« Should K-12 Teachers Have Tenure? Becker | Main | Energy Self-Sufficiency—Posner »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mitchell K.

Posner observes that "tenure provides a valuable nonpecuniary benefit to teachers, and this enables public schools to hire them at lower salaries than would otherwise be possible." That is true in theory, but the salaries of tenured public school teachers are grossly inflated. The seniority based pay scales of unionized public school teachers do not seem to be attenuated (at least not very heavily) by the non-pecuniary benefits afforded by tenure.

However, this is once again "more an argument against teachers' union than against tenure."


"Our large black and Hispanic populations, along with lower-class and lower middle-class whites, tend to be educated in public schools that are not well funded because they are located in poor communities; and as I said public schools are financed primarily by local taxation."

Have you actually looked at some data here? Inner city schools typically spend much more per pupil, than their suburban neighbors. Rural schools are less expensive, but they are located in lower cost of living areas, with generally weak job prospects. As a result, teaching jobs are typically in high demand in rural areas.

general insurance company

Absolutely, I completely agree and believe that everything has a time. Tenure would ensure that proper level of teaching is maintained throughout.


Posner gets at least a B for this one. He has it right in noting the disadvantages of poor funding in the areas (both urban and rural) where the educational challenge is highest and also touches on the RE-segregation as the "good" well-funded schools are typically in the suburbs where housing is too costly for lower income families and struggling single parents.

In those kinds of cities and suburbs the first question a realtor is likely to hear is "Which school district?".

In Anchorage we've benefited greatly both because our community is not segregated into economic ghettos and that we've ONE equitably and adequately funded school district which also offers a number of educational choices. With the kids of households of varying incomes going to school together it often affords the opp for a low income kid or one lacking a parent to go fishing, camping, snowmachining with the families of those better set........ and often to see role models they'd be unlikely to see in the many areas of our nation that is segregated by income level.

In Anchorage, half of the school funding comes from the state budget...... America would do well to adopt a school funding mechanism that was more evenly spread across income groups.

Posner misses one of the main benefits of tenure and NEA or other union membership. The tenured teacher can more confidently speak out and act on behalf of parent and student against the perhaps "out of touch" top down agendas of the school board, or as we've seen recently, to speak out against the worst of the, DC imposed, flaws of "No Child Left Behind" without fear of being summarily dismissed.

Further, job security is an important issue in a mid-career teacher's life. If they have invested the years to gain tenure (and partial retirement vesting) and have become a part of the community, perhaps with a spouse having a job or business tying their family to the area, they'd have few other opps to engage in their profession w/o leaving the region. The district should have had plenty of time to get rid of "deadwood" prior to tenure.

One more? Just know with the economy still in the tank, teaching, even with the modest incomes of many areas, is likely seen as a safe harbor, but soon, with "boomer teachers" retiring in droves and with young women (who became most of our teacher corp in the 60's and 70's) having a wide range of options, it's likely that teacher recruitment and retention will be our problem in the coming years than "getting rid of deadwood". Might even have to pay 'em!

short wedding dresses

Really great!I enjoy reading your blog!Thanks for sharing!

Chicago Jordan 10

America would do well to adopt a school funding mechanism that was more evenly spread across income groups.

Amanda Parrish

Most Americans, across the political spectrum, support, in some form public education. Far fewer support public health care, food programs, or other social services. Even in affluent communities, though, public schools must provide these resources. In the poorest communities, schools are often the only place students have access to health care and well-balanced (or "well-balanced") meals. It seems hypocritical to assume that government food or health care programs are in some way un-American, or at least un-free market, but that public education is not.

The problem with the charter school model (which seems to be what most make-education-a-free-market advocates support) as it now exists, though, is that it relies on young, inexperienced teachers, requiring them to work hands-on with students from 7am-5pm each day. In many charter schools, teachers are now being asked to skype with students at night and spend weekends at school. I teach at a public high school in an affluent district, and even at my school, the emotional exhaustion of supporting, mentoring, managing and disciplining a hundred teenagers each day is very real. I cannot imagine increasing the face-time teachers spend with students, in addition to the hours of grading and planning that teachers take home at night. I already make less than minimum wage (calculating salary/number of hours worked per year), and the charter school model requires more hours--and many of those more demanding hours. It is hard to imagine anyone with any personal life, or even a family, would be able to stay in such a school for more than a few years.

I guess we wouldn't need tenure if no one could last in the field for more than a few years.

Charlotte workers comp

Good point here and interesting debate. Though I personally do not think that education should be privatized.


Thank you -- you make some thoughtful points, and unlike Becker you maintain a healthy skepticism toward charter schools and standardized testing and faddish "reforms". If you think that just because a school in in a poverty area, then think again, and read this blog by a former East Harlem principal: http://empty-playgrounds.blogspot.com. Her school succeeded, using old-fashioned methods that are unfortunately NOT taught in education departments and teacher colleges.

I do have to take issue, however, with what you say here: "The children of the well to do, who tend also to be the most intelligent and well disciplined (though there are many excceptions). . . "
Whaaaaa? You're kidding, right? Children of privilege get more tutoring and special treatment, sure, and they get away with more, definitely. That is NOT the same thing as being more "intelligent" and more "well disciplined" than poorer kids. You should know better.


I do whatever I can to keep Amerikan public schools in miserable condition. If they were improved, we'd actually get more breeding in response, and I already pay through the nose for all the breeding. It costs more than $10,000/year of taxpayer money for the 13 years of public mis-education, and we taxpayers also subsidize higher education that turns out heavily indebted students ignorant of science and math who don't qualify for a job outside of SCOTUS, POTUS, COTUS and public teaching, where science and math knowledge is apparently a disqualification.

I don't buy that public education produces positive externalities. What we should do is cancel our expensive breeding and mis-education program altogether and import young folks fully potty-trained and ready to work from places like Mexico. Hell, for all the thousands of dollars I pay to subsidize the youth, I have a hard time getting someone to mow my lawn for less than $25/hour. Furthermore, if the USSA could manage to make a case for the continuing need for well-educated residents, we'd be better off importing them from Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, which have proven track records in education--just as we import video monitors from Asia, not being able to produce them as well or as cheaply domestically.


Interesting that you have sidestepped that thorny political and economic "hot button" known as "Tenure" in post-secondary institutions. ;)

As for questions of Tenure at the primary and secondary levels of Education it's a contractural element of most teaching contracts be they created from a Collective Bargaining process or individually and all have clauses written into them regarding removal "For Cause" - hopefully "Just Cause". As for the history of Tenure, it started to become a contractual element in the 1930's when various States recognized that the Educational System was or becoming corrupted by "favoritism" in hiring and firing of teachers. So what better method of control than requiring Teacher Certification and the establishment of "Tenure Clauses".

As for the current round of arguments against Tenure is the current indicators of the failure of education in America. One DoD report indicates that seventy-five percent of all applicants showing up at Recruiting Stations are physically unable to pass the physical, cannot pass the educational fundamental tests or have a criminal record. Which clearly indicates a "failure" in primary and secondary education. So the question becomes, "Why can't Dick and Jane read, write, calculate and cipher"? Not too mention not being able to "go up the hill to fetch a pail of water".

The School Board, State and Local knows or appears to know. It must be the Teachers and specifcally, that odious Tenure clause. It certainly can't be those of us on the School Boards or local Administrators. Or our Philosphies of Education or Pedagogical techniques. Even though we certify Teachers before hire. And it certaily can't be our budgetary plans that build twenty-five million dollar state of the art Sports Stadiums for football, but we can't find enough money to hire Chemistry or Math teachers. Yep, can't be us - must be the Teachers and Tenure!

Quite frankly, I think we're all looking in the wrong places for the problems...

Terry Bennett

My father became a K-8 teacher later in life, and put in 22 years in a rural district, mostly small group remedial work. One day a colleague stuck her head in the door and requested that he release one the students he was tutoring - the Board president's daughter - because it was time for her to go to her Gifted and Talented class.

People take it personally when you inform them that their kid is stupid, or lazy. Rather than agree with the teacher, they may go to great lengths to prove the teacher is wrong and incompetent. Tenure short-circuits a lot of that nonsense. However, a similar argument could be made for tenure in just about any job, public or private. I am not particularly more impressed with teachers than any other group of workers, and see no reason they warrant the pedestal we have fashioned for them.

I consider basic education a necessity (and I mean basic), and favor public funding to make sure those who can't afford it still get it. However, I do not favor the existence of public schools. Similarly, I consider health care (not health insurance) to be a necessity, but that doesn't mean doctors are somehow a class apart that should get a W-2 directly from the government.

If all schools were private schools, tenure and a host of other supposed issues would fall away, meaningless on their face. If you want a good education, buy it. If you want a better education, pay more. If you are dissatisfied, take your business elsewhere. Can't afford it? Apply to the government for assistance. When was the last time you heard anyone fret about the quality of "the private schools"? They sell a product, and they either maintain it as a good product or they cease to exist. Private schools would also cease to exist if public schools offered a sufficiently fungible product for free. They don't.

Contrary to the myth we have etched in stone over our country's short history, that education is somehow unsuited to a market model, I believe it is ideally suited. Granted, my hypothesis is unlikely to be tested any time soon...


Private schools as being far superior to Public Schools? In some cases yes, in others no. That's why in a properly run State Education programs all schools must be accredited and meet the same standards. I'm a graduate of a Public School system and I'll put my education up against any of the Private Institutions and their graduates... ;)


NEH (with apparent tongue in cheek) puts the finger on the problem by asking whether public school boards and administrators, rather than tenured public school teachers, should get the blame for educating our kids inadequately. But who organizes politically to raise campaign money and get out the vote for inept school board members and administrators who take a lax approach to running public schools? Could it be tenured and unionized public school teachers?


Jimbino! Great! I've been pointing out to the "send 'em all back" set what a great deal is is to have working folk show up, tested by the long difficult trek through the deserts, ready to work w/o our already being "in the hole" to the tune of $100,000 plus for the public education of our own.

But! I'm afraid your scheme has quite a flew in not allowing for the next generation that will be born here in families often of a bit higher fertility rate than our longer term citizenry, who will have to be educated here.

I'm truly sorry about your not being able to get the lawn mowed for $25/hour but perhaps that with the soaring costs of oil price gouging and time spent getting to your lawn the $25 gets dissipated along the way? With lawns being such a costly and useless crop, would your neighbors tolerate planting it out in produce? or allowing it to return to the natural flora of the area that might be harvested by a goat or sheep?


Yes! Why are "WE" twaddling around with "tenure" or trying to gut the unions instead of tackling the biggies?

Biggie Number One: Something to do with lack of support, and or knowledge by families often attempting to hold down two jobs or operating as a single parent.

Possible solutions? School support outside the class room including that of out reach and targeted efforts to include and educate the parental unit.

Biggie Number Two: Disparate and inadequate funding in "those schools".

Possible solutions? In TX, MO, NY and a host of other states the typically "white" AG fought in court for decades to preserve their "right" to prejudicially short fund the schools of "certain" areas. In TX one city, San Antonio had a three to one disparity within the same city. Today, each of those states are operating under court order to provide Equitable and Adequate funding to ALL of their school districts.

Thus....... the wise decision would be for the often "white" AG's not to fight against decent and honorable funding for ALL of their kids.

Texas? as other areas are considering more pre-K education has yet to implement Kindergarten throughout the state. As they are responsible for the education of nearly 10% of our population they really ought to get with it and no longer settle for 45th worst funding and similar "achievements" on SAT and ACT tests.

While gains can likely be made in the "nice" areas of adequate funding, let's agree that for the most part those areas are on par with other nations and that our major lack IS in the truly "left behind" areas.

And rather than all the fiction of "lazy over paid teachers" and yadda tenure....... let's heed the honest words of Amanda Parrish (above) and other teachers we meet who report on the hefty burden of teaching today. There is more to gain than to lose by adequately staffing our K-12 schools and in my view providing another grade or two of vocational or community college education that is affordable to all.

After all, for 20 years now, we've not been able to find jobs for all of our folk w/o some faux housing bubble or other.


"Well-funded public schools appear to do as good a job in educating kids as private schools, and at comparable cost, "

I have never seen any real data to even come close to backing up that statement. Public schools used to cost significantly less than private schools (I had friends in both venues growing up). PS, some were from out of the country, so they actually paid for their 'public school.'

Public education is costing us more than 10k per student per year. And at that price, I am not getting what I am taxed into poverty for.



i enjoyed reading your blog and this news is informative. I found many of the interesting.


Account Deleted

Great post, you have pointed out some superb details, I will tell my friends that this is a very informative blog thanks.
IT Company India


Wayne, Yep... Education is getting more expensive year by year. Given an approximate general inflation rate of four percent per year, year on year, one can see where the cost increases are coming from. Then again, there is the advent and introduction of the new electronic teaching aids that have to be paid for and their continual replacement due to planned obsolesence. In this electronic age, education is no longer the cheap bargin it once was...


NEH...... And here I am thinking that the net, video et al would amplify the productivity of teachers.

Geez, I'm remembering instructors slogging through diagrams on the chalk board to show econ variables at work and thinking how helpful moving graphs etc would be for most folks. Isn't everyone using Youtube to find out how to do everything from cooking a souffle to fixing a rare imported car?

Wayne: Sorry but the "savings" of most private schools are generally illusory. How would you expect them to be any more efficient?? More students per teacher? Crappier pay and longer hours as one teacher posted here? Other??? Cherry picking students so as to leave the burden of special ed and other difficult students to the public schools?


Jack, I wasn't "dissing" the use of electronic media as a teaching aid, but as a continual and increasing budgetary line item and drain on local school budgets for new hardware and software. Try and get any of the stuff more than five years old to work together with the new stuff and vice versa. Back in the 70's, I can remember using old surplus Army/Navy movie projectors left over from WWII and old overhead projectors just about as old.

Blackboards? I vaguely remember classrooms in one building built in the late 1850's that still had the original blackboards in them. In comparison, what's the life expectancy of electronica today? ;)


affl, Such is Democracy and Education in a Republic. Or we could use a centralised and controlled education system that dictates across the board as some Countries use. You can't have it both ways; or can you? Perhaps a mixed system can produce what this Nation requires in terms of Education of its youth for the twentyfirst century...

Horace Mann where are you when we need you? ;)


Your post is knowledgeable and I got interesting in info area. You also did good job in your thought process.

Tax Relief

Jack! Im back!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan

May 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31