CARSON CITY, Nev. – Is teacher tenure a "human right"?
That’s what the head of the Nevada State Education Association seemed to suggest in a television interview last weekend.
Appearing on a local news show, NSEA President Lynn Warne said the Silver State’s new education reforms – which focus largely on teacher tenure – "really struck at the heart of what are educators’ rights, workers’ rights, human rights really."
Was Warne just being hysterical, or should education reformers be brought up on charges before the United Nations’ Human Rights Council?
In a recent blog, Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute examines the state’s new tenure laws, and concludes the Warne’s views are "outrageous."
"Now, while (the new law) certainly represented an improvement over the old system, where 95 percent of teachers received tenure after one year of teaching and became virtually impossible to fire afterward, the new system only allows a bad teacher with tenure to be removed after three years of poor performance," Joecks writes.
"In other words, a poor teacher would be able to harm the education of 50 to 100 or more students before a school is able to remove him or her for subpar performance."
If teacher tenure harms anyone’s "human rights," it’s those of students who are being cheated out of a quality education. It was only a few weeks ago that a group of 50 high school seniors at Detroit Public Schools’ Frederick Douglass Academy staged a protest, claiming they haven’t been properly educated and are unprepared for life after graduation. "We’ve been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated," is how one senior summed it up.
In the interview, Warne offers the standard union line that "nobody wants bad teachers in the classroom." Maybe not, but teacher union leaders are certainly willing to tolerate bad teachers if it means protecting tenure.
If the teacher unions want to talk about education reform in terms of human rights, we’re confident most Americans would agree that a student’s right to a quality education trumps an educator’s right to perpetual employment.
That’s so obvious, the U.N. Human Rights Council might even agree with it.