Teacher tenure is under attack by governors in New Jersey, Florida, Idaho, and Nevada. Moreover, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Newark mayor Cory Booker, and Los Angeles mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa have all jumped on the tenure reform bandwagon.

Please consider G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure

Seizing on a national anxiety over poor student performance, many governors are taking aim at a bedrock tradition of public schools: teacher tenure.

“It’s practically impossible to remove an underperforming teacher under the system we have now,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, lamenting that his state has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation. Eliminating tenure, Mr. Sandoval said, would allow school districts to dismiss teachers based on competence, not seniority, in the event of layoffs.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has campaigned aggressively for the state to end “last in, first out” protections for teachers. Warning that thousands of young educators face layoffs, Mr. Bloomberg is demanding that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo scrap the seniority law if the budget he will unveil Tuesday includes state cuts to education.

The former school chancellor of Washington, D.C., Michelle Rhee, who campaigned against tenure as early as 2007, has made abolishing it a cornerstone of a new advocacy group, Students First, which has advised the governors of Florida, Nevada and New Jersey.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, whose combativeness with the teachers’ union has buoyed his national reputation, appears to have a good chance of getting a bill from the Democratic-controlled Legislature that reshapes tenure.

Florida governor, Rick Scott, told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce last month: “Good teachers know they don’t need tenure. There is no reason to have it except to protect those that don’t perform as they should.”

Idaho, Gov. C. L. Otter, a Republican, presented an education plan last month that said bluntly, “The state will phase out tenure.”

Obama Praises Colorado School Turnaround

In president Obama’s State of the Union address, he mentioned the Bruce Randolph school in Denver which went from being one of the worst schools in Colorado to graduating 97 percent of its seniors in three years.

You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.” (Applause.) That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.

Firing Teachers Key to Success of School’s Turnaround

What the president forgot to tell you was that ability to fire teachers regardless of tenure was the reason for a successful turnaround of Bruce Randolph.

Please consider the Real Story with Obama’s Colorado School Turnaround

During the state of the union address, Obama praised the Bruce Randolph school in Colorado for turning themselves around rather dramatically in a few short years.

Three years ago, Bruce Randolph was one of the poorest performing schools in Colorado. In 2010, 97% of the seniors graduated. Many of the graduates were the first in their families to get admitted into college.

How did they do it?

Sen. Michael Bennet and the school’s principal Kristin Waters, convinced the Colorado government to give the school almost complete autonomy from the state’s education bureaucrats over budget, staffing, schedule, school calendar, and curriculum.

One of the first things they did is terminate all of their tenured teachers and told them they could re-apply for their jobs. Only 5% got their jobs back. 95% of the tenured teachers weren’t up to par.

The Gate’s Foundation has done significant research into why public schools fail. Their conclusion is that it’s all about teachers. The producer of the movie “Waiting for Superman” came to the same conclusion. Good teachers succeed and bad teachers fail our children. It’s not any more difficult than that.

Unfortunately, the teacher’s unions have blocked every attempt to implement these types of common sense reforms.

The big question is whether or not Obama and the Democrats are willing to do battle with their largest specialist interest group so that our kids can have a fighting chance in the global economy?

While bad teachers are guaranteed to fail, so are bad parents. Nonetheless, efforts to stick with a corrupt tenure system that makes it all but impossible to get rid of any teachers has to go. The success story of Bruce Randolph should make that clear.

I applaud the efforts of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Idaho Governor C. L. Otter, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

It’s nice to see the president provide the perfect example for those governors. Now we need the perfect example from the President to get rid of public union collective bargaining as well.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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