Lawsuit to Protect Tenure Over Students Makes CEA Not Only Wrong But Lonely

Being a little kid and all, I can be sensitive to what my peers think sometimes. Have you ever stuck your neck out there, the only one in the crowd choosing something different from everyone else? If it’s a flavor of ice cream, that’s no big deal. But if it’s a True or False question, and you are the only one who chooses the wrong answer, that can be a little bit harder to take. If it’s big people making the wrong choice on something that doesn’t help students, then it’s even worse.

In case you missed it, the big news around here yesterday was the teachers union’s lawsuit and legislative attack on Senate Bill 191. The bottom line is they don’t like part of the law that gives principals the authority to keep ineffective teachers out of classrooms (known as “mutual consent”).

My Education Policy Center friends quickly responded:

“Trying to pull the plug on accountability to save a few bad apples puts union leaders out of touch,” said senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow. “Coloradans want more great teachers in classrooms. No child should be subjected to a teacher who can’t teach.”

The Chalkbeat Colorado story points out the coalition of groups and prominent individuals standing against the lawsuit, including:

  • A+ Denver
  • Colorado Children’s Campaign
  • Colorado Competitive Council
  • Colorado Concern
  • Colorado Succeeds
  • Democrats for Education Reform
  • Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Donnell‐Kay Foundation
  • Gates Family Foundation
  • Piton Foundation
  • Stand for Children
  • Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)
  • Former Gov. Bill Owens (R)
  • Former Gov. Bill Ritter (D)

And the Denver Post isn’t exactly sticking up for the teachers union leadership’s decision, either. Today’s editorial not only notes that CEA’s plan undermines “education, especially for low-income kids,” but also lays bare the outrageous implications:

In other words, once the legislature grants certain benefits to tenure, it is powerless to roll any back. Under that logic, lawmakers can never refine, improve or correct unintended consequences of previous tenure legislation.

Throw in the State Board of Education’s unanimous October resolution to “defend any such lawsuit to the fullest extent of the law,” and one can see the CEA treading not only the wrong path but a lonely one (unless you count the NEA union mothership as company).

After watering down the original 2010 law (through taxpayer-funded lobbying) and putting their fingerprints all over the creation and implementation of the state’s model evaluation system for teachers and principals, union leadership seems determined to make its case of last resort to unravel the changes they don’t like.

Can’t we all agree that if Colorado were to take away mutual consent, and give teachers a constitutional right to a tenured contract, that would be bad news for students? What would be left of SB 191’s changes would be virtually meaningless. I’m glad to know I’m far from alone with this commonsense view.