Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tenure for Charters?

The crop of education reformers (politicians and activists alike) oftentimes deride public schools for the practice of "tenure." They say that any teacher who breathes in a school for 3-5 years (depending on the state) can earn a job for life and usually can't be fired unless they commit some egregious crime.  (Let's forget the fact that almost half of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years.) According to some, even teachers who commit these crimes can manage to keep their jobs thanks to the defense provided be the teachers union. Of course, this is preposterous! (It's sad that these people never seem to use teachers who simply can't do their jobs well and only those teachers who won't do their jobs well when speaking negatively about tenure.) 

Egregious crimes aside, they argue that teachers who don't improve student performance cannot be fired because of tenure. That is also not true. 

The politicians who say such things about public school teachers are quick to provide charter schools with protections that seem eagerly similar to the very tenure laws they decry. Yet in the open, they say that the "market" will take care of the schools that do not perform well. In Florida, if a school district rejects a charter school, that school can appeal to the state who can then overturn the district's ruling. If a charter school performs poorly and the district pushes to close the school, the school can appeal to the state who can overturn that decision as well. Let's not forget that though districts cannot meddle in charter school affairs, they are held accountable for their results in district grade calculations. 

Jodie Cadle, president of the Florida School Boards Association, echoed similar concerns in a question and answer session with the Orlando Sentinel:

Q: Do you see a need to reform charter-school accountability and restore total oversight to local school boards? 
A: Yes. It is very frustrating when school boards deny charters and the appeal process allows the State Board of Education to overturn the local board's decision. The school boards' constitutional authority is to operate and supervise all public schools — including charters — within their districts. When it becomes necessary to shut down poor-preforming charter schools, the closure process is difficult and time-consuming. As a result, the students suffer. School districts need a more effective and efficient process to rescue students from poorly performing charter schools.

"When it becomes necessary to shut down poor-preforming charter schools, the closure process is difficult and time-consuming. As a result, the students suffer." Boy, this sounds exactly like what the state politicians and education reformers say about teacher tenure. The teachers in a charter school may not have tenure, but the schools do.

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