Friday, October 24, 2014

A nurse's view on teacher tenure

I must preface this blog by reminding you of two things.
First, I am an nurse, not a teacher.
Second, I am a Nurse's Union president in AFT, which represents, healthcare, education and public employees.
I remind you of this because I am not an expert on teacher's issues, although I am rapidly becoming more familiar and I stand in solidarity with our teachers.

That being said, TIME magazine is about to publish a cover that misrepresents teachers and teacher tenure.  I'm told that the articles inside show a more balanced story that looks at the motives of millionaires' attack on tenure and the potential profits from private vs public schools for certain individuals.
Sound like the for-profit movement in healthcare?
My concern is this.  How many will see the cover, but not the articles?

The bottom line is that students and patients should come before profits, and in both cases, it is important to look at motives.  No for-profit company buys a hospital,or takes over a school system, to lose money.

So, what is teacher tenure?
Fair question.

Non union workers in this country can be fired for any reason or no reason. You remind the new boss of the guy who cheated with his wife......see ya!
It's not right, but it's the way it is.
Now, do you want a nurse in that position?
Say the boss orders the nurse to cut corners on your care.
The nurse refuses.
What happens?
The nurse can be fired and sometimes is.  It's legal. It's crazy.
But, if that nurse has a union contract, they have "just cause".  The can only be fired for a "just cause."
Which nurse do you want caring for you?

Now, lets look at education.
The principal or superintendent is pressured by the school board to make sure the star athlete passes classes so that they are eligible to compete for the state championship, even though the student sleeps though class (when they show up), never studies or hands in assignments, and is failing.  The teacher, feeling this harms the student in the long run, refuses to go along. 
Teachers do not have "just cause" contracts. Instead, they have "tenure", by law, which for practical purposes, serves the same purpose.
It means, in our scenario, that the teacher could stand up for the student and what was right.

What about "bad" teachers you ask?

Each state law differs slightly.
Connecticut is typical.
In Connecticut, a teacher must serve 4 years probation, before having tenure.
So, they go through a rigorous hiring process, then the principal, superintendent, and school board have 4 years to observe them, during which time, they can decide not to bring them back for the following year, without explanation or proof of wrong doing.
4 years.
That's a long time to evaluate someone. 

After 4 years, the teacher has tenure, so they can't be fired, right?
The can be fired for “inefficiency or incompetence” based on evaluations, insubordination, moral misconduct, proved disability, elimination of the position where no other position is available, “other due and sufficient cause” or, ineffectiveness."
However, there is a process where the tenured teacher can defend themselves against allegations.  
Have their "day in court" if you will.
Sounds like something our country was built on, innocent until proven guilty.

That star athlete, does he end up winning the state championship and bragging the rest of his life about his "greatest achievement" or does he buckle down, study, go to college, and maybe really benefit mankind?

Nurses are motivated to care for patients.
Teachers are motivated to develop young minds.
Millionaires are motivated to become billionaires.

If you want to help: 

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