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Money, Students, Teachers and Tenure

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 14

By Taylor Ramsey

Back in the day; imagine beginning college and contemplating your field of study in order to maximize your vocational opportunities upon graduation. This is serious stuff to consider, especially knowing your may be in debt after graduation in an amount that could exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where can you find job stability out there?

One answer may be in becoming a teacher. After all, teachers can earn tenure after a couple of years and at that point, it is almost impossible to let them go. Based on information I discovered, of the approximately 275,000 teachers in California, less than 10 teachers on average are let go for unsatisfactory performance each year. That number implies that only 0.0003 percent of teachers are considered poor performing teachers.

Why would anyone complain about today’s educational system when the performance level of teachers is so remarkably and unbelievably high at 99.9997 percent? Any business owner would give their right arm to have that kind of performance from their staff!

The success of our California school districts in hiring should be shared with the world. Not only shared with those in the education industry, but for any employer in any line of business. Productivity world-wide would increase tremendously if every enterprise, both public and private, were able to achieve such an extraordinary level of success in recruitment and hiring.

However, I keep going back to the word I mentioned above ... unbelievable. Could it be we have very poor administrators who fail in their duty to analyze and determine the difference between good and poor teachers? Are most public school administrators derelict in their duty? That would be difficult to believe too. If it were true, then the percentages above are way off.

Common sense will tell us that both in the administrative and teaching functions of every public school district the poor performance level is higher than 0.0008 percent. So what is creating the environment that allows poor teachers to remain in their positions, despite their inadequate performance?

One reason could be another number I discovered regarding money. As an example, the Los Angeles Unified School District spends about $250,000 – $450,000 per each performance based firing. The LAUSD has approximately 640,000 students and I believe in the ballpark of 40,000 teachers.

Now assume about 10% of the LAUSD teachers are not performing up to standards and assume it costs an average of $250,000 to fire a poor performing teacher. The cost to the LAUSD would be $1,000,000,000! Think of the tremendous amount of money that is saved by firing just a few teachers a year instead of dismissing all poor performing teachers.

So it looks as if the main reason school administrators take the easy way out and allow a percentage of our students to receive inadequate education is based on money. The money relates, in my opinion, to the unions and laws regarding tenure and knowingly allowing poor performance in a percentage of our classrooms.

Consider this too. If a school district must reduce the number of teachers due to budgets, they must let the newest teachers, despite their performance, go and keep the small percentage of poor performing teachers with more seniority. That alone is a reason to demand changes.

Good news. Tenure laws have been deemed unconstitutional in California based on the decision last month by Judge Rolf Treu in the court case Vergara vs. California. Judge Treu stated, “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” Of course appeals to his decision will be coming … appeals from unions, good teachers and bad teachers.

I stated in my article, “More Accountability from Under Performing Parents” on 8/24/12 in the Beachcomber that parents have more influence on a child’s performance than a teacher and that is a good thing. A strong parent can do much to fight and counteract the bad teacher.

Teachers must be employed under the same circumstances as the rest of us out there in the working world. The marketplace requires I work hard and prove myself to improve the bottom line where I contract to work. If I fail I am out of a job. All teachers should be a part of that very same marketplace. No business enterprise wants to fire good employees and no school district wishes to dismiss good teachers.

Do all you can to support, praise and thank good teachers and administrators. We must also do all we can to remove the bad teachers and administrators at a reasonable cost which will free up resources for our schools. All of our children deserve the best we can give.