Video: States tangle with teacher tenure

  1. Closed captioning of: States tangle with teacher tenure

    announcer: nation. on this nation's schools. our issue tonight, one of the mainstays of teaching in this country, what just about every teher aspires to, and that's tenure. but the tenure system itself is under increasing attack. rehema ellis is here with that story tonight. welcome.

    >> reporter: brian, thank you. when many people hear tenure, they think about university professors who earn tenure and with it guaranteed employment. technically that's not the case in public schools , but in a lot of places, it's been turning out that way. the mayor of providence, rhode island , has hired every one of the city's nearly 2,000 teachers.

    >> show me just cause.

    >> reporter: but says he'll rehire as many as he can afford.

    >> we have to balance our budget. we he to educate our kids. we're going to do both.

    >> reporter: a major issue in providence and elsewre is tenure. a controversial teachers you know -- union protection frequently perceived as a job guarantee. nationwide, a handful of states are trying to eliminateit

    >> teaching can no longer be the only profession where you have no rewards for excellence and no consequences for failure. let new jersey lead the way ain. the time to eliminate teacher tenure is now.

    >> reporter: but what is tenure? new public school teachers get tenure after three to five years, but it is not a job guarantee.

    >> what it means in the k-12 system is that you are entitled to a hearing, a that's it.

    >> reporter: but at least nine states have replaced tenure and the perception of a permanent position with renewable contracts, based on teacher evaluations. in 1997 , oregon was among the first to adopt renewable contracts, but maintained the fair dismissal process. contract teachers are up for renewal every two years. at cedar park middle school outside of portland, 19-year veteran teacher trisha park says it works for her.

    >> it keeps me accountable for staying in top shape on the job. and then it keeps the principals accountable for measuring me.

    >> reporter: but across the country, at pf 65 in new york city , where teachers have tenure, principal daisy garcia says the current process just takes too long.

    >> in one case, it took over three years of documentation, 40 days of testimony, 5,000 pages of testimony, it cost the city between $300,000 and $400,000 in legal fees.

    >> reporter: the president of the naon's second largest teachers union says too little oversight and not enough attention to teacher development are to blame, and has proposed a model that would cut the red tape , giving underperforming teachers about three months to defend their job.

    >> frankly, the process of an evaluation should start from day one, because ultimately we all need a development and evaluation system.

    >> reporter: there is momentum for reforming the way teachers are hired and fired. the question is whether teachers, administrators, union officials and elected officials will each be willing to give up something to create a system that works best for the people most important, and that's the nation's 50 million public school students, brian.

    >> that's why this issue is red hot . rehema ellis, thank you, as always.

By
updated 3/7/2011 7:40:01 PM ET 2011-03-08T00:40:01

When Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, recently fired every one of the city's nearly 2000 teachers, it caused a predictable uproar. Although Taveras insisted he will re-hire as many teachers as he can afford, hundreds protested the terminations.

“We have to balance the budget, we have to educate our kids,” Taveras said. “We're going to do both.”

As cash-strapped states struggle to balance their budgets, the issue of teacher tenure—a controversial teachers' union protection frequently perceived as a job guarantee — is under scrutiny amid a growing clamor to curtail it.

    1. Hoffman withdrew $1,200 hours before death: sources

      Philip Seymour Hoffman withdrew a total of $1,200 from an ATM at a supermarket near his New York City apartment the night before he was found lifeless in his bathroom with a syringe still in his left arm, sources told NBC News.

    2. NYC mayor will skip St. Pat's parade over gay ban
    3. Indiana man back home 18 years after abduction
    4. 32 states in the path of another wild storm
    5. Judge vows quick ruling on Va. marriage ban

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been especially outspoken on the issue, leading a handful of states that are seeking to eliminate teacher tenure completely.

“Teaching can no longer be the only profession where you have no rewards for excellence, and no consequences for failure,” Gov. Christie told crowds earlier this year. “Let New Jersey lead the way. The time to eliminate teacher tenure is now.”

Although new public school teachers get tenure after three to five years on the job, National Education Association President Dennis Von Roekel challenges the notion that tenure somehow makes teachers impossible to fire.

“What it means in the K-12 system is that you are entitled to a hearing and that's it,” he says.

In 1997,  Oregon was among the first to adopt renewable contracts based on teacher evaluations, but maintained the fair dismissal process. Contract teachers are up for renewal every two years. Since then, at least nine states have replaced tenure — and along with it, the perception of a permanent position.

Trisha Parks, a seventh-grade teacher at Cedar Park Middle School outside Portland with nearly 20 years experience, says the renewable contract system has worked for her.

“It keeps me accountable for my own learning,” Parks says. “It keeps me accountable for staying in top shape on the job. Doing the job, delivering the job. And then it keeps the principals accountable for measuring me.”

  1. Only on NBCNews.com
    1. OWN via Getty Images
      From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
    2. pool via Reuters file
      US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
    3. China: One-child policy is here to stay
    4. NRA: Practice Range
      New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
    5. 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
    6. AFP - Getty Images
      China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
    7. AFP - Getty Images
      French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali

But at New York City’s P.S. 65, where teachers still get tenure, principal Daysi Garcia says the current job review process just takes too long.

“It took 40 days of testimony, 5,000 pages of testimony, and cost the city $300,000 to $400,000 in legal fees,” Garcia says. “That's excessive.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the nation's second largest teachers' union, says too little oversight and not enough attention to teacher development — not tenure itself — are to blame for underperforming teachers. She has proposed a new model that would give those teachers three months to defend their job.

“Frankly, the process of evaluation should start from day one,” Weingarten says. “Ultimately we all need a development and evaluation system.”

Vote: LiveVote: Eliminate tenure for teachers?