Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nieves on tenure: Spoiled teachers want protection no one else has

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, plays fast and loose with the facts in his latest column, which he explains why he wants teacher tenure "reform."

Nieves repeats the nonsense that it takes a couple of years to fire a tenured teacher in Missouri. If the administrators are doing their job and documenting a teacher's ineffectiveness, the firing can be done in a matter of weeks.

Nieves also makes no mention of the fact that he is a member of the anti-public education group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which has made eliminating teacher tenure a goal during recent years.

That makes it all the more hypocritical when Nieves talks about the "special interests" who want teacher tenure to continue.

Nieves will be one of those who will cast a vote against Missouri teachers when SB 806 is brought the floor, perhaps as early as Thursday.

The text of Nieves' column is printed below"

During my 10 years at our State Capitol, I’ve been proud to be an independent voice, and that includes my position on how our children are taught in the state’s public education system. Many have asked who wanted teacher tenure reform, and the answer is simple — parents! Parents and grandparents are in favor of tenure reform and the issue polls extremely high all over our state. Parents are the ones who listen to their children tell glorious stories of great teachers and unfortunately, we parents are the ones who endure the rare stories of bad teachers. Special interest groups are not asking for tenure reform; in fact, special interests are asking us to NOT reform tenure. After years of studying this issue, I recently voted to reform, not eliminate, tenure. 

I've listened, with great interest and an open mind, to all the arguments in favor of keeping tenure at five years, and I will share with you why I agreed to help reform, not eliminate, tenure. 

1. There are no other professions for which we create, in law, a protected class. I was a substitute high school teacher for a number of years, have several full-time teachers in my family, and have MANY friends who teach. I hold teachers in extremely high esteem, but I cannot justify a law that makes them a protected class. Some have said that without tenure, teachers will not be allowed to “speak their mind” to administrators. I hope our administrators are not the kind of monsters who would fire a teacher for speaking up, and I doubt that would ever happen. I was in the military for 10 years and was not allowed to voice my opinion and could have been kicked out at the drop of a hat. My wife, family, and friends who are not teachers — in fact, everybody in the state who is not a teacher — can walk in to work tomorrow and be fired at will. I'm not saying that fact is a good fact, but it is a fact, and I am not in favor of any protected class of citizens. The reality that tenure will still be very much available in Missouri public schools is indeed a compromise, because it still protects a protected class. 

2. Even if, and I do mean IF, administrators do a great job of running their school, it still takes far too long to remove a truly bad teacher. There are mathematically far more average or below-average administrators than there are excellent administrators, and that means most school buildings do not have administrators who are competent enough to remove a really bad teacher in a timely manner. On average, it takes a year or two to dismiss a tenured, bad teacher, and costs the district approximately $50,000. If a bad teacher is left in the classroom for a year or two, that’s simply unacceptable. I've heard the argument that this is the fault of the administrators, and while that’s probably true, pointing fingers does not educate the kids who are trapped in the classroom of a bad teacher. If a high school teacher is horrible and it takes two years to remove them — seven classes per day with 25 students in each class is about 175 students per year. Two years of that incompetence means 350 innocent — completely innocent — students have been poisoned by that poor teacher. 

3. I would much prefer enacting reforms to administrators instead of tenure, but that never made it to the table and tenure reform did. 

I hope all educators will try to understand that during my 10 years at our Capitol, two of which I've served as the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, I have seen and learned things I wish I would have never set eyes or ears upon. The education of our children is far too important for me to be willing to point fingers any longer; bad teachers must be removed because even just ONE bad teacher can poison 350 innocent students during the two years it takes to remove them. Ten bad teachers will poison 3,500 during that time, and if there are 100 bad teachers in Missouri, there will be 35,000 students hurt because of how long it takes to remove a bad tenured teacher. As a parent, I simply cannot, in good faith, continue to turn my back on this problem.

I'm truly sorry some don't agree on this particular issue, but I will no longer allow innocent children to be harmed by the rare few bad teachers out there. In my example, I used the possibility of there being 100 really bad teachers in Missouri. We have many thousands of teachers in our state, so if there are only 100 really bad ones, it still means the overwhelming majority are good or even great, but even if there were only 100 really bad ones, the result would be that 35,000 innocent kids lose a year of instruction, and that cannot happen.

I appreciate all the phone calls and messages I have received regarding this matter, and I take your feedback very seriously. Although I strive to respond to each message quickly, we’re heading into our final weeks of session, and the climate at the Capitol is insanely busy. A response from me may take several days, and I’m grateful for your patience. Thank you for reading this Capitol Report and God Bless you always.

No comments: