- Though it's been on the books for more than a century, New York state's tenure laws remain wildly misunderstood. Tenure, simply put, is a safeguard that protects good teachers from unfair firing. Once a teacher is granted tenure — a right that must be earned after three years or more of service, oversight and evaluation — a teacher cannot be fired without a fair hearing. Tenure does not mean a job for life. It means simply that a teacher has the right to a fair hearing on charges that could end a career. This is fundamental due process — an American value enshrined in our Bill of Rights and one that is not reserved only for the wealthy elite.
- Tenure must be earned. It is not automatic. During a teacher’s three-year probation, school officials carefully evaluate that teacher's job performance. Upon completion of that evaluation, the local school board then votes whether to grant tenure — which simply means the teacher cannot be fired without a fair hearing.
- Tenure is a safeguard that protects teachers’ civil rights. Tenure ensures good teachers cannot be fired for reasons of race, gender, age, religion, handicapping condition or sexual orientation. It ensures that good teachers cannot be fired because of cronyism or local politics. It ensures they cannot be fired for pregnancy. Before tenure was in place, teachers could — and did — lose their jobs for arbitrary and politically motivated reasons, or for no reason at all.
- Seniority rights, which like tenure are a fundamental employment right, ensure that when layoffs are unavoidable, they are conducted fairly and objectively. A system based on seniority guards against abuses by those who would use ‘layoffs’ as another way to fire those who advocate too fiercely for their students or are at the top of the pay scale.
- The obscene, profit-motivated attacks on the rights of working people in places like California and New York are why America no longer has the world's largest middle class. Fundamental rights for workers are essential to a decent standard of living in New York state. And fundamental rights for teachers are essential to fairness and defending what students need.
NEXT: Tenure is working in New York state