Teachers find job stability in tenure

North Platte union president Christie Copper works at her computer during her preparation period. She said she thinks the tenure process benefits both teachers and students because it gives them confidence to know they have experience and they gained valuable skills. Critics argue it garners complacency one teachers earn tenure.

In an environment of increasing career and occupational instability, teachers and other school employees have the opportunity for stability in their respective professions.

According to Nebraska statute 79-1234 — the section of Nebraska law that describes the tenure process — employees who have a certificate from the state’s Department of Education and are employed by an educational unit are eligible.

To earn tenure, full-time employees must work for an educational institution for at least three years. The time frame adjusts to longer periods for those who work part time.

Once tenure is earned, it cannot be rescinded. However, tenure does not follow employees to different districts, said Tami Eshleman, North Platte Public Schools associate superintendent. For example, if an employee terminates his or her employment in North Platte and takes a teaching job somewhere else, that employee must begin the tenure process over again.

Tenure awards do not completely shield employees from termination. School board members, based on administrators’ recommendations, can still dismiss tenured workers, provided they have just cause. Those reasons include incompetency, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct and insubordination, just to name a few.

Solidity is the primary advantage of earning tenure.

“Suppose we have to have a workforce reduction. Administrators will look to terminate probationary employees before the ones who have tenure,” Eshleman said.

Tenure and how it is awarded has been a controversial topic in education, and both sides strongly defend their positions.

Those who favor tenure said they believe in its benefits. They argue it protects teachers from termination because of non-employee-related reasons. They argue it is also a recruitment tool. Many teachers who may look at a different profession find tenure appealing.

Many also say it encourages the careful selection of qualified and effective teachers. Since administrators know it is difficult to remove tenured faculty, it could compel them to examine performance more in-depth.

“You are no longer what they consider the new teacher. You have skills you have gained in your first three years. You have a mentor,” said Christie Copper, NPPS teachers union president.

Those against tenure said it creates complacency among teachers because they know they are unlikely to lose their jobs. They also said tenure prioritizes length of service in dismissal decisions, rather than performance and quality.

“Some said there should not be any difference between probationary teachers and tenured ones,” Eshleman said. “They wonder why the best teachers can’t be the ones in front of students helping them to learn, regardless of classification.”

For all of the debate surrounding the issue, district administrators do not take a position regarding tenure’s benefits and drawbacks.

“Tenure has been part of the education system for a long time, from primary and secondary education to university professors, and it will continue to be,” Eshleman said.

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