Lawsuit Against Teacher Tenure and Seniority in NYS

Apr 10, 2018 by

A gaggle of bored, bitter and self-important cranks have charmed the bobble-headed judges of the Appellate Division of the New York State courts into conceding them legal standing in a suit to destroy teacher tenure and seniority protections for teachers.

They demand the power to pressure school principals into firing teachers who enforce consequences to their misbehaving kids, or give them grades they earned rather than marks that dating parents would fancy out of familial loyalty.

Or for any other pretext.

They feel that teachers, even after achieving three college degrees and dozens of years of satisfactory service, should be vulnerable like diner employees who can be kicked to the curb for delivering string beans instead of zucchini as  the customer ordered.

Tenure is simply due-process.  Everyone knows that except for people who have made a conscious decision to misunderstand. Tenure is a hallowed anti-corruption cornerstone of civil service. It has been so for generations in the city, state and nation.

Seniority is critical to upholding equal-treatment and cohesion in the workplace. There is very little argument about it as it exists in the post office, Dept. of Homeland Security, the United States Senate and elsewhere.  But it sticks in the craw of the loathers of teacher unions, which includes a wide variety of nefarious antagonists who are not uncommonly media darlings.

In the New York City market, there’s a radio commercial flooding the airwaves. It’s for a junk-removing business whose slogan is “All you have to do is point.”  Actors in the advertisement finger an unwanted cabinet or credenza and it vanishes instantly. That’s exactly the kind of empowerment that the plaintiffs in this rancorous case want parents, principals,bureaucrats or other politically-connected fixers to have: poof and the teacher re-materializes on the unemployment line.

Of course the plaintiffs can’t come straight out and admit the real reason they resent seniority and tenure protections for teachers. As always, demagogues must have talking points to accompany their talking points to escort their playbooks. In this case, they contend that teachers have a guaranteed job no matter how bad they are.

Nobody, including teacher unions, defends the perpetuation of sub-standard teaching in the presence of true and proven evidence. There should be remediation, counseling and perhaps re-direction.

But nobody should lose their career in the absence of substantive and demonstrable cause. Nor should the pursuit of their vocation be sacrificed to placate ill-wishers, or those bent on retaliation for whistle-blowing or differences of professional judgement. And certainly not to accommodate the beguilement of nepotism and cronyism.

I’d bet the incidence of “ineffective” parenting, ineffective school and system leadership and  governance far exceeds the level of ineffective classroom instruction in New York City public schools. But the lawsuit of the tiny-teeny New York City Parents’ Union and the Partnership for Educational Justice” is concerned only with their bugaboo.

Experts in legal precedents are optimistic that this case will fizzle, as have similar frivolous litigation nationwide. That will spell justice for every New Yorker will a sound mind and a reliable knowledge of the reality of teaching and learning.

Ron Isaac


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