Give Students Right Environment Unencumbered by Tenure

Many wonder if our students can learn and absorb more than they are presently given. The answer – yes they can!

By Fred Carl

Recently, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that California’s tough teacher-tenure laws are unconstitutional.

His ruling is based on a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that tenure laws infringed on a student’s right to an equal education. Educators are now concerned that their lucrative “impregnable” contracts may be jeopardized.

Karen Moses, Montana Education Association employee and former Billings school board trustee, said, “It gives more fuel to the fire to those who’d like to dismantle (tenure),” which “could be a distraction to real problems.”

Ms. Moses, open your eyes and realize the real problems in education are tenure, the MEA union and Common Core. It is evident that our educational system has greatly deteriorated over the years. Here are the results from a major study conducted in 2010 of 470,000 15-year-olds in 65 countries, taken by the Program for International Student Assessment. The United States ranked No. 14 in reading, No. 25 in math and No. 17 in science.

Adding to Moses’ statement, Scott McCulloch, president of the Billings Education Association, said tenure protects teachers from “arbitrary” firing. Mr. McCulloch, in the real world firings happen.

If our country is going to again be the envy of the world, it will have to be rebuilt by today’s students. That requires teachers who are capable, and willing, to actually teach. You pointed out that teachers go through a three-year probationary period before they are awarded tenure, during which time they are evaluated twice a year.

So what you are saying is that teachers are passing their twice a year evaluation and granted tenure, yet statistics reveal we continue to have an inadequate educational system. So Mr. McCulloch, where does the failure lie? Is it with the school administrators; with the evaluation process; with the inability on the part of the teachers; with an inadequate college education prior to becoming teachers; with the lack of discipline, or with laws restricting the ability to discipline? Maybe it’s the Legislature not enacting stringent legislation requiring certain results, or giving the board of education the authority to enact rules as they see fit.

Many wonder if our students can learn and absorb more than they are presently given. The answer – yes they can!

I grew up in Buffalo New York, and my younger brother and I had the benefit of attending a private day school even though our father had died when I was 14. In New York state all public school students had to take, and pass, a regents exam in each course before moving up to next year’s level. (Going from Spanish I into Spanish II.) We, on the other hand, took a regents Spanish II final to move into the second semester, accomplishing in half a year what public school students took two years to complete.

As a freshman at Purdue, I took biology and it covered the same material I had in high school. So students can do the work if they are required to.

Montana students can, and will, achieve more if we create the proper environment. We are handing them a tremendous mess, so let’s at least provide a better education, unencumbered by tenure and an obstructionist union.

Fred Carl of Missoula is a former state legislator

 Editor’s note: This column mistakenly had the wrong author’s name attached to it in this week’s print edition. The Beacon regrets the error.

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