Tenure Doesn't Cause The Problem, But It Prevents The Solution

An article in Slate explains that tenure is not the cause of our schools' failure to educate poor children:

But modifying teacher tenure rules is not the new Brown. The decision in Vergara v. California won’t do much to help poor kids and is a diversion from the real source of inequality identified in Brown itself: the segregation of our public schools.

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So why do high-poverty schools have a hard time attracting strong teachers? Because they often provide poor working conditions. When you pack poor kids into environments separate from more affluent students, the schools generally have high rates of discipline problems. Low-income students, who often don’t see much first-hand evidence of the payoff of education, act out more often on average than middle-class students. Low-income parents, who are stressed and may work several jobs, are not in a position to help teachers out by volunteering in class, as middle-class parents often do. And in high poverty schools, students often have inadequate health care and nutrition, which hinders their performance on academic tests.

In such an environment, teachers can feel overwhelmed by the challenge of helping large numbers of students overcome the odds. Accountability measures, under which schools with low test scores can be closed, add to the pressure on teachers. As a result, strong educators in high-poverty schools who have options for being hired elsewhere often flee for middle-class schools at the first opportunity. The flight of top-notch faculty colleagues becomes another reason to leave. Younger teachers, seeking to perfect their craft, want to be mentored by outstanding colleagues and know that is more likely occur in middle-class schools.

My response:

  1. To get better teachers we need to pay them more.
  2. To pay them more we need to convince taxpayers that teachers deserve more money.
  3. It is impossible to convince Americans that someone with a lifetime employment guarantee deserves more money.

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Therefore, as long as tenure exists, we will not pay teachers enough money to attract the talent needed to successfully treat poor kids.

Tenure, therefore, does not cause the problem, but it prevents the solution, which is just as bad.