Should 98% of California Teachers Have Jobs for Life?


Forget the American Dream. Embedding yourself in a government job for life is the California Dream, which under Obama is swiftly becoming the pathetic warped remnant of the American Dream, as Larry Sand reveals.

In California, a public school teacher can be fired at any time without cause during the first two years of employment. After that, however, about 98 percent of teachers manage to attain tenure—or, more accurately, “permanence.” Principals make tenure decisions in March of a teacher’s second year, which means they have to decide whether to offer such job security to employees with just 16 months on the job…

Labor leaders pushed legislators to expand rights and entitlements for public school teachers—at the expense of educating kids. In the last ten years, only 91 teachers out of about 300,000 (.003 percent) who have attained permanence lost their jobs in California. Of those, only 19 (.0007 percent) have been dismissed for poor performance. Is it possible that Golden State teachers are that good? Such an astronomical permanence rate doesn’t square with the performance of California’s fourth- and eighth-graders, whose scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests persistently rank near the bottom…

That so many unworthy teachers remain on the job is a disgrace, and most teachers know it. In fact, in the National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent survey of teachers working in Los Angeles, 68 percent reported that “there were tenured teachers currently working in their schools who should be dismissed for poor performance.” Yet the teachers’ unions, defendants in the Vergara case, remain steadfast in defense of the status quo…

But if tenure goes, California Federation of Teachers president Joshua Pechthalt claims, “teachers will be conditioned into meek compliance for fear of losing their jobs. Academic freedom, the central reason for tenure, would be moot.” Academic freedom? If a K-12 teacher is teaching according to the prescribed state standards—soon to be national standards—what protections does she need?

Academic freedom is a strange claim. A teacher isn’t an academic, despite the insanity of pushing to have teachers with graduate degrees. He or she is there to teach a curriculum. The idea that a teacher’s academic freedom should be protected is union cynicism at best and protectionism for teachers who push radical ideas in the classroom at its worst.

Teachers are employees. They should be ‘compliant’. A big part of the problem with the educational complex is that teachers aren’t doing their jobs.

A former colleague of mine reportedly touched one of his middle school students inappropriately. There were witnesses, but the female pupil involved didn’t want to press charges. So administrators let the teacher cool his heels at the district office—the so-called rubber room—before sending him to another school, where he was accused of doing the same thing. Back in the rubber room, earning full pay, he was caught looking at pornography. Again, he was returned to the classroom and in short order was caught showing pornographic materials to female students. Last I heard, he was back in the rubber room, collecting full pay and benefits. He should be kept far away from young people, but thanks to California’s permanence and dismissal statutes, he’s been given multiple opportunities to abuse them.

Here’s your academic freedom.

  • Rick

    “Academic freedom is a strange claim. A teacher isn’t an academic, despite the insanity of pushing to have teachers with graduate degrees. He or she is there to teach a curriculum.”
    The above argument makes the whole blog post worth the price of admission (spending a part of my finite life expectancy to read it).
    What students want in in their undergrad courses are professors capable of imparting their knowledge to students who have read the book, worked the problems and have kept current. They don’t want the braniac who is doing cutting edge research but can’t teach. It really does not matter to the undergrad if the braniac is teaching because if they get too many such profs it will make it much harder to graduate, get a job,pass go or get into grad school. It really hard to have the braniac as a professor as mentor in grad school if your never graduate with a bachelors degree.
    Grade school and high school students have or would have the same standards/desires if they thought about it.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      And they get adjuncts anyway while the braniacs teach one class and call it a day

  • Jack

    Completamente de acuerdo con ello

    Más aquí

  • donqpublic

    Well, if quotas and ethnic balancing to insure diversity of the student body is the paramount mission goal of the modern university, then teacher tenure for the faculty and union feather bedding of the administration should be ended.

  • Ginger

    Daniel, I dig you, man, but you are slightly off-base in claiming that high school teachers are not academics. I am a high school teacher; I make choices everyday of how do develop my instructional content. I do NOT teac a prescribed curriculum – unless you mean teaching American or British lit. I and my colleagues have a great deal of latitude I how we use the materials that are provided to us. The new standards are NOT a prescribed curriculum. We’ve always had standands, and the new ones are pretty good. I think The O Machine’s involvement via RTTT has clouded perceptions. You can argue the value of “continuing contracts” for teachers, but you needn’t be dismissive and, well, insulting.

    • Yancey

      School districts often pick out the text books. So many chapters have to be covered in a semester. Where is your leeway?

      • Giinger

        I may have to ensure that my students learn a certain body of knowledge – say World Geography – and the district might provide a textbook to use for the content sequence, but I am free to add to or adapt that resource to fit the instruction taking place in my room. I’m not saying all teachers are doing this, and I’m certain some are doing worse than nothing, but to state, categorically, that teachers are not academics, is unfair and inaccurate. I’ve taught in the university and in the public high school classroom. The teacher either brings it or doesn’t. The vast majority of curriculum is NOT scripted.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I appreciate that you’re a working professional and I don’t mean to insult you, but do you really think that a teacher needs to be protected by academic freedom?

      And what is the limit? Do elementary school teachers also need to be protected like academics?

  • Erudite Mavin

    This story is played out in all 50 states while the Teachers Union rule.

    According to the pro-education reform documentary Waiting for ‘Superman,’ one out of every 57 doctors loses his or her license to practice medicine.

    One out of every 97 lawyers loses their license to practice law.

    In many major cities, only one out of 1000 teachers is fired for performance-related reasons. Why? Tenure.

    The Union Tax on Firing Bad Teachers

    So why don’t districts try to terminate more of their poor performers? The sad answer is that their chance of prevailing is vanishingly small.

    Teachers unions have ensured that even with a victory, the process is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. In the 2006-2007 school year, for example, New York City fired only 10 of its 55,000 tenured teachers. The cost to eliminate those employees averages out to $163,142, according to Education Week.

    According to the Albany Times Union, the average process for firing a teacher in New York state outside of New York City proper lasts 502 days and costs more than $216,000. In Illinois, Scott Reeder of the Small Newspaper Group found it costs an average of $219,504 in legal fees alone to get a termination case past all the union-supported hurdles.

    Columbus, Ohio’s own teachers union president admitted to the Associated Press that firing a tenured teacher can cost as much as $50,000. A spokesman for Idaho school administrators told local press that districts have been known to spend “$100,000 or $200,000” in litigation costs just to get rid of a bad teacher.

  • Erudite Mavin

    This was in the opinion section of the San Diego Union Tribune this morning

    Debunking the myth about low teacher pay

    By Allen Stanko .April 25, 2014

    There’s an old saying, “Teachers don’t make a lot of money.” It may have been true when I was a kid in the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as in the ‘70s. By the time I became a teacher in the early ‘80s, the saying was still prevalent, but I no longer agreed with it.

    It may have taken me too many years (nine) to earn my bachelor’s degree in math and then sacrifice my time doing student teaching for a year (without any pay), but all of a sudden, it was all worth it. Although I found myself spending lots of time staying after school helping students, grading homework papers, and making lesson plans until late at night; I was doing what I always wanted to do… teach.

    The fact that I was getting paid more money for working less hours than I ever had before and getting lots of time off, just like the students, for all legal holidays including two weeks off for Christmas vacation and a week (sometimes two) for Easter plus more than two months for summer, made teaching the job for me. In fact, for my first decade of teaching, I did not consider myself going to work as much as I called it going to school each day.

    Within the past year we have witnessed (among other things) teachers threatening to go on strike because of their stagnant salaries and because of their health benefits (and because of class size). I don’t watch much television so I have seen only part of a commercial that claims a certain percentage of teachers have been teaching for over 20 years and because they will soon be retiring, we are going to need many teachers in the very near future to take their place. How do we expect to attract people to want to become teachers if they believe the old saying, “Teachers don’t make a lot of money”?

    If we went around and asked teachers how much money they make, I know the typical answer would be, “Not enough.” And if we followed up by saying, “How much is not enough?” I’m sure we still wouldn’t get a straight, monetary answer. I think many people would be surprised to find out how much money the average teacher brings home every month (including June, August and December). And that monthly paycheck comes along with having a very good (much better than average) health plan.

    I know there are people who make a lot more money and work less than teachers, but being a teacher is something special. Not everybody can be a teacher. It takes a certain kind of individual to engage a classroom full of children or teenagers. It takes hard work and dedication as well as a good attitude. It takes good communication skills and a kind, but tough heart. It takes more than intelligence learned from books; it takes an understanding of what’s going on in students’ minds. It takes determination and perseverance to finish the year without going mad, so that when summer vacation finally comes around, a teacher will enjoy it much more than their students.

    So if we need and want more people to go into teaching, we have to get rid of the old saying, “Teachers don’t make a lot of money.” So next time you see a teacher, just ask for an honest answer to the question, “How much money do you make as a teacher?” And when the answer is, “Not enough!”, hopefully that will clue you into something teachers don’t want you to know. Go out and see for yourself … find out how much money (along with benefits) a teacher makes and then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

    Perhaps then, the old saying, “Teachers don’t make a lot of money” will be put to rest and we can start attracting new candidates for the challenge of the rewarding (in more ways than one) profession of teaching.

    Stanko was a high school algebra teacher for 27 years.

    © Copyright 2014 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.

  • Erudite Mavin

    One way to dry up the swamp.
    Pull your children out of Public Schools, enroll them in Private or Parochial Schools.
    Each child in Public School means several thousand dollars each from the Fed. Gov. aka tax payers. This is not only one way to stop the funding to Public Schools and a large per cent of the liberal teachers will be looking for other jobs with enrollment numbers vastly cut.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    Parents must lay criminal charges against those creeps and the unions.

  • Perry Mason

    They should be given life in prison.

  • Enzo

    Appoint a conservative board of education for a CHANGE and boot the liberal’s out of there.

  • SoCalMike

    The primary beneficiaries of public education are mediocrity running the asylum, not students pursuing education.

  • liz

    This is why we need to privatize education. Government control ruins everything.

  • American1969

    In a word: No.
    Look, in any other job, if you fail to perform, you get fired. Why should it be any different for teaching? Only two years to get tenure, and then you’re stuck with these people forever?
    And what about the really good teachers out there that are held back because of union or school rules? Instead of being able to pay good teachers extra as incentive to do better, unions won’t allow it because it’s not fair to the others. It’s stupid rules like that that hinder good teachers and keep bad ones.
    The teacher that molested students and got sent to the “Rubber Room”—–why does he still have a job? Why is the teacher’s union defending and protecting him? He should be fired and never allowed to teach anywhere again if he has a problem about keeping his hands off of students.
    And the fact that California is one of the lowest ranking states in terms of performance tells you all you need to know.

  • mcorps

    I taught science and math in AZ 34 years. First, at least in AZ, if they REALLY want to fire someone, they can. It is all about pressure and from whom. A group of mothers decided a long tenured teacher I knew and was friends with should go and the Superintendent, fearing for her own job, fired him. The board agreed. The “union” would rather spend our money getting Democrats elected so they were no help. In my opinion it was bogus. On the other hand, I had a principal who didn’t believe in teaching “times tables” and wrote in classroom interior decoration as part of an evaluation. No, giving principals and superintendents wholesale authority to fire teachers is a bad idea.