Do you have life tenure in your job? Unless you are one of the above mentioned professors, a federal judge or a public school teacher, the answer is almost certainly no. So why do teachers have it? Whose interests does it serve other than the teachers'? It permits sloth and incompetence. Can you keep your job without reference to how well you perform it? Tenure insulates teachers from accountability. The unions really put one over on the public. Is it hopeless?
People who want to seem sophisticated affect a jaded view of politicians and political life. If you say that all politicians are crooks and that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, you will get energetic agreement. But here is a case in which electing a Republican governor and a Republican legislature really might have begun to release Virginia's schools from the iron grip of the teachers' unions.
Gov. Robert McDonnell introduced legislation that would have replaced the "continuing contracts" with three-year contracts. At the end of a teacher's contract period, a principal could choose not to renew the contract for any reason, giving principals in Virginia real power to shape their faculties for the first time.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, but when it reached the Senate, three Republicans joined all 20 Democrats to kill the measure. "This bill does nothing but kick teachers in the teeth," explained Sen. Phillip Puckett, a Democrat. Delegate Richard Bell, a Republican, saw it differently. "If we always do what we've always done," he told the Washington Post, "then we'll always get what we've always gotten."
If the citizens of Virginia had elected just a handful more Republicans, their majority would have been large enough to survive the defections and implement tangible reform. I wonder how many of the parents who were at that meeting -- seething about the problem teacher and the clotted system that makes it so hard to get rid of him -- voted Democrat.
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