Newspapers Expose “Hidden Costs of Teacher Tenure”

From Labor Reform News…

Teachers’ unions top priority, preserving the tenure system and defeating reforms, damages education system, newspaper series finds

A group of Illinois newspapers, the Small Newspaper Group, has launched a wide ranging investigation of the teacher tenure system in the state of Illinois. Their findings, results of extensive public records searches and investigation, paints a devastating picture of the impact the system is having on public education and students.

Among the findings:

Tenure frustrates drive for teacher accountability Combine teacher tenure, softball evaluations and a reluctance to use remediation with underperforming teachers and you get a dysfunctional system. Kids are paying the price.

School boards lose power to fire poor teachers — Procedure trumps everything when a school attempts to dismiss an incompetent teacher. The slightest error on any of the many forms to be followed can result in a problem teacher remaining in the classroom.

Impact of poor teachers cripples students for years — A single weak teacher can have a devastating affect on a student's academic progress. One expert says a bad teacher can actually reverse academic abilities.

High cost of firing teachers deters action by schools — School adminstrators' reluctance to accurately evaluate teachers makes dismissing bad teachers more difficult. 20 years worth of Cecil Roth's evaluations illustrates the impact.

`Diplomacy' undermines teacher evaluations — Diplomatic evaluations mean most all teachers get the “excellent” rating they've come to expect in any circumstance. This ritualistic process undermines the intent of the Legislature when it mandated teacher evaluations in 1985.

Remediation falls short of '85 legislative intent — Remediation, seen by legislators in 1985 as a tool for improving mediocre teachers, is a seldom used tool. It's also less effective than anticipated.

Teacher unions' clout keeps tenure strong — Influential unions squeeze ever-more complex procedures for firing teachers out of the Legislature. School boards routinely add similarly complex procedures to local contracts.

Local influence adds to teacher-union power — Politicking at the local level shows influence of teachers' unions at its peak. In the generally low-profile school board elections, word-of-mouth campaigning by teachers often determines results.

Schools resort to secret buyouts to get rid of teachers — Frustrated by procedural hoops and the high costs of dismissing a poor teacher, schools sometimes resort to buyouts rather than outright firings. They then try to hide that cost from public view.

For more information on the series, visit