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Is Tenure For Teachers A Good Or Bad Thing?

Updated on February 2, 2012
Teacher Tenure
Teacher Tenure | Source

Teacher tenure is an idea that has been disputed among people of a different profession as well as teachers themselves. Being a teacher, I can see why tenure can be a good thing, but I can also see why tenure can be a very bad thing. Why should a teacher be able to keep their job because they have tenure? What if they aren't doing their job to the fullest, but there is someone else willing to do it to their best? In any other profession, someone not doing their job would get fired, but in the profession that is shaping the minds of America, this rule does not apply.

What Is Tenure?

Tenure is a term for educators that basically means "job security." Once a teacher receives tenure, which can range from 1-7 years on the job, they cannot be fire for no reason. For example, if a teacher receives tenure and then becomes pregnant and asks for time off, the school cannot fire that teacher. On the other hand, if that teacher did not have tenure and became pregnant, asking for half of a year off, that school would reserve the right to let that teacher go for missing too much time. Fair? I don't think so.

Here are some reasons teachers can be fired for, even after receiving tenure:

  • DUI
  • Committing a serious crime; i.e. theft
  • Any type of child abuse
  • Student/Teacher relations
  • Using/Possessing Drugs or Paraphernalia

Basically, if you do something really bad then you will be fired.

Here are some reasons you cannot be fired, due to being tenured:

  • Being consistently late
  • Turning in lesson plans late
  • Doing the bare minimum in the classroom
  • Not providing students with help if they need it (if they don't ask)
  • Being miserable and unwelcoming day in and day out

Teachers can pretty much get away with coming in day in and day out just doing the absolute bare minimum for their students and not caring whether they succeed or not. I'm sure we've all had a teacher somewhere along the line like that, and they're probably still teaching! The sad thing is, there are new teachers fresh out of college out there that would take that job in a heartbeat and be better at it.

In the world of tenure there are pro's and there are con's. Here's a look at both sides of the spectrum to help in your decision if you think teachers should be held accountable and be tested or observed more often in the classroom.

Teacher In Cap & Gown
Teacher In Cap & Gown | Source

Pro's of Tenure

In the world of tenure there are pro's and there are con's. Here's a look at both sides of the spectrum to help in your decision if you think teachers should be held accountable and be tested or observed more often in the classroom.

  1. Having tenure protects the teachers from being fired for political, personal, and non-work related issues. In the old days, teachers could be fired when a new principal came in and wanted to hire their buddies. If a teacher becomes pregnant and wants to start a family, she can no longer be fired for that. Also, it eliminates the firing of teachers for their views which may be different from those of the school district.
  2. Teacher tenure puts a teachers mind at ease as far as being fired. They know now that as long as they don't commit a serious crime, they will not be fired. This puts less stress on the teacher and allows him/her to maybe think out of the box and try new ideas with their classroom, without the fear of being fired for that idea. It may broaden the learning process.
  3. Because you can become tenured, the teaching job attracts many people. With all of the people coming in to the profession, the districts will always have a large pool to select from. It also makes you, the teacher, want to work harder to obtain that job, knowing that there are so many other candidates wanting the same position.
  4. With that attraction of people, school districts are forced to choose the absolute best candidate they can see bettering their school. They know that they will be there for a long time, and to choose just anyone out there would be a bad decision knowing they can't fire them if they aren't doing their job. It makes the selection process very crucial to the selectors because they want the best teacher in there.
  5. If tenure were taken out, a lot more females would be reluctant to having children, for fear that taking time off would get them fired.
  6. If tenure were taken out, teachers would feel more pressured to teach strictly to the curriculum and not take any risks. They would be in fear that if they were to try something new or different, they would be fired. This would put a stop to creative ideas and thinking outside the box to spark learning and ideas in the students. Teaching and learning would be limited to the book and if that happens, we're all doomed.
  7. If tenure were not in place, the teaching industry would not attract as many candidates, leaving the districts to choose from the small pool of people that apply, even though they may not be the best choice.
  8. If tenure were taken out and the number of candidates to choose from went down, you would see fewer classrooms meaning larger class sizes. A large class size is not ideal for any type of productive learning environment.
  9. When a teacher is tenured, it eliminates the chance that a student or another faculty member makes a false accusation on that teacher and they become fired right away. Teachers are protected because not everything that comes out of children;s mouths is true. Each teacher, when tenured, receives a hearing before they are dismissed, and the case is looked in to very thoroughly.
  10. Instead of firing a teacher right away after a non-favorable performance, tenure grants that teacher the ability to improve instead of being fired right away. If a teacher is being observed by the principal and the principal feels the teacher is not teaching up to standards, they can discuss the matter and the teacher can improve. Maybe he/she was having a bad day and it affected their teaching. Instead of being fired for one bad day, which we all have, they are given the opportunity to prove themselves again.

Irritated Teacher
Irritated Teacher | Source

Con's of Tenure

Now that you've read the pro's of having teacher tenure, let's take a look at the con's.

  1. Having teacher tenure puts the teacher into cruise mode. What I mean by this is that they know they will not be fired unless they violate one of the schools laws involving tenure, which is usually a serious crime. Once a teacher receives tenure, there is no more pressure to do well and prove yourself because "you're in."
  2. To receive tenure, teachers do not really need to do all that much. All they need to do is follow the rules for a few years and then they are granted tenure. So basically if they stick around long enough and make no wrong moves, they will receive tenure. No test to take. No paper to submit. Just a factor of time is involved.
  3. Having teacher tenure keeps "old fashioned" teachers around, even if they are unwilling to change. With all of the new technology and ideas that are coming out, anyone fresh out of college has a wealth of knowledge of technology and new and creative ideas. With these older teacher unwilling to change, you are essentially "holding up" the learning process because of the teachers unwilling to try new things. Creative sparks and ideas are held back due to the lack of creativity and inventiveness of the teacher.
  4. When you tenure a teacher as a district, you are making a long term money investment. You must figure that a teacher will stay for 30 years. If the amount of years they must be there to receive tenure is 3, then you are looking at a 27 year investment in just that 1 teacher! If they make an average of $50,000 a year, that is $1,350,000! That's just 1 teacher! This prohibits the district from having any type of flexibility with their spending.
  5. Having teacher tenure means that the only way you are going to see new job openings is when the senior teachers retire. It's a long and slow rate at which these teachers go, so you may have the same teachers in for a long time.
  6. It's very expensive to fire a tenured teacher. Until you factor in all of the court costs and other miscellaneous costs, you have a very large numerical figure sitting in front of you, just to fire someone!
  7. In a profession that is supposed to benefit the children, teacher tenure does nothing for the educational process or the students. It solely benefits the adults. It can actually hurt the students if a teacher is left to teach and isn't really doing a great job at it.

Teacher & Chalkboard
Teacher & Chalkboard | Source

Overall, teacher tenure has it's pro's and con's, but in the end, I think that the con's win. I do not agree with teacher tenure for the simple fact that it can hurt the students in the end. The education profession is supposed to be about the bettering of students and the advancement of the learning process. If teachers are granted tenure for just being there for a certain amount of years, how are we sure that they are going to be the best teacher they can be each year following that? When they know they can't be fired for doing the bare minimum, some teachers would ask themselves "why should I do more if I don't have to?" The answer is simple. You do more so the kids can learn more. You want to see children succeed, so you push yourself to your limit trying to get through to kids. You don't sit back and relax when there are kids out there that need your help. Be a go-getter. Don't sit back when there's more to be done. Be a better teacher. Make this world a better place by making a difference in your students.


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    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      This article was well done, but as a former teacher, I don't agree with your conclusion. Tenure is not the problem, people who abuse tenure are! School districts only need to change the way they deal with abusers to fix the problems. Why should all teachers suffer for the poor behavior of a few!


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