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Teacher Tenure: An Outmoded "Job For Life" or Essential Right to Due Process?

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016 | 12:00pm

Teacher tenure laws, which predate teacher collective bargaining by over half a century, have come to be seen as the Achilles Heel of teacher unionism, and are today among the most contentious issues in education policy. More than a dozen states have enacted legislation to weaken tenure for K-12 teachers and, in the Vergara case, the California courts ruled their tenure law to be unconstitutional, with similar cases making their way through the court systems of other states.

Critics assert that tenure makes it overly burdensome at best, and virtually impossible at worst, to dismiss incompetent teachers, which, they say, effectively makes tenure a “job for life” regardless of performance. Defenders, meanwhile, point out that tenure is nothing more than the right to due process and, as such, plays a vital role in preserving the professional integrity and free speech rights of educators who work in an increasingly politicized and arbitrary work environments.

In this panel, we will explore these divergent viewpoints by focusing on what tenure laws actually consist of, how they work in practice, how they might be improved, and, of course, their impact on important outcomes such as teacher retention and student achievement.


Jane Hannaway, Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University; Institute Fellow, AIR/ CALDER

Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation

Marc Tucker, president and CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute