Why eliminating teacher tenure for K-12 schools will lift school performance

June 12, 2014

By Eric Hanushek

Public schools are constitutionally empowered to educate our next generation, but they often stray from that path to over-emphasize the rights, pay, and benefits of their employees. In a stunning decision, a judge in the California Superior Court has ruled that, because education is a fundamental right of California youth, the laws governing teacher tenure, teacher dismissal and rules for layoffs are unconstitutional. This ruling only applies to California – and surely will be appealed by the teachers union – but it could open up consideration of students' rights in a larger number of states.

The California laws addressed in the lawsuit advantage teachers at the expense of students. One law requires administrators to make essentially a lifetime employment decision within the first 16 months of a teacher's being hired, before the teacher has even finished an induction program. Another group of laws creates procedural impediments that make removing an ineffective teacher so onerous and costly that it is rarely done. And, when layoffs are required, a final law requires that decisions cannot take into account a teacher's effectiveness but must be based entirely on seniority.