This post was going to be about making fun of the over-the-top triumphalism among conservatives and education “reformers” about the Vergara decision on teacher tenure and seniority rules. It was going to be about the self-aggrandizing judge who cites Brown v. Board in a weakly argued 16-page decision.
This post was going to be about the limits of that decision, legally and politically. About how teacher tenure is here to stay, and deserves to stay because teachers need to be able to speak freely.
But the union talking points in response to the decision were so outrageous as to merit comment first. Those talking points were all about rights. The key talking point was that a judge was threatening to take away teachers’ basic “rights.”
Please, there is no right to teach. It’s a privilege to be in front of a classroom. And if you abuse that privilege, it should be quickly and easily revocable. Teaching is much more than another job, or another profession.
Is it possible to root against both sides of a legal dispute? In this case, I would. The education reformers are too narrow, too focused on teaching alone. The unions, in their way, are just as narrow. They too are focused on the teachers, to the exclusion of too much else.
To the decision. For something billed as so consequential, it’s really thin. 16 pages. Little data, not much in the way of smart argument.
The judge is right about one thing. The two year rule for tenure in California is bad – for students and teachers. The judge points out that the induction program for new teachers last two years – but tenure decisions are made in less than 2 years. It’s hard to know after 2 years whether a teacher is good – or can become good. Five years would be better – the judge all but casts his vote for a legislative change like this – but tenure should not be about time. It should be about the teacher – their work, and the best possible assessment of what their future performance will be.
But that’s subjective, the unions will scream.
But that’s life, we should scream back.
This decision will not be revolutionary, even if it survives appeals. Getting rid of some California laws on teachers won’t change the fact that California teachers are too rarely drawn from the ranks of top college students. It won’t change the fact that the hiring and development of teachers needs improvement. The profession needs an upgrade, in a host of different ways.
I wish I could afford private school.