Mayors and school officials have been trying to expel "unfit" teachers for the better part of a century. But since public school teachers have tenure, they are virtually impervious to such efforts.
Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have aggressively taken on the union in the fight to make teachers more accountable. From today's Times:
November 15, 2007
A New Effort to Remove Bad Teachers
By ELISSA GOOTMAN
The Bloomberg administration is beginning a drive to remove unsatisfactory teachers, hiring new teams of lawyers and consultants who will help principals build cases against tenured teachers who they believe are not up to the job. It is also urging principals to get rid of sub-par novices before they earn tenure.
But a Times story written 90 years ago could have easily run in its place:
December 23, 1917
President of Education Board Says they Hide Behind 'Permanent Tenure.'
Charging that the school system is "burdened and clogged with many teachers who are unfit and unsatisfactory," and whom it is practically impossible to remove because of their "permanent tenure," William G. Willcox, President of the Board of Education, issued a statement yesterday in which he made a plea that teachers' places be subject to periodical approval by some competent and independent body.
In occupations other than teaching, said Mr. Willcox, the employee must establish his claim to continued employment by efficient and satisfactory service, while under the provisions of the civil service law teachers claim the right to hold their positions unless some definite offense "can be proved against them with all the technical and legal exactness required to convict them of a crime."
Even the language of the debate has not changed much
Chancellor Joel Klein said:
When action must be taken, the disciplinary system for tenured teachers is so time-consuming and burdensome that what is already a stressful task becomes so onerous that relatively few principals are willing to tackle it. As a result, in a typical year only about one-hundredth of 1 percent of tenured teachers are removed for ineffective performance.
Continuing his thought, President Willcox added:
If instead of coming before the Board of Education for trial on charges these teachers had come before the Board of Superintendents for re-engagement, probably not one of them would have received a single vote in his favor.