Regarding Proposition One
Proposition One on the November ballot is the legislation passed in 2011 regarding negotiated agreements and renewable contracts for teachers. While the specific wording that will appear on the November 2012 ballot is not yet finalized, it is assumed that a “YES” vote will be to support the legislation as passed by the House and Senate with huge majorities and signed by Governor Otter. A “NO” vote would be to support the position of the teacher’s union, the IEA.
There are literally thousands of reasons to support the Legislature, the Governor and this legislation. There has never been a more important “YES” vote in the history of Idaho education.
Schools are for kids, and parents have a right to expect that when they send their child off to school, their child will be safe and entrusted to a dedicated and competent professional educator. Parents do NOT have that assurance today. Most of our teachers are doing a great job. But our schools do have a few teachers that should find another line of work, yet they are protected by an outdated unneeded law: the renewable contract, also known as tenure. Bad teachers remain on the job, at the expense of student achievement and, indeed, our children’s future. While the 2011 legislation will not end “tenure” for all—there is a grandfather provision for current “tenured faculty”—over time, no teacher will be afforded the sweeping and unreasonable protection of tenure. The education reforms protect kids. The reforms also benefit our best teachers, as they will no longer have to work side-by-side with colleagues who are a drain on the profession and the education system.
The education establishment including the labor union will counter the above paragraph with something like the following: Current law provides for the removal of “bad” teachers; and those bad teachers are removed and more would be removed if only administrators would use that existing law.
However, in Idaho and in every state that has a tenure law, marginal or unsatisfactory teachers are rarely removed. Those marginal teachers are either transferred to another school, assigned to a non-teaching position or their dismissal is tied up, sometimes for years in litigation. Nearly every day you can find news reports about a teacher in some way abusing a student. We simply can’t continue to maintain a law that gives protection for such misbehavior. And invariably, that teacher remains on the job.
A recent study of public employees including teachers, by Mark Flatten from the Goldwater Institute of Arizona revealed that over a 15 month period in Arizona, none were ever fired. Flatten stated, “Teachers are rarely fired, it is just simply easier to relocate the teacher, or ignore the misbehavior and all of the time the teacher is still in the classroom with kids.”
I am confident, having had the benefit of a half-century in Idaho schools, that a similar study here would reveal similar findings. On a positive note, I believe that the vast, vast majority of teachers come to school each day prepared, dedicated and ready to do their best to keep students safe and to help students learn. These teachers do great work in their classrooms every day. They “do the job” and are in demand – the renewable contract law provides no added benefit for them or for their profession!
On June 28, 2010, New York City closed its “rubber rooms,” where approximately 600 tenured teachers “accused of incompetence and wrongdoing” received their full salaries to sit in a sparse room and do nothing.