Friday, April 8, 2011

Informative Q & A about school budget issues - tenure is mandated by New York State

These FAQ are posted at the Mamaroneck school district website.  It appears they are from last year's budget period, but many are relevant today.  Here are some selected questions explaining tenure.  I previously posted about compensation and benefits Q&A.
Q:  Why do we have tenure in our school district?
A:  Tenure is governed by New York State Education Law (Sections 2509, 2573, 3012 and 3014) and is not optional for NYS public schools.  Teachers are eligible for tenure in their third year of employment, unless they have been granted tenure in a previous district, in which case the probationary period is two, instead of three, years.  A tenured teacher has a legal right to his or her job unless a school district can prove just cause for dismissal or discipline in a due process hearing. 
Q:  If we have to lay off teachers, how do seniority rules apply?
A:  Seniority rights are based upon appointment in a particular tenure area and apply to both tenured and probationary teachers.  Should a teaching position be abolished, districts must use seniority to determine the order in which teachers are dismissed.  Thus, within the tenure area in which the position was abolished, the teacher with the least seniority would be laid off, even if there are other teachers with less seniority in other tenure areas.

Tenure areas are defined by the NYS Education Department and include Elementary (Pre-K through sixth grade), academic subject areas for grades 7-12 (English, social studies, mathematics, science and foreign language), as well as 15 other special subject areas.  In the case of elementary school teachers, teachers from all four elementary schools are in the same tenure area; thus, seniority is looked at district-wide, and not by school or particular grade level.
Q:  Can we stop awarding tenure?  What happens if we do?
A:  Tenure is mandated by NYS law and is not optional.  We are not permitted to hire teachers on a year-to-year contract past the state-defined probationary period. If we continued employing a teacher past the probationary period, the teacher could be considered by law to have been granted tenure "by estoppel" anyway, even without board approval.  It is also not legal for a board simply to dismiss all teachers after their three-year probation is over.


  1. If we got rid of tenure, salaries would have to go up, or else teacher quality will decline. Sadly, there are probably a lot of people who wouldn't care.

  2. Maybe not. It's possible a different type of person would start to find teaching attractive, one who likes a $120,000 salary but dislikes the system of tenure.

    I'm using our district as an example regarding salaries, but I could see it scaled down for other areas.

  3. This is now the third time my post has been eaten

  4. I looked into teaching in K12 at one point, and given that I am in a very high demand field, and have taught before, I suspect I would have a shot at being a "high quality" teacher. But when I thought about the working conditions, the long hours that my mother used to put in, the horrible toxic politics, the fact that you can't even go to the bathroom when you want, and the lack of control over curriculum or teaching practice, I started reconsidering. And then when I read about the various proposals to eliminate tenure and base contract renewals on student performance on tests, I said "NO WAY".
    I can't imagine what kind of professional would want to work under those conditions. All I can imagine are people who might have gone into finance or something similarly high stakes. You would have to be comfortable as gambling from year to year that your students wouldn't totally bomb out. OK, people who work in finance do that sort of gambling, but they are paid very well for it. Could we offer salaries that would attract those sorts of people? Probably not. So instead, we will end up with the worst of the worst in teaching, people who have little other option, who will spend 2 or 3 years at it and then bounce back out. I don't think that is good for our kids.

  5. A "highly qualified" teacher is one that has all the correct credentials -- it has nothing to do with quality of teaching or what field you are in.

    Many really good people are turned off by the lengthy and expensive procedure to achieve certification -- a process that requires low-level course work on pedagogy and child development courses. The barriers to career switchers are very high.

    But long hours? Not really. Our teacher contract limits high school teachers to 5 sections per day maximum (out of 8), leaving a fulltime teacher with 3 prep periods every day.

    Even in elementary, teachers are guaranteed paid prep time every day. Teachers do not have any responsibilities for recess, lunch, or bus monitoring. That is guaranteed by contract, too. The amount of late night and weekend time needed to prepare lesson plans and grade papers is far less than when my mom was a 1st grade teacher.

  6. If you are a good teacher - one of those true "high quality" teachers, you are going to be spending a lot more than that daily prep period getting ready for classes. Sure, it is possible to just go with canned curricula and do little preparation, but I thought we wanted teachers who go beyond that.

    The certification isn't really a deterrent these days. In NY, you can do alternative path certification if you are in a high need area. I know someone in Texas who was able to start teaching after only a few online classes. They are desperate for warm bodies in Texas because they pay so little.

    I did end up teaching, btw, but in higher ed, where I do have the control - and hopefully - tenure! I also spend about 3 hours prepping for every hour of class time. It is harder to teach than it looks.

    My fear, if we eliminate tenure and start basing renewals on high stakes testing, is that we will end up with a teacher corps who does little beyond the official curriculum handed down by the administration, and who are resigned to the fact that they will be booted in a couple of years. It will become a revolving door of kids fresh out of college who don't know what else to do.