffs win, some bad teachers will be fired, and that’s a good thing. But many good teachers may also be in jeopardy.

Furthermore, a victory for Mr. Welch and the students would do nothing to increase teacher salaries. It would do nothing to increase the respect of the teaching profession. It would do nothing to encourage young people to make teaching a career.

As you can see, I’m a bit torn. I would love to know your thoughts! favicon

Please share your brilliant insights!