But even some of our teachers don’t really know what it is that they’re protected by. For example, here’s what a local Glendale News Press columnist said about the topic last week:
Teachers and their unions collectively exhaled last week when a California appeals court overturned the Vergara ruling in 2014, which struck down teacher tenure in the state.
As a teacher who has struggled with the virtue of tenure, this was the right call to make at this time.
I, too, am frustrated that ineffective instructors remain on the job in classrooms, negatively impacting young people’s education.
Barring heinous criminal behavior, you can’t easily fire a teacher. The amount of energy and paperwork required to remove a bad one is monumental. However, if teachers had no job protection, it would cause harm to the entire profession.
This is simply not the case. It’s actually very easy to fire a teacher in California, as it is in most states. All a school employer has to do is just paper their personnel file with enough formal warnings and corrective notices. They can even lie about it all if they want to, and it only takes about a year to do.
That’s because K-12 school employees in California do not have tenure. We’ve said this before. What they have instead is just simple due process job protection, the same thing that the lowest McDonald’s employees have. All it means is that the school district has to first cite a statement of cause in order to get rid of someone they don’t want and pack together the evidence.
Then they have to offer a formal hearing opportunity to the employee, which can be as much of a kangaroo court as they want. It almost always is, and which is why they normally don’t even have to get this far before the chosen employee is long gone.
It’s actually worse for teachers than it is for those McDonald’s workers, because these procedural rules do not apply to temporary or probationary school employees. That’s because unless you’re a high-demand math or science teacher, it usually takes about five years to become that feared “tenured” teacher in California. During this time you’re either a long-term sub or a probationer, but mostly a long-term sub.
So until you become tenured you can get fired at any time your principal sees fit. If it’s a layoff situation for next year then they need to give you advance notice in mid-March. That’s it.
McDonald’s by contrast takes about six months to get off probation. Not four or five or more years.
The confusion here is that the word “tenure” is usually referenced to university professorships, who actually do get unsupervised, non-evaluated job tenure after a certain length of employment. So that’s what people think all teachers get.
But almost no one at the university level can even get to this achievement now, because few people ever get hired on to the university tenure track. Because there are so many Ph.Ds around, the only college jobs that anyone can get into nowadays are short-term temporary/contract positions. Unless you’re Noam Chomsky, or a prized football coach.
The same is true of many K-12 jobs as well. Tenure foes love to lie about how it “only takes two years” to become a tenured teacher, but they deliberately leave out the fact that in order to even get near this possibility most teachers have spent at least two or three years (or more) in flunky long-term sub jobs doing the exact same work.
California school districts are legally allowed to begin their people in this low a capacity, and they always do. So unless you’re an award-winning calculus or Latin teacher you will never get directly placed into a probationary “tenure track” position right away. No where.
In fact, quite often the teachers unions have to sue or file complaints against the school districts in order to get people off their long-term substitute or temporary status. Ask most older Burbank teachers about this. They’ll tell you how much and how often the BUSD dicked them around before they were legally forced to get placed into just probationary status.
We knew one Burbank teacher who worked for five years in the same grade-level teaching job at the same school before they were able to get on the probationary tenure track. And then it took her three more years to get tenured. For years she was just a long-term sub.
So whenever you hear about how lucky our teachers are to have job tenure, and how they can’t ever be fired, never; and that we must do something about this horribly abusive (to our kids) practice, or else, always keep in mind that the people you’re hearing this from are either abysmally uniformed or just plain lying.