Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't abolish teacher tenure By Donna Brazile

(CNN) -- Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," and coupled with the blurb, "It's nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that."
The cover is a slap in the face to every teacher who has dedicated his or her life to bettering the lives of children. Right now, we should be lifting up and championing educators. The last thing we should be doing is discouraging or dampening the enthusiasm of a new generation.
Worse, the Time story gives sloppy credence to the well-funded, well-orchestrated attacks from a small cadre of wealthy business interests, many of whom have never even set foot in a classroom. These attacks on public education, educators and neighborhood schools have unfortunately become the norm. It's gone too far. Enough is enough.
Due process policies such as tenure are put in place to protect good teachers from being fired without cause. They aren't there to protect "bad" teachers. In fact, research from economist Jesse Rothstein suggests removing tenure might worsen educational outcomes because it would eliminate one of the major attractions to the profession. And since one of the biggest challenges in public education these days is teacher retention and recruitment, abolishing tenure could be incredibly harmful.
Recently, Democrats for Public Education was formed to show that Democrats remain united around a core set of principles. As a co-chair, I've seen how in just two months after officially launching, scores of elected officials, activists and party leaders in all 50 states have signed up to join our organization as supporters. They understand it's time we collectively push back against efforts to undermine our schools, our teachers and the children themselves.
DPE conducted a poll with Harstad Strategic Research, a Colorado-based firm that worked on President Barack Obama's historic 2008 election and 2012 re-election. The poll shows voters support public education in resoundingly large numbers. Roughly two thirds of Americans agree with traditionally Democratic positions when it comes to education.
I've seen an awful lot of polling through the years. And there isn't a profession out there that wouldn't love to have the kind of favorability numbers enjoyed by local public schools and teachers in this survey.
Moreover, any campaign manager would give his or her eye teeth for their candidate to have these results and engender these warm feelings among the masses. Contrary to what some naysayers -- and magazine covers -- continue to hawk, the American people are proud of their public schools. And they're proud of their teachers, too.
Overall, 82% of voters able to rate their local teachers believe them to be excellent, very good or good. So, even though we've seen lawsuits from California to New York scapegoating "bad teachers," the divisive views espoused by Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee simply aren't rooted in public opinion.


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