Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Jan Resseger understands that legislators don’t know what teachers do all day. This ignorance enables them to echo outlandish insults about teachers and to write laws to solve non-existent problems. Legislators need to spend time in their local public schools to inform themselves and dispel the myths.

She writes:

Political attacks on teachers seem to be everywhere. Fanatical critics charge that teachers destroy white children’s self esteem by honestly acknowledging racism, and worse, they accuse teachers of “grooming” children. Public schoolteachers are the collateral damage in a widespread political campaign to discredit public schooling and promote privatization. As the new year begins, I have been grateful to prominent news commentators for calling out the scapegoating of schoolteachers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s retired editorial page director, Brent Larkin devoted a weekly column to exploring what’s been happening in Ohio politics: “A large number of odious types in elected life are so obsessed with demonizing public schoolteachers that it interferes with these legislators’ ability to deal with real problems.” Larkin quotes Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association: “When you have people deliberately fostering distrust, it has a devastating impact on educator morale… There are just so many challenges in terms of inequity of resources, discipline, poverty and culture-war attacks that have been very deliberately orchestrated by people on the right.'” Larkin concludes: “Great teachers are to be treasured. The way they’re treated speaks volumes about where we’re headed.”

The Washington Post’s culture critic, Robin Givhan wonders: “Who will remain when educators tire of picking their way through a political obstacle course of ginned-up outrage over bathrooms and manufactured controversies about racial justice?… Who will educate children when teachers finally become fed up with dodging bullets—or taking bullets—in service to someone else’s child?… It’s no secret that they’re underpaid for all the duties they perform… The United States has lost 370,000 teachers since the start of the pandemic… Critics have been punishing a them from all sides. The country asks public school teachers to carry this nation’s future on their backs, and then we force them to walk through a field of land mines.”

John Merrow, the retired education reporter for the PBS NewsHour recently wrote: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers are about three times as likely as other U.S. workers to moonlight… However, if you factor in part-time jobs within the school system, like coaching, teaching evening classes, or even driving a school bus, then an astonishing 59% of teachers are working part-time to supplement what they earn as full time teachers, according to the Economic Policy Institute… Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation… and according to Education Week, ‘Teachers are also working under a ‘pay penalty,’ an economic concept meaning they earn lower weekly wages and receive lower overall compensation for their work than similar college-educated peers…'”

Data confirm Merrow’s concerns. In last summer’s most recent report from the Economic Policy Institute on the need to raise teachers’ salaries, Sylvia Allegretto reported the serious and growing disparity in the wages for teachers and other comparably educated college graduates: “Inflation-adjusted average weekly wages of teachers have been relatively flat since 1996. The average weekly wages of public school teachers (adjusted only for inflation) increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, from $1,319 to $1,348 (in 2021 dollars). In contrast, inflation-adjusted weekly wages of other college graduates rose from $1,564 to $2,009 over the same period—a $445 increase.”

Bloomberg adds that one consequence of low pay on top of a barrage of controversy about what and how teachers teach is the growing shortage of teachers: “Overall, the U.S. job market ended 2022 at a near record for growth but one area in particular underscores how some parts of the economy still lag far behind pre-pandemic levels… The slow crawl is largely due to one industry—education—making up more than half of the jobs lost… (T)here has been a mass exodus of educators, leaving school districts with mounting vacancies to fill.”

There is clearly a tragic disconnect between the needs of America’s public schools and the resources legislators across the states are providing. Why? Part of the cause, of course, is the ideologically driven campaign the news commentators have noticed. Far right groups like the Bradley Foundation, EdChoice, Americans for Prosperity and the Goldwater Institute are pursuing a lavishly funded lobbying campaign—with model laws written and distributed by the American Legislative Exchange Council—to encourage legislators to privatize the whole educational enterprise.

Something else, however, has made our legislators increasingly susceptible to the ideology of the lobbyists and school privatizers. For several hours in December, as I watched a televised hearing of the Ohio House Education Committee, I was struck by so many lawmakers who seemed to define the role of teachers as mechanical producers of standardized test scores—and who conceptualize schools as merely an assembly line turning out workers who will help attract business and manufacturing to Ohio. I listened to a conversation filled with standardized test scores—numbers, percentages, and supposed trends measured by numbers. The only time human beings appeared in the discussion of education was when legislators blamed teachers for the numbers. It is not surprising that the same Ohio legislators are trying to transform the Ohio Department of Education into a new Department of Education and the Workforce.

In Ohio and across every state, aggregate standardized test scores dropped during the school closures and remote learning during COVID-19, but as I watched the televised hearing, the legislators seemed furious that teachers had not quickly come up with a different set of test-score production methods and turned the scores around. They seemed to believe that teachers should have been able to erase students’ emotional struggles during the return to schooling after COVID disruptions. Several declared that putting the governor in charge of education would take care of the problem and make teachers accountable.

As I watched the hearing, I realized again something that I already knew: Many of the people who make public education policy at the state level don’t know what teachers do. Few people on that committee seemed to grasp that teaching school is a complex and difficult job.

Watching the members of the Ohio House of Representatives discuss their concerns about our public schools made me think about David Berliner’s description of teaching. Berliner is Regents’ Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Arizona State University. He has also taught at the Universities of Arizona and Massachusetts, at Teachers College and Stanford University. Berliner comments on the human complexity of teaching as he contrasts the work of teachers and doctors:

“A physician usually works with one patient at a time, while a teacher serves 25, 30 or in places like Los Angeles and other large cities, they may be serving 35 or more youngsters simultaneously. Many of these students don’t speak English well. Typically anywhere from 5-15% will show emotional and/or cognitive disabilities. Most are poor, and many reside in single parent families… Many patients seek out their physicians, choosing to be in their office. On the other hand, many students seek to be out-of-class…. I always wonder how physicians would fare if 30 or so kids… showed up for medical treatment all at once, and then left 50 minutes later, healed or not! And suppose this chaotic scene was immediately followed by thirty or more different kids… also in need of personal attention. And they too stayed about 50 minutes…. Imagine waves of these patients hitting a physicians’ office five or six times a day!”

Berliner continues: “(T)eachers have been found to make about .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching. Another researcher estimated that teachers’ decisions numbered about 1,500 per day. Decision fatigue is among the many reasons teachers are tired after what some critics call a short work day, forgetting or ignoring the enormous amount of time needed for preparation, for grading papers and homework, and for filling out bureaucratic forms and attending school meetings. In fact, it takes about 10 years for teachers to hit their maximum ability….”

Watching our legislators also made me think about the late Mike Rose’s definition of good teaching. Rose taught college students how to teach and he spent a good part of his career visiting classes to observe and document what excellent teachers do. Rose’s very best book, Possible Lives, is the story of his observations of excellent teaching as he spent three years observing public school classrooms across the United States: “Some of the teachers I visited were new, and some had taught for decades. Some organized their classrooms with desks in rows, and others turned their rooms into hives of activity. Some were real performers, and some were serious and proper. For all the variation, however, the classrooms shared certain qualities… The classrooms were safe. They provided physical safety…. but there was also safety from insult and diminishment…. Intimately related to safety is respect…. Talking about safety and respect leads to a consideration of authority…. A teacher’s authority came not just with age or with the role, but from multiple sources—knowing the subject, appreciating students’ backgrounds, and providing a safe and respectful space. And even in traditionally run classrooms, authority was distributed…. These classrooms, then, were places of expectation and responsibility…. Overall the students I talked to, from primary-grade children to graduating seniors, had the sense that their teachers had their best interests at heart and their classrooms were good places to be.”

I wish the people who make the laws which allocate and distribute state funding for public schools, were required to spend one day every year visiting a public school to watch what teachers do. In fact, I wish every state legislator were required to undertake the challenge of teaching in a public elementary, middle or high school for at least half of one school day every year.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the firing of a charter school founder who had written an essay that offended some students and/or teachers at his charters, who accused him of “white supremacy.” At the time, I commented in response to my own post that Steven Wilson of Ascend should be more sympathetic to teacher “due process rights” (tenure) in light of what happened to him.

Checker Finn and Rick Hess wrote about this situation and blamed it on “woke” reformers. They concluded it was time to “stand up” against this sort of injustice.

Peter Greene writes that Finn and Hess made the case for teacher tenure. Steven Wilson and future Wilsons won’t be saved by expecting anyone to “stand up” for them. No one will.

Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin and consummate education activist, is writing a book about the teacher shortage and he needs your help if you are or were a teacher.

He wrote:

Attention Teachers. According to the media we are facing a teacher shortage. I disagree. We have a teacher exodus that is the result of 30 + years of “accountability.”
I need your voices.
Can you take a moment and answer these questions and send them to me on email ( Anonymity is promised. But I want to tell your story.
1) Why did you go into teaching?
2) What has changed during your time as a teacher?
3) Are you being asked to do things that do not benefit kids? Name some.
4) Have you thought about leaving teaching? Have you left teaching? Why?
5) What would it take to remoralize you and stay in the profession and or make you want to get back into it?
Please respond using this survey.

We are far from perfect
But perfect as we are.
We are bruised, we are broken
But we are god damn works of art!
Rise Against


Ah, Campbell Brown, we hardly knew ye!

Brown blazed across the Deform firmament like a shooting star, fighting sexual predators in the classroom, unions, tenure, and all other things that crossed her fevered brow.

She raised millions, and now she’s off to a new life at Facebook.

Gone and forgotten.

Mercedes Schneider tells the story here. 



Remember the Vergara case in California?

A stray Silicon Valley billionaire (or multimillionaire) named David Welch on behalf of a newly minted group called “Students Matter” filed a lawsuit against teacher tenure and seniority, claiming that these practices caused low-income children of color to fail, thus depriving them of their civil rights. At the lowest trial Level, a judge named Rolf Treu agreed with them, setting off a frenzy among Deformers and their admirers in the media.

The Vergara decision was hailed as the new “Brown” decision and even netted a cover in Time magazine (“Rotten Apples,” referring to teachers). Teachers endured a plethora of discussions about the great moment coming when all teachers would have no job protections, no due process rights, and all teachers would be great and no child would have low test scores. But higher courts in California overturned the decision, then dismissed the case. Cooler heads pointed out that the poorest kids had fewer tenured teachers than the districts with high scores, and the whole Vergara episode was illogical.

Ex-CNN commentator Campbell Brown, the then-new face of deform, glommed on to the legal strategy and her organization, the Partnership for Educational Justice (in partnership with hedge fund managers and billionaires) filed Vergara-style lawsuits in several state courts.  So far, PEJ has a perfect record of failing everywhere. Its lawsuit was tossed out in New Jersey and was just dismissed in Minnesota. It’s lingering in the New York court system but no one expects it to go anywhere.

Meanwhile as its legal strategy waswithering on the vine, PEJ expired. It was absorbed by 50CAN, the organization founded by Opioid King Jonathan Sackler. Brown decided to join Facebook to handle media relations. Vergara is no longer even a footnote.

Who will be the next face of Deform, now that Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown have moved on? When last heard from, Rhee had joined the board of fertilizer company Scott’s, which makes Miracle-Gro.

Cory Booker sent a complicated message at his campaign kickoff in New Orleans at Xavier University, where he was sponsored by charter chain and spoke to students.

He told the audience that the power of the people outweighs the power of money.

This is inspirational indeed. It says that those of us fighting the power of the Walton family, the Sackler family, the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the DeVos family, Paul Singer, and the many other billionaires attacking our public schools will WIN and the billionaires WILL LOSE.

We–the people–will defeat the powerful.

We will not let them close our public schools with their lies and propaganda. We will not let them turn other American cities into New Orleans.

We want every aspirant for the presidency in 2020–any party–to say where they stand on the issue of the future of public schools, the future of the teaching profession, and the future of collective bargaining.

Thanks, Cory, for reminding us that the power of the people can beat the billionaires and Wall Street, especially those privatizers and hedge funders now supporting your campaign. Itworked for Obama, but it won’t work for you. We know now about the privatization movement.

Tell us where you stand on privatization, the teaching profession, and unions. Or let us guess.

Campbell Brown’s war on teacher tenure lost another battle in court. Her group, the Partnership for Educational Justice, lost the Vergara case in California; its case in Minnesota was thrown out. Now New Jersey.

From the Education Law Center:

December 12, 2018



The New Jersey Supreme Court has declined to review an appeals court ruling dismissing a lawsuit seeking invalidation of tenure and due process rules for the state’s teachers.

The plaintiffs in the case, H.G. v. Harrington, are several Newark Public Schools (NPS) students and parents. The plaintiffs were supported by the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group formed by former television news anchor Campbell Brown, who is behind similar lawsuits about teacher tenure laws in Minnesota and New York.

The plaintiffs challenged the statutory rule mandating that “reduction in force” (RIF) decisions be based exclusively on seniority, claiming that the rule deprives students of a “thorough and efficient” education by reducing teacher quality. The plaintiffs filed the case despite admitting there was no evidence that the seniority rule actually resulted in the retention of ineffective tenured teachers at the expense of losing effective tenured teachers.

Because plaintiffs presented no evidence of any actual impact of the seniority rule on the teaching force in Newark, a trial court dismissed the case in May 2017, holding that the case was not ripe for review. The appellate court affirmed that decision in June 2018. The appellate court noted that not only did the plaintiffs concede there was no evidence of any negative impact of the seniority rule, they also admitted NPS had significantly reduced the number of tenured teachers rated ineffective or partially effective.

Despite these decisive rulings, the plaintiffs sought certification to appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. On December 3, the Supreme Court denied the request and ruled that the plaintiffs must pay for the cost of filing the appeal request.

This decision is another court defeat for so called “education reform” groups seeking to attack due process for teachers. Courts in California and Minnesota also rejected legal attacks on teacher tenure in those states.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24

Read this story if you want to understand why teachers need tenure and unions.

Ralph Ratto is in a state of shock.

His small district is successful by current measures. But a new superintendent decided to disrupt everything and everyone.

Today the administration decided to shuffle the personnel in our very successful district. Our small K-6 district (New Hyde Park- Garden City Park) has 4 buildings and 145 teachers. I am the local President ( full disclosure).

“Take a look at our NYS report card. Even though I am totally against this type of data, the data shows that we are extremely successful. With this success, one would think that our new Superintendent and our 4 brand new building principals would look towards our successes, collaborate with staff and look to build on them.

“Unfortunately, they have chosen to do the exact opposite. They announced a major shake up of most of the teachers here. They changed our grades we will teach, changed rooms and have us even changing buildings They are taking teachers who have spent many years in lower grades and assigning them to upper grades and vice a versa. They have refused to share the rationale for this upheaval.

“I am well aware that every year there needs to be some changes, due to enrollment and other needs. Those changes are often rational decisions with some teacher input. Not this year! We have been told nothing except this is your new assignment.

As our Local President, I believe my new assignment in another building is due to my position as President. That will not stand. I have has a successful 19 year career and I will be damned if they will get away with this.”

Why? He doesn’t know. No one will say. Disruption is not an end in itself.

“The 74,” a website founded by former television anchor Campbell Brown, reports that the Partnership for Educational Justice (an anti-Union, anti-tenure, anti-seniority advocacy group founded by Campbell Brown) had their day in court in New York yesterday, and possibly for additional days.

PEJ is seeking to eliminate teacher tenure on grounds that it discriminates against black and brown children and deprives them of their rights. The presumption is that if their teachers did not have tenure, the students would get higher test scores. The lawsuit was filed in 2014. Brown’s organization is bankrolling it (Betsy DeVos was a member of the PEJ board before she became Secretary of Education).

“The lawsuit takes aim at teacher seniority and tenure protections, charging that “last in, first out” rules governing layoffs and other aspects of tenure impinge on students’ constitutional right to a “sound basic education” by keeping “chronically ineffective teachers” in classrooms.

“Among the parent plaintiffs is Tauana Goins, whose daughter’s teacher at P.S. 106 allegedly bullied the girl and called her “a loser.” Goins told The 74 she believes tenure should be based on performance rather than seniority.

“On its website, PEJ contends that New York’s tenure laws amount to lifetime job protections that are so extensive, “schools have to navigate a nearly endless bureaucratic maze to replace even the worst-performing teachers.””

PEJ has pursued the same claim in Minnesota and New Jersey, thus far without success.

“In the New Jersey lawsuit, HG v. Harrington, six plaintiff parents argue that “last in, first out” rules prevent children in low-income school districts from receiving a “thorough and efficient education.” In May, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson threw out the case, contending the plaintiffs had failed to show how their children were harmed by the rules.

“I don’t see any link other than speculation and conjecture between the LIFO statute and the denial of a thorough and efficient education to these 12 children,” Jacobson said at the time.
The parents have since appealed that decision.”

PEJ is appealing.

Here is a curious twist in the story.

Campbell Brown originally became involved in the fight against unions and teacher tenure because she was convinced that they protected sexual predators in the classrooms of New York City. In 2012 and 2014, she wrote articles in Rupert Murdoch’s anti-public school Wall Street Journal about sexual predators in public schools.

The celebrated attorney David Boies agreed to lead the fight on behalf of PEJ because he agreed that tenure was harming the civil rights of minority children. Leave aside the fact that somewhere between 40-50% of beginning teachers don’t remain in teaching because of the demands of the job. The turnover is highest in poorest communities, where children need a stable and experienced corps of committed teachers. Removing tenure would likely increase teacher turnover, especially where the needs are greatest.

But here is the irony, given Campbell’s concern about sexual predators. In addition to representing PEJ, Boies also represented the celebrated sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

According to reporting in the New York Times and The New Yorker, Boies hired a private investigator to protect Weinstein.

An article in the Times by Deborah Rhodes on November 9 said that Boies’ role in protecting Weinstein was “egregious.”

“The stories of sexual abuse swirling around the movie producer Harvey Weinstein offer so much not to like that it is hard to imagine much more to say about men behaving badly. But it turns out there is more. One of the nation’s most respected lawyers, David Boies, is among those whose work helped Mr. Weinstein try to conceal his abusive behavior.

“Mr. Boies personally signed a contract with a private investigation organization, Black Cube, to unearth, as the contract specified, “intelligence which will help the client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY Newspaper.” The client was Mr. Weinstein. The contract also authorized investigators to look for material to discredit “harmful negative information” about Mr. Weinstein in a forthcoming book. Having Mr. Boies rather than Mr. Weinstein sign the contract had the advantage of protecting the resulting information under the attorney-client privilege, which would shield it from disclosure in subsequent disputes.

“What makes the involvement of Mr. Boies so egregious is not only that it helped Mr. Weinstein conceal his abuse and undermined the First Amendment interests of the press and the public. It is also that Mr. Boies’s representation posed a conflict of interest, because his firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, was representing The New York Times, the “leading NY Newspaper,” in libel litigation at the same time.”

(I can’t supply a link to the article because The NY Times website is not allowing me to copy the link. Google it. And google the New Yorker articles by Ronan Farrow about Boies and Weinstein.)

I guess people have different thresholds of tolerance when it comes to allegations about “sexual predators.” My understanding is that the United federation of Teachers has a zero tolerance policy for teachers who are sexual predators. But some process of review is necessary so that teachers’ careers are not destroyed by false accusations.

Steven Singer’s post criticizing school choice as “a lie” was blocked by Facebook.

Facebook refuses to accept ads from the Network for Public Education critical of school choice or any other ads from NPE supporting public schools and its two sites on Facebook.

Campbell Brown was hired by Facebook earlier this year to be a liaison with news media and to help avoid “fake news.” Whatever it is she is doing, she plays an important role at Facebook.

Now we know that Facebook has admitted selling at least 3,000 ads to Russian troll farms that disseminated fake news about issues and Clinton, concentrating on key states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Brown was not working at Facebook at the time those 3,000 Russian ads were aimed at voters in strategic states. [The original version of this post suggested that she was there but I was wrong: she was hired by Facebook in early 2017, after the election, as noted above in the link.]

Why did Facebook sell ads to Russian troll farms in 2016 but refuses to sell any ads at all to the Network for Public Education?

Campbell Brown is a friend of Betsy DeVos. She wrote a post at her website “The 74” defending DeVos when she was nominated by Trump. She was on the board of DeVos’ pro-voucher, pro-choice, pro-charter, anti-public school American Federation for Children. DeVos gave money to Campbell Brown’s anti-tenure, anti-union website “The 74.” Brown’s husband Dan Senor is active in Republican politics.

Is there a pattern here?