Job security for teachers helps everyone

Classroom chalkboard.
Classroom chalkboard. Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

A New York City parents group is joining a nationwide trend — recently filing a lawsuit that challenges teacher tenure laws.

Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union sued in State Supreme Court in Staten Island on behalf of 11 plaintiffs who suffered in classrooms with bad teachers. A similar suit is pending in Albany by the Partnership for Educational Justice, led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who has dedicated her post-TV career to crusading against teachers’ unions.

These actions are part of a national lawsuit wave to undermine tenure for public schoolteachers. In California, a group called Students Matter recently won a suit: The court found the state’s teacher tenure protections unconstitutional. Students Matter plans to sue in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oregon.

Groups claiming to represent kids and parents shouldn’t attack the profession. Teacher unions and tenure provisions don’t hurt students. If you don’t believe me, try sending one of your kids to public school in Massachusetts and another to public school in Mississippi, and see how each fares. (Student reading and math proficiency scores are above the national average in Massachusetts, where unions and job protections are more prevalent. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, reading and math proficiency lags below average in Mississippi, where teachers do not have tenure.)

The activists bringing the suits say they are seeking to improve education for poor kids — yet they work to undermine the job security of workers. There’s a contradiction here. Given that poverty is one of the most important factors determining student performance, shouldn’t those seeking to improve schools be looking to increase the number of decent jobs in our economy? Instead, they are trying to make the teaching profession more like a career path at Walmart.

The suits only exacerbate a nonsensical political environment that pits the interests of kids against those of teachers. But both groups need the same things: well-funded schools, less poverty, more services for poor kids, and conditions that make teaching an attractive long-term profession.

Those conditions include job security for teachers.