To the editor:
We read so much in the Minneapolis Star Tribune how "progress" has been made in the move towards eliminating seniority rights of teachers in public education. Some have argued that this makes it easier to remove unqualified teachers, but a blanket policy of terminating seniority rights comes with a terrible price. Cash strapped school systems could feel compelled to release good faithful experienced teachers because they are the best paid. In these bleak economic times, cutting veteran teachers may seem to provide an easy fix for balancing the budget. Students should have the best teachers, not the cheapest.
Another major concern I have is for teachers who are cut loose after putting in their best years for a school district. It could be tough for older teachers to find employment elsewhere and possibly face hardships moving to another location. How easy would it be to terminate a person just short of retirement age and leave them in the lurch? How easy would it be for a control person to fire a veteran teacher for petty reasons or even religious beliefs? If a teacher should be incompetent, that person should have been denied tenure in the beginning, or else removed when deficiencies first became evident. Younger people can more readily retrain and find employment elsewhere. Many bad teachers seek employment elsewhere on their own anyway to something more fitting to their disposition. Teaching is demanding work. The fact that any teacher has staying power is somewhat evidence of dedication and acceptable performance.
It does make some sense to limiting seniority rights within a given discipline. A school district should not be required to transfer a veteran teacher to a position for which they have not been trained. In general, however, seniority rights make sense.
How can we attract future teachers to public education if they can be so easily discarded arbitrarily or easily removed in favor of younger and less expensive replacements? Hopefully the legislators in St. Paul move cautiously on this seniority issue.