NYSUT Defends Tenure as Safeguard for Students and Teachers

September 1, 2014
By Stephanie West

NYSUT's motion, filed in state Supreme Court in Albany August 29th, strikes back against the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group headed by former television host Campbell Brown with ties to Students' First, the Success Academy Charter School network and several Wall Street billionaires.

NYSUT is seeking to intervene on behalf of seven representative teachers – including three New York State Teachers of the Year – whose ability to teach would be jeopardized without the commonsense safeguards that tenure provides.

A statement issued by NYSUT said teachers and their union have a "real and substantial interest' in the outcome of the case because dismantling tenure would jeopardize the teaching process as well as basic terms and conditions of employment for educators. It’s important to note that tenure must be earned; it is not automatic. Once a teacher is granted tenure – generally after three years or more of service, oversight and evaluation – a teacher cannot be fired without a fair hearing.

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the union is aggressively defending the teaching profession in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. "Tenure is a safeguard that ensures good teachers can speak up for what their students need. It is a safeguard that protects good teachers from unfair firing – a basic due-process right. And tenure is working in New York state. The process has been reformed to be faster and more cost-efficient,” said Magee.

"Tenure helps safeguard children's rights to an effective education because it provides teachers freedom to advocate for their students without fear of reprisal. Because of tenure, teachers can and do speak out against over-testing, outdated textbooks and cuts to academic programs. Teachers can – and do – join parents in advocating for students without the fear they can be unfairly fired for doing so. New York state's rigorous teaching standards provide many safeguards that ensure children have good teachers. Tenure is one of them,” continued Magee. “This war on teachers by Wall Street's wealthy elite is especially pernicious because it ignores the facts. The only 'guarantee' inherent in tenure is that teachers who earn it – like those who are bravely standing up and representing their colleagues – are not subject to arbitrary firing based on discrimination, nepotism, patronage, favoritism or ever-shifting political winds,” added NYSUT President Magee.

Magee noted New York's tenure laws were amended in 2008, 2010 and 2012 to reduce the length and cost of disciplinary proceedings. "Campbell Brown, who is represented by a high-powered legal team, must know this. Instead, she continues to misrepresent the facts. Teacher-supported reforms made to the law in 2012 require cases that go to a hearing to be completed within 155 days. Most cases are now resolved within five months,” said Magee.

NYSUT's motion states Brown and her supporters are trying to "to eviscerate laws that have been carefully designed and continually and rationally refined by the Legislature, over the course of more than a century, to attract and retain qualified, dedicated public school teachers, and to protect them from arbitrary dismissal, in the interest of promoting the best possible education for New York's school children. The evisceration of these laws would not only damage the professional and legal interest of school teachers, but would impair the right of New York's school children to a sound basic education.”

"It's time we hear from people who have dedicated their lives to New York's school children, including those in our poorest districts. Unlike Campbell Brown, teachers are ordinary working people and their voices deserve to be heard,' Magee said.

September 1, 2014

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