Teacher Tenure Getting Easier in New York City

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The number of teachers who were granted tenure during the first year of Mayor de Blasio’s control of the public schools has increased, according to figures released last week.

In 2012-2013, under the Bloomberg administration, 53% of teachers were granted tenure. In 2013-2014, 60% were awarded the much-desired protection, write Aaron Short and Carl Campanile reporting for the New York Post.

A former deputy chancellor under Bloomberg, Eric Nadelstern, said that the numbers made him think that de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña are making the issuance of tenure to teachers an easier task.

“It’s a reflection that the teachers union has considerably more influence in what happens in the school system today than what they’ve had in a very long time,” said Nadelstern.

In New York, teachers are eligible for tenure after three years. After the third year, a teacher, if they are not cut, may qualify for extensions on their probationary periods. Last year, 38% were allowed to have more time prove themselves.

Bloomberg overhauled the system in 2010, but before that 90% of teachers received tenure, which essentially amounted to a lifetime contract.

Department of Education officials are making efforts to downplay the upturn in tenure sanctions.

“Retention of quality teachers is an urgent priority, and the teachers’ contract allows us to do this better. And at the same time, the methodology for helping someone out of the profession who does not belong in the profession is also better than it’s ever been,” Farina said.

Two different groups have filed suits challenging the state’s tenure laws this year. The first has been led by CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who became motivated by the Vergara vs. California ruling, which ended in a brutal blow to the nation’s teachers’ unions. Brown’s opinion is that tenure for bad teachers violates students’ rights to a quality, basic education. However, the process to receive tenure has become more rigorous over the last decade because of demanding teacher evaluations and some other procedural changes.

“As a former teacher, I know teachers must be respected, trained, supported and celebrated to ensure we keep the best teachers in our classrooms,” chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement. “I am confident that we are on the right track, and having a strong teacher at the front of every classroom is crucial to improving student outcomes.”

City Journal, a quarterly magazine published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, has laid the blame on the city’s unions. The conservative NYC-based think tank published a recent article by Daniel Disalvo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and assistant professor of political science in the Colin L. Powell School at the City College of New York, that pointed a finger at the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for the state of affairs in NYC schools. He states that Mayor Bloomberg “made a valiant effort to loosen the grip” of the UFT, but that now, de Blasio will not make a move on any reform without the approval of the union. Reform is over and students will continue to fail in city schools which are there to protect adults’ interests, not children, he writes.

Teachers unions in New York date back to the late nineteenth century, but did not attain collective bargaining rights until 1959. During the following 50 years, the UFT became so strong that it won better salaries and benefits, job security, and reduced work loads for New York’s teachers. They did it, says Disalvo, by getting ‘two bites in the apple’ – collective bargaining and politics. He says that the unions think “governmental control is essential to public education; performance evaluations are a pretext for unjustly firing older teachers; and standardized tests exist to discredit public schools.”