Organizers' Talking Points

Talking Points: Tenure & Due Process

MYTH #1: “There is a tenure law in California for K-14.”
The truth: California dismissal law doesn’t refer to tenure. The concept of tenure as it developed in the medieval university has no connection with current practice, which provides only dismissal procedures guaranteeing due process rights and pertinent reasons for dismissal actions. Tenure has become a popular term used as a scapegoat for the real problems, which are ineffective evaluation of instruction, poor administrative practices, and inadequate investment by the public schools in experimentation, research and development, and in-service education.

MYTH #2: “Tenure is a lifetime guarantee of employment.”
The truth: teachers have “permanent” status, not tenure. Within this permanent status there is a procedure for dismissing teachers who are guilty of misconduct, but which guarantees due process and impartial consideration of the facts when disagreement about the facts exists.

MYTH #3: “You can’t fire a tenured teacher in California.”
The truth: teachers are fired every year under the dismissal laws in California. In addition, when difficulties in dismissing teachers arise under the law, it is inadequate application of the law by administrators, and not the law itself, that is at fault.

MYTH #4: “Tenure is designed to protect teachers.”
The truth: due process was developed and exists primarily to protect pupils and schools from political, social and economic interference with pupils’ right to a continuing program of quality education. The major function of due process is to insist that decisions about the quality of instruction in the schools be based on educational reasons, rather than on prejudicial or inappropriate selfish reasons.

MYTH #5: “Tenure protects the incompetent teacher.”
The truth: California Teachers Association policy for many years has insisted that “Evaluation Is the Key to Excellence.” Where sound evaluation practices exists, it is the teacher whose inadequacies are identified and who is most affected by the need to improve, or in the absence of improvement, will be dismissed under due process provisions. Therefore, due process is a mechanism for evaluation of instruction which exposes rather than protects incompetence.

MYTH #6: “A good teacher doesn’t need tenure.”
The truth: Teachers who perform satisfactorily need the protection of due process and it is the competent teacher who is most needed to maintain and improve the quality of education for pupils. Every educational employee is entitled to due process. The broad spectrum of instructional practices requires that differing methodologies require equal protection guaranteed under California laws. The competent teacher needs the due process laws!

From CTA’s “Evaluation: Key to Excellence” (2005)

Pension Talking Points
MYTH:  The retirement fund is a taxpayer giveaway.
FACT:  Over the life of their careers, teachers contribute 8% of their monthly pay to their retirement. Employers kick in another 8.25% of monthly pay, the state contributes just over 2% (which previously was 4.6% but was reduced a decade ago), and the returns garnered by CalSTRS investments do the rest.

MYTH:  Teachers engage in pension 'spiking'
FACT:  CalSTRS is vigilant in preventing spiking. All extra compensation for teachers over and above their normal salary gets put into a separate account that cannot be used towards their final retirement salary.

MYTH:  Teachers retire too early and into a life of luxury.
FACT:  The average benefit payment is $3,300 per month while the number of years a teacher works for those benefits averages 27.

MYTH:  The CalSTRS system is headed toward insolvency.
FACT:  While it is true that CalSTRS has a $40 billion shortfall, this is not an amount that is paid overnight.  Just like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over 30 years, not in the first month’s payment. Even under current economic conditions, CalSTRS has sufficient assets and projected contributions to pay benefits until 2044.

MYTH:  CalSTRS suffers from a lack of accountability and oversight.

FACT:  CalSTRS has received national recognition for its ethical standards. The system has a long history of accountability and transparency. In fact, the ethical standards of CalSTRS has become a national model for board accountability.
MYTH:  Our state would be better off financially without having to contribute to teachers’ retirement benefits.

FACT:  The state benefits economically from teachers’ retirement benefits. In fact, $4.5 billion in value is added to the state’s economy each year from generated business activity from retirement benefits. Entire counties depend on that retirement income.

Myth: Teachers prefer front-loaded compensation to pension plans
Fact: In West Virginia, when given the choice, 75% of teachers switched from a 401(k)-type defined contribution account back to their public employee pension system.

Myth: Reducing pension benefits will increase teacher retention
Fact: Economists found strong evidence that pensions helped retain workers. Researchers at Boston College found that pension coverage increased tenure with an employer by four years compared to jobs with no pension plan.