Current teacher tenure laws were upheld by the California Supreme Court when it recently dismissed the controversial case, Vergara v. California. The case was brought to the courts by nine public high school students, and with the help of a nonprofit organization called Students Matter, they challenged the tenure laws and claimed that they violated students’ right to an equal education.
In June 2014, the first trial court agreed with the students’ arguments and deemed tenure unconstitutional, but the Court of Appeal later reversed that decision. With the state Supreme Court’s declination to review the case, the Court of Appeal’s approval of tenure laws was kept intact. The Olympian agrees with this decision, however, we also believe that some changes should be made to the current tenure policies.
Tenure is given to teachers after a period of two years to provide them with protection from being fired without just cause. Some of the downsides of teacher tenure laws include a sense of complacency among teachers when they know how unwilling school districts are to go through the long process of firing them, thus taking away any incentive for them to put more effort into their work.
However, the benefits of tenure laws are greater than the slight drawbacks. The laws protect teachers from being fired for personal or political reasons. They provide protection for teachers statewide and give them greater job security, which helps attract more teachers to the field. The influx of more teachers helps end the recent teacher shortage in California and could also act as compensation for the low pay and stressful work. Because firing teachers on tenure is an extensive process, school districts are encouraged to take more time and consideration to choose qualified and effective people to teach. The laws help strengthen teacher unions, and overall, it’s a good system that gives the teachers their deserved rights.
A suggestion that we at The Olympian have for improving the California tenure laws is to extend the probation period of teachers from two years to three, so that they can gain more experience and administrators can thoroughly evaluate their abilities before granting them tenure.