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Adam Urbanski: Teacher protections aren’t the real problem

The following article appears in the Democrat and Chronicle.

The lawsuit to deny teachers their right to due process, just filed in New York State, mimics a similar litigation in California, currently under appeal. This opportunistic copycat lawsuit, based largely on misrepresentation of facts, continues the wrongful narrative that all we have to do to fix public education is to fix the teachers. And it seems to assume that kids can’t learn unless teachers can be fired for any reason or for no reason at all.

Let’s get one thing straight: the rare teacher who is not doing the students any good is not doing the teaching profession any good, either. Struggling teachers should either improve or leave the teaching profession. This has been, and continues to be, the predominant view of teachers themselves.

But while we do not defend the indefensible, we remain committed to fairness and due process. We take seriously the long-standing and honored American value that you are innocent until proven guilty. That’s what tenure provides — a chance for teachers to hear and respond to the allegations against them. It is not a guarantee of a job for life.

Without tenure, school districts could choose to fire experienced teachers just to save money by replacing them with younger and less costly teachers. Without tenure, teachers would be vulnerable to inappropriate, exploitative or discriminatory treatment by their bosses. Without tenure, outspoken teachers could be more easily silenced. Without tenure, fewer teachers would enter a profession that is becoming increasingly less attractive. None of this would be good for students.

In New York State, tenure laws have already been adjusted and streamlined so that the statutory dismissal process could be less costly and less time consuming. And here in Rochester, for more than 25 years, our teachers union has partnered….

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