Petition Calling for End of K-12 Teacher Tenure

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 05/16 2014 10:55PM

Updated 05/16 2014 11:12PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri voters this November could decide the fate of teacher tenure in elementary and secondary schools.

Signatures were submitted earlier this month to put the issue on the ballot.

Tenure is a status granted to a teacher after they're employed for a certain amount of time.

It protects them from getting fired.

"For the faculty member it gives them a sense of job security," said Dr. Glenn Bernet, provost at Evangel College in Springfield.

"You could be at a small community where you're a teacher and you're doing everything right but you upset a certain family because their daughter or son is unhappy -- and they have the power to make things happen -- you have good teachers lose a teaching job," said Dr. Stephen Kleinsmith, superintendent of Nixa Public Schools.

Teacher tenure was adopted in K-12 schools in the 1970s. The concept originally began in universities in the early 1900s.

"If you go back in the history of higher education there is some linkage between tenure and academic freedom," Bernet said.
"You have the right to express your opinions, and you should not have a negative consequence because of that.

However, education is the only profession that uses such a policy.
There's been debate among lawmakers for several years.

"Tenure is a protection based on their seniority not their performance," said Jane Cunningham, a former Missouri state senator from Chesterfield. "There is no other industry I know of that would retain people based on how long they've been there as opposed to how well they're performing."

That's why some are concerned and want to get rid of teacher tenure rules.

"If we had to err on the side of what's best for students it would be to get rid of tenure across the board because we have seen it drastically abused," Cunningham said.

Those who support tenure think it's a natural process where bad teachers are weeded out early in their careers.

"If you do a good job teaching your first five years you can earn tenure," Kleinsmith said. "But if you don't, if the school system is doing their job, they're making sure you cancel out or not renew teachers that are not doing a good job."

The process of gaining tenure at universities is a little more difficult.

For K-12 teacher tenure, the petition signatures still have to be verified before the issue goes on the November ballot.

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