The title of a recent blog post by Gary Becker and Richard Posner on their site http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/.

 

Here are some excerpts:

 

Becker: "The first and most prominent is that this gives professors freedom to express unpopular views in their writings and lectures. The second is that professors in the same field are the best ones to judge the qualifications and promise of potential new hires and existing colleagues...neither of these arguments made for having tenure in higher education has close applicability to teachers at the K-12 level."

 

"K-12 tenure is justified with the argument that the quality of teachers is not known or objectively measured...it is hard to judge when hiring a new teacher how good she will be, it is not difficult to know teaching quality after someone has been teaching for a few years."

 

"Having the power to get rid of the bad teachers would improve everyone’s teaching, partly by raising the incentives and morale of other teachers."

 

"I do not believe that elimination of unions and tenure would vastly improve the performance of students from [disadvantaged] backgrounds... Nevertheless, it is very worthwhile to improve what schools can do by eliminating tenure, reducing the power of unions, and introducing more competition into the public school system."

 

Posner: "There is general recognition that education provides significant external benefits—significant enough to warrant public subsidy. But public subsidy needn’t imply public provision of the subsidized service. Government subsidizes health care but does not provide the health care itself...Is this a mistake? Should education be privatized? Conversely, should private schools be discouraged?"

 

"Should public school teachers be tenured (and should teachers’ unions be allowed, or at least allowed to negotiate tenure contracts for the teachers they represent)?—the answer may be that it doesn’t much matter from the standpoint of educational quality. On the one hand, tenure makes it difficult (though not impossible) to get rid of dead wood; on the other hand, like the long summer vacation of teachers, tenure provides a valuable nonpecuniary benefit to teachers, and this enables public schools to hire them at lower salaries than would otherwise be possible."

 

"It's when teachers belong to unions that it's hard to fire them, because the union will often act in effect as the teacher’s lawyer, making it costly for the school to fire the teacher. But this is a more an argument against teachers’ union than against tenure. If tenure is a big factor in public school quality, one would expect stronger evidence fo the superiority of charter schools."

 

Share your thoughts, Should K-12 teachers have tenure?