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Parents Slingshot Tenure into Minnesota Spotlight
posted by: Alana | April 18, 2016, 08:32 PM   


Four mothers in Minnesota have united behind one common goal: to demand that the state reconsider teacher tenure laws that restrict students’ rights to a “thorough and efficient education” as outlined in the state’s constitution.


Specifically, these mothers take issue with Minnesota’s job protection laws for teachers maintaining that they disproportionately hurt poor and minority populations that are more likely to be assigned ineffective teachers.

Being touted as the suit that could “reignite the battle over union protections for Minnesota teachers” by local publications such as the Star Tribune, this suit is being modeled after recent landmark cases in New York and California that seek to chip away outdated tenure provisions that many reformers contend degrade the professionalism of educators and hurt students.


Making the Case

The plaintiffs’ suit revolves around three core arguments:

  1. Tenure protects ineffective teachers.
  2. Tenure endangers high-performing teachers just for being new to the classroom.
  3. Tenure prevents administrators from making employment decisions.

A direct consequence is a system known as “Last in First Out” or “LIFO” in which seniority is valued over performance. Excellent teachers may be let go first if they haven’t been given tenure.

Despite evidence that teacher quality and effectiveness is the “key determinant of a child’s education[al] advancement,” Minnesota tenure laws tie the hands of district leaders who deserve the authority to make employment judgements based on performance when faced with tough layoff decisions.

According to a poll by the Tribune in March of 2015, this suit could awaken “over two-thirds of the state’s residents [who] agree that layoffs should be based on performance and not time in the field.”

The Faces Behind the Curtain

The lead plaintiff in the case is Tiffini Forslund who is backed by Bonnie Dominguez, Roxanne Draughn, Justina Person, and five of Minnesota’s top attorneys. The case is also gaining widespread support from education reform groups such as Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice and Students for Education Reform.

According to Daniel Weisberg, chief executive of TNTP (formerly the New Teacher Project), changing tenure laws is just one step to improving education. “Just as doing a better job of retaining teachers is a piece of the puzzle and having positive school culture that teachers want to work in,” he said.

As only the third case of its kind in the country, all eyes will be turned to this case in the coming weeks and months as it moves its way through the Minnesota court system.

AAE and Tenure

AAE members are split on eliminating tenure all together; however, opinions are shifting as public opinion moves in the direction of elimination. An overwhelming majority of AAE teacher members believe that tenure is not necessary for an educator to properly perform his or her job effectively and a vast majority asserts that achieving tenure does not indicate that a teacher is, in fact, effective.

Further, AAE is against the "last hired, first fired" policy by which newer teachers, regardless of performance are let go first to meet lay-off requirements. This policy is unfair to both new high performing teachers and the students they serve, often in urban and low income schools.

Do you agree that performance is more important than seniority in determining a teacher’s effectiveness?
Tell us in the comments below!



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