On Tuesday a Superior Court here in the state of California issued a landmark ruling declaring teachers who receive tenure is unconstitutional. Immediately afterwards a number of folks jumped on social media and took to the airwaves declaring the ending of teaching tenure as a grand victory and now our children will be saved. A closer look at some of those prominent voices including the Black and Brown ones, showed that they were a small fraction of folks who had aligned themselves with big corporations and neo-liberal factions that want nothing more but to privatize public education.
This wasn’t about saving kids. This was about making money along with pushing a culture of conformity. Here’s a few undisputable facts about teacher tenure and the court’s ruling along with an insightful interview from one of the nation’s leading educators Dr Jeff Duncan-Andrade from SF State University.
First, let’s deal with understanding what Cali’s teaching tenure policy was about. Tenure with teachers does not mean they can’t be fired. It means they can’t be fired at will..One of the main rights workers had eroded thanks to billions spent in corporate lobbying nationally and domestically was to remove worker protections and make it such that an employer can walk up and fire you at will.
Many have bemoaned this fact and have talked about having to go to work and be on eggshells because an unreasonable, tyrannical, over demanding boss can at any moment upend your world by bouncing you. Perhaps from a corporate POV being able to walk up and fire folks is a good thing. It means that when an employee starts to gain seniority which would allow certain types of benefits and pensions to kick in, the employer can simply fire them and replace them with someone younger and cheaper.
The tenure aspect of a teacher was something all of us should have which is ‘due process‘ when it comes to your employment. This means if you as a teacher speak out and politically align yourself with parents and students vs the administration which may have a politically agenda, you can’t be bounced out.
If we have forward thinking teachers who find that its best to teach students about Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez , the I Hotel Strikes or engage them in discussions about current events and relate that to the curriculum, should they be bounced because some out of touch or biased administrator feels lessons on Malcolm or Chicano Culture are irrelevant? This is what went down in Tuscon, Arizona around its Chicano Studies program. Reactionary forces came in let teachers go, passed a law to shut down ethnic studies because some saw it threatening to the American way of life and banned a ton of books including Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere from being in the classroom..Is this what we are advocating?? Is this our solution?
The way this current fight around teacher tenure has been depicted in the news courtesy of those pushing for public education to be privatized, is to say there are old, white, insensitive, under performing teachers who been around for years, who got tenure and were dumped into inner city schools where they are culturally ill-equipped, uncaring and the main reason why we have in 50-60% drop out rates. Popular movies like ‘Waiting for Superman‘ further fueled that narrative as its school privatizers made the face of teacher’s unions become that above described ineffective teacher.
According to the lawsuit where they had ‘expert witnesses’ and bevy of studies to reference, under performing teachers make less than 3% of the total Cali teacher workforce.. In actual numbers, there are close to 300k active California public school teachers, out of that we are talking about 2k-8k at most who aren’t making the grade..This is for the entire state and when you add up the numbers there’s no way this handful of teachers has upended the largest public school system in the country. You can look at what the court was taking into consideration–> HERE
What we need to be asking is what administrator decided to come along and place under performing teachers in inner city schools? This is akin to sending bad, brutalizing cops to inner city neighborhoods and then playing dumb when folks complain about rampant abuse.
We need to be asking how many of these teachers did they assign and what was the rationale? What administrator looked at school in deep East Oakland and said; “Golly gee this school is having challenges, why don’t I look at my list of teachers and send them all the bad ones“.. .If the percentage of bad teachers statewide is 1-3% then we need to ask who made the decision to fill a school up with under performing teachers that far exceed that 1-3%?? Was it the principal? School chancellor? School board?? Who?
Whats been implied over the years is that the teacher’s union insisted that under performing teachers go to inner city schools and miseducate our kids? During our interview with Dr Andrade, he astutely noted, many teachers walk into schools that are purposely and severely under funded, over crowded and disproportionately impacted by a number of outside systemic problems that hinder learning. Teachers who speak out about that often find themselves under fire with some being labeled as under performing.
Andrade went on to talk about the high turn over rates in some of these schools where frustrated teachers simply leave resulting in many schools being unstable. He also raised the question as to where school districts will be getting all these ‘good teachers’ in particular teachers of color who are set and ready to flood these inner city schools and take them to the next level? He talked about current recruitment practice which he described as lacking and in many cases non existent.
Whats likely to happen is many of our schools will be flooded with teachers coming from outfits like Teach For America which has come under fire for sending college recruits, giving them 5 weeks of training and sending them to the most needy schools? Many have been accused of not being committed to these kids but instead using TFA as a stepping stone to jump start a career and to pay off student loans. Is that the solution for our kids? If you don’t know about TFA read about them HERE and ask is this the solution folks are supporting?
The other question we should asking is who is David Welch, the billionaire venture capitalist with no background in education who funded the court fight to end teaching tenure? Who is aligned with? Last I checked he squarely in lock step with school privatizers. What’s his track record for work in our communities? With all his money how has he been investing? Is his involvement similar to the Koch Brothers donating money to the United Negro College Fund? Read about Welch HERE and ask is this who folks are supporting?
Yesterday on Hard Knock Radio – 94.1 at 4pm we discussed at length the ruling that took place.. We have as our guest long time Oakland based educator Jeff Duncan-Andrade whose been in the front line trenches for over 21 years who is also nationally recognized for his work in education.. Check him out HERE and read about him HERE–
check out our interview below..