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Tenure, Talking Points

Teacher tenure is under attack in New York state and nationwide. In July 2014, two lawsuits were filed–Davids v. New York and Wright v. New York–that claim New York’s tenure laws deprive students of their right to a sound basic education. The lawsuits specifically attack the tenure process, the use of seniority in layoffs, and the three-year probationary period for new teachers, which they claim is too short. Former news anchor Campbell Brown, fronting for a shadowy group calling itself the Partnership for Educational Justice, is bankrolling the Wright case. Brown, who won’t disclose her financial backers, makes the unsupported claim that tenure is responsible for low student achievement.

The New York state lawsuits were filed after a lower-court ruling in the case of Vergara v. California gutted that state’s tenure laws. NYSUT attorneys believe the California ruling will be overturned on appeal–but meanwhile it has emboldened copycat suits across the country. Bankrolled by the wealthy elite and anti-union forces, these attacks represent an all-out assault on the fundamental labor rights of working people.

NYSUT is mounting an aggressive and vigorous defense of tenure both in the courts and the court of public opinion.


New York state is widely recognized for its exemplary teaching force and has earned high marks for its rigorous standards and credentialing requirements–typically ranking among the nation’s top ten. Tenure is just one of the safeguards New York state has put in place to ensure every student has an effective teacher. A teacher must earn tenure after three years or more of effective teaching, oversight and evaluation. A teacher then is entitled to a fair hearing before being fired–a basic due process right. Focusing on a due process right that is used by a very few is a distraction from what must be our main priority: ensuring every child has an effective teacher. We need to focus on what helps students the most: recruiting and retaining high quality teachers and providing the resources to help every child succeed.


New York state’s rigorous teaching standards provide many safeguards that ensure children have good teachers.  Tenure is one of them.

  • Tenure is a safeguard that ensures good teachers can speak up for what students need.
  • Tenure is a safeguard that protects good teachers from unfair firing–a basic due process right.
  • Tenure is working in New York state. The process has been reformed to be faster and more cost efficient, with most cases now resolved within five months

Meanwhile, New York state’s safeguards for teacher quality ensure that its teaching force is among the best credentialed, most effective in the nation.

-Information provided courtesy of NYSUT, A Union of Professionals

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