Union Leaders: Tenure Automatic, Even For Unsatisfactory Teachers

Kyle Olson

12/17/2010 1:11:25 PM - Kyle Olson

Teacher union leaders have been known to bark back when their strongest job protection – tenure – is referred to as a job for life. Typical rebuttals include: “It’s a necessary protection from overzealous administrators,” or, “It’s critical to maintain academic freedom.”

But in a recent blog post ,United Federation of Teachers honcho Jeff Kaufman sticks his foot in his mouth when he attempts to clear up misconceptions about how tenure is granted in New York City. The blog, titled “Is tenure a strike issue?” is in response to the city Department of Education’s call to overhaul the process, and reveals that some union leaders may be willing to fight for the currently ineffective system at any cost.

“Despite current misconceptions tenure is not ‘given’ by the DOE. The only legal requirement for tenure is actually time; three years for teachers. After a three year period, within license, of being on payroll and the DOE has done nothing to stop the clock, you are automatically granted tenure,” Kaufman writes. “In fact you can be theoretically rated unsatisfactory for each of the three years and still get tenure if the DOE doesn't fire you or cause you to extend your probation.”

I believe that Kaufman’s musings are clear evidence that the UFT and its affiliated locals are keenly aware that the current tenure process in NYC is flawed. The fact that Kaufman and his UFT brethren continue to defend that process, regardless of the problems it creates for improving student instruction, only further exposes the union’s already obvious selfish interests.

Kaufman leaves his readers with a little nugget to ponder, possibly foreshadowing serious resistance to the city’s promised tenure reform. He reflects on the good old days with former UFT President Randi Weingarten, who now heads the union’s national affiliate - the American Federation of Teachers.

“So, is tenure a strike issue? I am reminded of one of my first arguments with Randi Weingarten in the early days of the Bloomberg administration at a Chapter Leaders' retreat. After making it clear how a strike or job action was almost never justified I asked her whether there was ‘any’ strike issue,” Kaufman writes. “She thought for a moment and said, ‘Yeah, tenure.’”

Kaufman’s lesson on how easy it actually is for teachers to be granted tenure in New York City only solidifies our support for DOE officials working to protect the interests of students by injecting some sanity into the process. We continue to be amazed by union insiders like Kaufman, who knowingly fight to maintain a tenure system that costs taxpayers millions each year at the expense of student learning.

His conclusion is clear - if you can fog up a mirror, you can have a job seemingly for life. It says a lot about the mentality of labor leaders, and quickly erodes any credibility they might have left with the public.