This week’s court ruling in California declaring that state’s system of tenure in public schools unconstitutional has fueled speculation that similar actions will be pursued in other states. But there’s a lot of doubt whether Ohio would be one of them.
The group that challenged the law complained that granting tenure essentially guaranteeing a job for life makes it impossible to fire sub-par teachers, and so those teachers were sent to schools those poor children attend, violating their rights to an equal quality education.
Melissa Cropper heads the Ohio Federation of teachers, and says the word “tenure” does not really apply in Ohio law.
“We don’t actually have tenure in Ohio, we have a continuing contract and a continuing contract does not guarantee you a job for life,” Cropper says.
“A continuing contract just guarantees that you just have due process rights. So you can’t be fired for no reason at all.”
In Ohio it takes seven years to become eligible for a continuing contract, whereas in California it takes just two years to get tenure.
University of Akron law professor Elizabeth Shaver Shaver says there’s one other big difference between California and Ohio: In California the last-hired first fire rule is written into law.
“It required school district to fire junior teachers that were very high performing teachers and retain more senior teacher who were low performing or incompetent teachers.”
While seniority preference isn’t part of Ohio law, it has been a clause in teacher contracts in districts across the state – something administrators have been pushing back on for years.
Some other states do have tenure rules that closely resemble California’s, and they could very well be challenged. Shaver says those challenges will continue to fire up the debate over assessing the effectiveness of teachers.