Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

James D. Hogan, a former high school AP English teacher who now works for a liberal arts college in North Carolina, spells out the dramatic changes in his state over the past few years. He reaches a considered and dire conclusion: “North Carolina is waging war against public education.”

He describes in horrifying detail how the state legislature and Governor has systematically attacked the teaching profession, literally driving experienced teachers out of the state, and opened every possible avenue for privatization and profiteering.

At a time when public education is under attack in many states (often with the silent assent or the active approval of the Obama administration), North Carolina may well be the worst and meanest state in the nation.

In this brilliant article, Hogan writes:


Let me begin by saying that I am often no fan of hyperbole. We live in an era in which blog titles like this one are used as click bait, lures to entice–and, really, to enrage–readers and provide as little meat on the figurative bone as possible.

But I really mean it when I say this: North Carolina is waging war against public education.

From the rise of mega-testing companies and the policies that mandate them, to the widespread adoption of common curriculum, to the years of economic struggle following the Great Recession, public schools have endured substantial stress, and they may very well look substantially altered by the end of this decade. The biggest change? Public education is wholly political, evenly divided and polarized by factions on the left and right. What I call war, others may call a revolution.

Make no mistake, however. Our state is dismantling its public education system. And it didn’t have to be this way–the pathway that brought us here was paved with underfunded budgets, tactical strikes against public school teachers, fundamental changes in how charter schools operate and how tax dollars can go to private or religious schools, and the erosion of our hallowed University of North Carolina. In other words, not the failure of public education.

Why? That’s the question I most often found myself asking. Why would our state government work so hard to threaten public education? Who could have the audacity, or the political capital, to take on such an assault?….

When North Carolina Republicans took control of the state government in 2012, they quickly set into motion a sweeping agenda to enact conservative social reforms and, more importantly, vastly change how the state spends its money. It was the first time in more than a century that Republicans enjoyed such political dominance in our state.

What brought them all to town? A good reason: in the 2011-12 budget year, North Carolina projected a multi-billion dollar deficit, enough to rank the state among the worst budget offenders in the country and bring a new slate of elected legislators to Raleigh. So Republicans, with a clear mandate to clean up the fiscal mess in November 2012, set to work righting the ship.

What does a state like ours spend money on? Public education, including higher education, consumes about a third of North Carolina’s budget. Health and Human Services, including the state’s Medicaid and unemployment programs, composes an even larger slice, about 37.5 percent.

Other state programs make up little bits and pieces: nearly 8 percent on transportation and highways, 5.5 percent on public safety, 9 percent on natural and economic resources.

In other words, if you want to make big cuts, public education is one of two really big targets.

After that landslide election in 2012, legislators began sharpening their knives.

A Fury of Budget Cuts

Among their first targets: reductions in unemployment benefits, cuts to public schools, including laying off thousands of teachers, and a massive, nearly half-billion dollar slash from the University of North Carolina.

Two years later, in the last budget cycle, 2014-15, the legislature provided roughly $500 million less for education than schools needed.

Later in the 2013 session, though, the most radical changes in state financing fell into place. Republicans reconstructed the state’s tax code, relieving the burden on corporations and wealthy residents. They continued to take aim at other parts of the education budget, cutting More at Four program dollars and decreasing accessibility for poor families. The state lost thousands more teacher and teacher assistant positions. The bloodletting was fierce. More on that in a minute.

Across the state, local education districts were faced with budget deficits of considerable proportion after legislators hacked away their funding. School systems raided fund balances, rainy day funds set aside for things like natural disasters, not political ones. Elsewhere, employees were furloughed, teachers were laid off, teacher assistants were forced to take other jobs or lose their classroom positions, and so forth. Non-personnel funding disappeared. Textbooks stayed in circulation another year. Buildings were patched together instead of replaced. Education Week called ours “The Most Backward Legislature in America.”

Republicans defended these austerity measures by saying that lower taxes would eventually yield fiscal growth. And they were right. This year, the government is enjoying a $445 million surplus–a clear victory in light of those multi-billion dollar deficits of yore–but still a statistically small number in light of the state’s $21 billion budget (about two percent), especially after considering that our state budget is still smaller than it was in 2011.

In fact, by 2014-15, North Carolina was still spending $100 million less on public education than it had before the economic recession. And over the past ten years, public schools added more than 150,000 additional students. No Republican legislator can honestly say that per pupil expenditures across the state have increased in the last six years.

Taking Aim at Teachers

Curiously, the Republican-held capital didn’t stop at defunding education. They also took aim at teachers.

NC teachers are prohibited by law from unionizing, but they did have a common advocacy group in the North Carolina Association of Educators. In 2011, the legislature passed a law targeting how the group collects dues from member teachers. Then-Governor Bev Purdue vetoed it. In 2012, the law made its way back to Purdue, who vetoed again–but the House overrode it during a sneaky, late-night vote. (The law was later found to be discriminatory, retaliatory, and a violation of free speech and thrown out by state courts.)

But with teacher’s main advocacy group effectively muzzled, the legislature was free to run rampant, and teachers quickly came under fire.

Teacher salaries fell to 46th in the nation and worst in the south after five years with zero pay increases. And when Republicans finally acted to increase teacher pay, they claimed to make the biggest pay hike in state history–but in reality only bumped up paychecks by an average of $270 per year. When you factored inflation into the mix, teachers were losing money.

Meanwhile, Texas and Virginia started actively recruiting North Carolina teachers to go work in their states. It didn’t take much to convince Tarheel teachers to flee–especially after some teachers discovered they earned substantially less money than when they started thanks to inflation.

In case pitiful paychecks weren’t enough to deter teachers from returning to work, the legislature next took aim at teacher tenure. The Republican-led proposal initially was to eliminate tenure altogether, but eventually they came up with a plan that would grant teachers pay raises for giving up their career status. It was, as I wrote then, a clever way of getting rid of veteran teachers.

Eventually, that compromise became law, and teachers state-wide began the effort of figuring out if their career status or their retirement pension was more important–and once again, the court stepped in and overturned the law. Another legislative overreach corrected by the courts.

(This year, just for kicks, the NC Senate is proposing an end to teacher healthcare coverage in retirement. “That’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” state Rep. Gary Pendleton said.)

The assault didn’t stop with the assaults on new and tenured teachers. It continued on teacher preparation programs, including the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.

The Teaching Fellows program was arguably one of the best teacher prep scholarships in the nation; it celebrated a better retention rate than its federal cousin, Teach For America, and it produced droves of quality teachers who filled hard-up school classrooms. Its budget was a modest one, and yet Republicans uprooted it from the state budget and killed the entire program.

This year, with its final class of scholars graduating college, the program officially flat-lined. State Teacher of the Year Keana Triplett called the legislature’s shuttering of the Teaching Fellows “the single biggest mistake in public education.”

The result? Enrollment in teacher prep programs in the UNC system has dropped 27 percent in the last five years. A teacher shortage is just around the corner.

First, weaken schools. Then print parents a ticket out–and into for-profit schools….

Let’s review. With an unassailable, veto-proof majority, North Carolina Republicans seized control of this state and unleashed a devastating blow to public schools.

They have systematically pared budgets to the bone. They have insulted, antagonized, and demoralized teachers through stingy salary offerings–and they’ve muted the organization that had for many years protected them.

Make no mistake: this is a war against public education. Teachers are losing. I have been reading and writing about education in North Carolina for several years now, and while it might not always appear obvious, our state has formed a cohesive and coordinated attack against public schools.

Public education is at risk. And with every measure–every budget cut, every insult, every weakening–our school house slides toward complete devastation.

– See more at: http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2015/08/the-war-on-north-carolinas-public.html#sthash.hU8suCTK.dpuf

Rebecca Klein, education editor of Huffington Post, reports that Kansas faces a serious teacher shortage. She knows why. Under its retrograde political leaders, Kansas underfunds its schools, pays low teacher salaries, and eliminated teacher tenure (due process rights).

These are the bitter fruits of what is deceptively called “reform.”

More evidence that the so-called “reform movement” is a hoax that hurts American education and kids.

How did the American people fall for the Bush-Obama-Duncan-Walker-Brownback-Snyder-Scott-Kasich, etc. line that attacking and demoralizing teachers was “reform?”

Paul Farhi, a veteran reporter at the Washington Post, wrote an article recently about Campbell Brown’s new “news site” called “The 74,” which is a vehicle for her ongoing campaign against teachers’ unions and tenure and for charters and vouchers. Brown, who has no experience as a teacher, scholar, or researcher, who attended a private high school (her own children attend a private religious school), has become the new face of the corporate reform movement since Michelle Rhee stepped out of the limelight. Last year, Farhi wrote about Brown’s transition from TV talking head to advocate for vouchers, charters, and the elimination of teacher tenure. (You will notice in the earlier article that Brown takes great umbrage to my having described her as telegenic and pretty; well, she IS telegenic and pretty, and I would be happy if anyone said that about me! I consider it a compliment.)

Farhi reports the funding behind “The 74”:

As it happens, Brown raised the funds for the Seventy Four from some of the biggest and wealthiest advocates of the restructuring that the Seventy Four appears to be espousing. The funders include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, all of which have opposed teachers unions and supported various school-privatization initiatives. (Her co-founder, Romy Drucker, was an education adviser to billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

This would be just another garden-variety profile of a controversial figure, but blogger Alexander Russo blasted Farhi as biased against Brown. Although Farhi does not quote another corporate reformer, he quotes Brown herself extensively. Russo questioned Farhi’s objectivity as a journalist. He complained that there was no outside voice supporting Brown, and that Farhi ended the article with skeptical quotes from Washington insider Jack Jennings and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Russo says that Farhi should have allowed Brown to respond to the critics, and he should have found “another outside voice — a journalist, academic, or education leader of some kind — to express support” for Brown. He also wrote that “the overview was inaccurate or misleading” by stating that Brown’s views are supported by conservative politicians and business interests.

In an earlier post, Russo candidly disclosed that he had hoped to join Campbell Brown’s “team,” but didn’t make the cut:

Disclosures: This blog is funded in part by Education Post, which shares several funders with The Seventy-Four. Last summer and Fall, I spoke with Brown and others on the team about partnering with them but nothing came of it.

The curious aspect of this particular flap is that Russo’s blog is jointly funded by the American Federation of Teachers and Education Post (which is funded by the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation).

Randi Weingarten tweeted:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 1:14 PM
Russo’s criticism of Farhi is off base. Farhi’s piece is smart, effective journalism: washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/styl…

Also:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 3:27 PM
@alexanderrusso do u really believe Campbell Brown is no longer ideological or are u acting this way b/c of funding washingtonmonthly.com/the-grade/2015…

“Students Matter,” the Silicon Valley-funded group that launched the Vergara lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, is now suing 13 school districts for their failure to use test scores in evaluating teachers.

 

The goal is to compel the entire state to use value-added-modeling (VAM), despite the fact that experience and research have demonstrated its invalidity and lack of reliability.

 

The Southern California school systems named in the latest filing are El Monte City, Inglewood Unified, Chaffey Joint Union, Chino Valley Unified, Ontario-Montclair, Saddleback Valley Unified, Upland Unified and Victor Elementary District. The others are: Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Fremont Union, Pittsburg Unified; San Ramon Valley Unified and Antioch Unified.
“School districts are not going to get away with bargaining away their ability to use test scores to evaluate teachers,” said attorney Joshua S. Lipshutz, who is working on behalf of Students Matter. “That’s a direct violation of state law.”

 

The plaintiffs are six California residents, including some parents and teachers, three of whom are participating anonymously.

 

In all, the districts serve about 250,000 students, although the group’s goal is to compel change across California.

 

“The impact is intended to be statewide, to show that no school district is above the law,” Lipshutz said.

 

The plaintiffs are not asking the courts to determine how much weight test scores should be given in a performance review, Lipshutz said. He cited research, however, suggesting that test scores should account for 30% to 40% of an evaluation.

 

The current case, Doe vs. Antioch, builds on earlier litigation involving the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2012, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the school system had to include student test scores in teacher evaluations. But the judge also allowed wide latitude for negotiation between the union and district.

 

The court decision was based on the 1971 Stull Act, which set out rules for teacher evaluations. Many districts had failed for decades to comply with it, according to some experts.

 

Will the Silicon Valley billionaires help to find new teachers when the state faces massive teacher shortages based on the litigation they continue to file?

 

 

 

 

Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation writes a cogent article in The American Educator in defense of tenure. Most people mistakenly think that tenure means a job for life. That may be true in high education (where only a minority of professors have tenure or tenure-track positions), but it is not true in K-12 education. Tenure for teachers means due process, the right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge or arbitrator. Kahlenberg provides a valuable history of tenure in American schools and why it matters. He notes that conservatives have always opposed tenure because it constrains management’s ability to fire at will, without cause. But what is most troubling in the present moment is that people with liberal credentials have jumped on the anti-tenure cause, beguiled by the false idea that students of color will get better teachers if their current teachers could be easily fired.

 

He writes:

 

 

 

Teacher tenure rights, first established more than a century ago, are under unprecedented attack. Tenure—which was enacted to protect students’ education and those who provide it—is under assault from coast to coast, in state legislatures, in state courtrooms, and in the media.In June 2014, in the case of Vergara v. California, a state court judge struck down teacher tenure and seniority laws as a violation of the state’s constitution.* Former CNN and NBC journalist Campbell Brown has championed a copycat case, Wright v. New York, challenging the Empire State’s tenure law (which was consolidated with another New York case challenging tenure, Davids v. New York). Similar cases are reportedly in the works in several other states.

 

Meanwhile, with incentives from the federal Race to the Top program, 18 states have recently weakened tenure laws, and Florida and North Carolina sought to eliminate tenure entirely. According to the Education Commission of the States, in order to give greater weight to so-called performance metrics, 10 states prohibited using tenure or seniority as a primary factor in layoff decisions in 2014, up from five in 2012.

 

Leading media outlets have joined in the drumbeat against tenure. A 2010 Newsweek cover story suggested that “the key to saving American education” is: “We must fire bad teachers.” In 2014, the cover of Time magazine showed a judge’s mallet crushing an apple. The headline, referencing the Vergara case, read, “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher; Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That….”

 

Tenure was designed to prevent patronage hiring and nepotism, as well as to protect teachers for politically motivated firings and defend academic freedom.

 

Kahlenberg offers many examples and adds:

 

The argument for tenure—and the requirement of “just cause” firing—is especially compelling in the case of educators. Teachers feel enormous pressure from parents, principals, and school board members to take actions that may not be in the best interests of students. Teacher and blogger Peter Greene notes that because teachers “answer to a hundred different bosses,” they “need their own special set of protections.” Because all adults, from parents to school board members, have themselves attended school, they feel qualified to weigh in on how educators should teach, while they would never tell a surgeon or an auto mechanic what to do. Richard Casagrande, a lawyer for the New York State United Teachers, made a profound point when he said during recent litigation that tenure laws are “not a gift to teachers. These laws empower teachers to teach well.”

 

To begin with, teachers need tenure to stand up to outsiders who would instruct them on how to teach politically sensitive topics. A science teacher in a fundamentalist community who wants to teach evolution, not pseudoscientific creationism or intelligent design, needs tenure protection. So does a sex-ed teacher who doesn’t want to be fired for giving students practical information about how to avoid getting HIV. So does an English teacher who wants to assign a controversial and thought-provoking novel.

 

These concerns are hardly theoretical. In 2005, the Kansas Board of Education adopted science standards that challenged mainstream evolutionary theory and was cheered by proponents of intelligent design.44 (The standard was later repealed.) In 2010, conservatives on the Texas Board of Education proposed renaming the slave trade the “Atlantic triangular trade,” an effort that was later dropped. And in 2012, the Utah legislature passed (and the governor vetoed) a bill to ban instruction on homosexuality and contraception.

 

Arm yourself with a thoughtful discussion of the history and politics of tenure for teachers. This is a good place to start.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2015/kahlenberg#sthash.aaKYcjIJ.dpuf

A few minutes ago, I posted a blog that appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Higher Education, stating that the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin was trying to save tenure from the onslaught of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature.

I quickly heard from Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at UW, who warned me not to believe it:

“Thanks so much for posting the blog tonight. However, it is incorrect. The UW Regents aren’t trying to save tenure- that’s not what they voted to do. This is a Board full of Scott Walker’s appointees and what they did was vote to adopt a fake version of tenure that is called the same thing but still allows for massive layoffs. It is a carefully worded trick and the media fell for it.

“More here:

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2015/06/08/wisconsin-board-adopts-tenure-rules-dont-satisfy-professors

“Please help your readers remember that the Regents, the President of UW System, and yes even the Chancellor of Madison are approved by Walker. None are to be trusted, unfortunately. And all are frantically spinning the story to suggest faculty, staff and students are overreacting.

“Thanks

“Sara”

Note: I have been warned that this account is wrong; that the Board of Regents was appointed by Scott Walker; and that their action is meant to provide fake tenure that allows massive layoffs. See the post that follows this one. Where Scott Walker is involved, nothing good happens to education at any level.

With the legislature in Wisconsin about to pass a budget bill eliminating tenure, the Board of Regents of the University are trying to protect it.

Tenure is the best safeguard for academic freedom. The freedom to teach and to learn requires safety from political reprisals. Without tenure, professors could be fired for teaching controversial subjects or expressing an unpopular opinion or because they offended a powerful politician.

“The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to add tenure protections to system policy as the state’s Republican-led government appeared ready to remove them from state law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Proposed legislation, crafted by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance as part of the state budget, would strip shared-governance guarantees and tenure protections from state law. It is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.”

We are rapidly moving backwards, and politicians like Scott Walker are doing their best to cripple free thought.

Scott Walker made his reputation busting unions and attacking K-12 teachers. It was only a matter of time until he turned his guns on higher education. Not only has he slashed the funding of the University of Wisconsin, but now he is going after tenure. He long ago signaled his belief that universities exist for workforce training, not to develop independent-minded citizens or creative thinkers.

If you are opposed to Scott Walker’s assault on intellectual freedom, sign this petition.

This email just arrived:

Diane,

Please help get the word out–

Tenure is literally dying as we speak. Last Friday the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee passed an Omnibus Bill that creates Act 10 for Higher Education

This motion (http://budget.wisc.edu/content/uploads/2015/05/UW_omnibus_motion.pdf ) makes it possible for the University of Wisconsin administration to layoff off faculty or academic staff not only because of financial exigency but also “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, instead of when a financial emergency exists as under current law” (Omnibus Motion #521.39)

While the Chancellor of Madison and the President of UW System both claim that the Regents can still “uphold tenure” despite this, it simply is not true. If this is passed into law— and it looks like it will be by month’s end— no Regent policy can override it.

The Regents of UW System have declined—tonight— to do anything about this. Instead they issued a carefully worded statement that still allows tenured faculty and academic staff to be laid off for non financial reasons. For more on this point see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7f2ehslx8626nh9/Statement%20by%20David%20J%20Vanness%20Re%20Board%20of%20Regents%20Tenure%20Proposal%2020150603%20-%20Final.docx?dl=0

For more in general see:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/national-focus-on-uw-sharpening-over-tenure-governance-b99511901z1-306017731.html

We need national attention to this important issue. The national press are not here. Not even Chancellor Blank is here. Tomorrow the Regents meet and they do not appear willing to challenge the Wisconsin Legislature at all.

Scott Walker is leading the charge to end faculty tenure— in Wisconsin, and in the United States. He must be stopped.

Thanks–
Sara

********************************************
Sara Goldrick-Rab
Professor of Educational Policy Studies & Sociology
Founding Director, Wisconsin HOPE Lab
University of Wisconsin-Madison
239 Education Bldg
1000 Bascom Mall
Madison WI 53706
(608) 265-2141
srab@education.wisc.edu
http://www.wihopelab.com

The North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned a law passed in 2013 that was intended to eliminate tenure. The court said the law was unconstitutional.

Sharon McCloskey of the Progressive Pulse in North Carolina writes:

The General Assembly’s 2013 repeal of the teacher tenure law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of contract and property rights as to those teachers who’d already attained that status, according to a Court of Appeals opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Linda Stephens said:

[W]e cannot escape the conclusion that for the last four decades, the career status protections provided by section 115C- 325, the very title of which—“Principal and Teacher Employment Contracts”— purports to govern teachers’ employment contracts, have been a fundamental part of the bargain that Plaintiffs and thousands of other teachers across this State accepted when they decided to defer the pursuit of potentially more lucrative professions, as well as the opportunity to work in states that offer better financial compensation to members of their own profession, in order to accept employment in our public schools.
The ruling by the three-judge panel affirms Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood’s decision handed down a little over a year ago.

Under North Carolina’s “Career Status Law,” teachers in their first four years were deemed “probationary” and employed year-to-year under annual contracts. At the end of the four-year period, they became eligible for career status, giving them rights to continuing contracts and due process protections from arbitrary or unjustified dismissals.

In summer 2013, lawmakers enacted a repeal of that law in an effort to rid the state of tenure by 2018, saying that it enabled bad teachers to stay in the system.

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/06/02/just-in-court-of-appeals-says-repeal-of-nc-tenure-law-is-unconstitutional/#sthash.nkB65Sc2.sKSMHTmS.dpuf

Recently the Los Angeles Times published a poll showing that most people dislike tenure, probably thinking it means a job for life, protecting incompetent lazy teachers. Do they know that tenure means due process, the right to a hearing before an independent person? I don’t know of another nation where education leaders are so obsessed with finding and firing teachers. Why aren’t they obsessed with recruiting well-prepared teachers, supporting them, mentoring them, and retaining them? These results are the direct consequence of the corporate reform mentality, displayed in Race to the Top and “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Keeping this narrative going discourages people from entering teaching–a very difficult and low-paid career choice with long hours–and encourages veteran teachers to leave. We are approaching a crisis where the question will be: How can we persuade people to enter and stay in teaching? But of course, the entrepreneurs will be ready with online learning so that one paraprofessional can oversee 100 students. Maybe that’s the point.

 

Here are some letters written in response to the poll. Notice the letter from the teacher affiliated with the Gates-funded TeachPlus, who is willing to jettison job protections for all teachers because she knows a few “bad” teachers.

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