How Much Is Tenure Worth?

Visual Revelations

In recent weeks, the budget crises that affect the federal, state, and local governments have led to a number of proposals that are remarkable in one way or another. It seems apropos to examine New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign to get rid of tenure for teachers. Although there are many ways of characterizing the value of tenure, I will focus on the possible effect of the removal of job tenure on education budgets.

The fiscal goal of removing tenure is to make it easier, during periods of limited funds, for school administrators to lay off more expensive (i.e., more senior/tenured) teachers in favor of keeping less experienced/cheaper ones. Without the protection of tenure, administrators would have less pressure on them to gather the necessary evidence that due process requires to terminate a senior teacher. Thus, it is argued, school districts will have more flexibility to control their personnel budgets. Is this an approach that is likely to work?

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