Teachers are an important part of any society as they provide knowledge to all future professionals in any field. The competence of politicians, doctors, engineers, and journalists, and the general ability of the population to make rational decisions, largely depends on the quality of school and higher education. At the same time, teachers can face unfair employers, conflicts with colleagues and students that jeopardize their work and reputation.
For this reason, the task of the state is to ensure good working conditions for educators and protect their rights. This approach will help avoid teacher shortages and improve the quality of school and higher education. While most employees defend labor law and anti-discrimination laws, public school teachers also use procedural law to defend their interns. This paper will look at the primary laws and regulations that protect teachers’ rights to employment and their terms of termination to demonstrate the ways in which the state ensures an effective educational system.
The Due Process Rights of Teachers Regarding the Renewal or Termination of Their Employment
Public school teachers are employees of significant government interest as they provide education to the majority of the US population. Like any civil servant, public school teachers are a resource of the government, since the state funds public schools and, therefore, teachers receive their salaries from the state as well. For this reason, quality and long-term teacher performance is an important aspect that is supported and protected by national and state laws.
The main law that provides teachers with employment rights and defines the rules of terms and conditions is the US Constitution. According to the 14th amendment, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Koch, 2018, p. 106). This amendment applies to teachers in public schools after the Supreme Court decision on the Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill case, since they work under a contract and the deprivation of the opportunity to receive income is a deprivation of the right to property (Russo, 2019, p.169). In addition, the employment of teachers can also be viewed as property because they are often limited in their ability to change jobs and move from one school to another.
For example, if a teacher is fired from a previous job, this could affect their reputation, which will reduce the possibility of subsequent employment. Since teachers usually have one specialization, there are limited options for occupying other positions. Consequently, a teacher loses their job and the salary, which is their property.
For this reason, each state has regulations and procedural rules for tenure and non-tenure teachers. For example, a teacher’s employment contract can be terminated before the end of its term only for a valid reason, such as violation of laws, immoral behavior, or poor performance of work duties (Koch, 2018, p. 106). In addition, schools may not renew contracts with teachers due to a lack of funding, but teachers do not lose their rights and can take a position when it becomes available (Koch, 2018, p. 106). However, specific terms and rules differ from state to state according to local laws.
For example, the state of California and Connecticut provide different terms for renewing a teacher’s tenure contract. In California, a tenured teacher has preferred rights to reemployment for 39 months and has priority to be hired as a substitute teacher or to be relocated to another district timely (Education Commission of the States, 2020). In Connecticut, a teacher must be reemployed by the same board of education within five years (Education Commission of the States, 2020). Thus, while the employment rights of teachers in both states are protected, the conditions for renewal are placed differently.
Nonetheless, all states have a general requirement to conduct competency and professionalism reviews of teachers to substantiate the reason for their dismissal. In other words, the due process right requires that teachers receive an evaluation of their work and have the opportunity to correct their mistakes if they have shortcomings to avoid termination (Koch, 2018, p. 106). However, evaluation conditions also differ between states and school districts. For example, Berry and Shields (2017, p. 9) note that inaccurate teaching evaluations are one of the main reasons for young teachers leaving the professional field and the lack of educators in the United States. At the same time, Cohen et al. (2019) cite statistics and say that teachers in most states are rated as effective or better by their work performance.
Consequently, these assessments may not be fair for teachers and lead to the loss of their jobs. Nevertheless, under the Fourteenth Amendment, teachers can appeal if the results of the evaluation led to unfair dismissal or go to court (Koch, 2018, p. 106). Thus, public school teachers are protected from unfair dismissals, but at the same time, schools can terminate contracts with employees who do not do their job well or violate laws or regulations.
Moreover, like all employees, teachers are protected from discrimination in employment. Under the Constitution’s First Amendment, no one can be discriminated against or denied employment because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, origin, religion, or ethnicity. However, this rule has become relevant not so long ago, as back in 1985, there was a debate about whether the right to freedom of speech extends to teachers who declare their homosexuality (Graves, 2018). Moreover, this rule also has an exception today, like Catholic or other religious schools may refuse to hire a person of a different religion or LGBTQ +, which is not discriminatory under the Supreme Court’s decision on the case Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru (Spiggle, 2020). Thus, while teachers’ rights are protected to facilitate their long-term work in schools, educational institutions also have the opportunity to select the best candidates for teaching students and improving their education.
Therefore, this review demonstrates that teachers have due process rights regarding the renewal or termination of their employment, which guarantees them fair treatment by employers. This right is guaranteed by the Constitution, since the work and salaries of public school teachers are considered their property rights. This decision is logical, since teachers have fewer opportunities to change their specialization and receive additional income from the specifics of their profession.
This right ensures that teachers have the opportunity to correct their mistakes in their work when threatened with dismissal, and their contract cannot be terminated without good reason. This reason could be poor performance or violation of rules or laws. In addition, tenure teachers have the advantage of being re-employed, which increases their chances of employment and decreases the likelihood of leaving the field. However, if the teacher does not show sufficient competence as a result of the evaluation, the contract may not be renewed.
Moreover, since the assessment processes may be unfairly flawed, procedural law allows teachers to appeal the reasons for dismissal in court. In this way, the state ensures that the best teachers receive social security and continue to provide knowledge to students with high quality of work. These conditions increase the quality of teaching and the level of education in the states because they encourage schools to carry out quality checks on teachers’ work and thus maintain their competence.
Berry, B. & Shields, P. (2017). Solving the teacher shortage: Revisiting the lessons we’ve learned. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(8), 8-18. Web.
Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985). Web.
Cohen, J., Loeb, S., Miller, L. C., & Wyckoff, J. H. (2020). Policy implementation, principal agency, and strategic action: Improving teaching effectiveness in New York City middle schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(1), 134–160. Web.
Education Commission of the States (2020). What reemployment rights do teachers have following a reduction in force? Web.
Graves, K. (2018). A matter of public concern: The First Amendment and equal employment for LGBT educators. History of Education Quarterly, 58(3), 453–460. Web.
Koch, J. (2018). Teach: Introduction to education. SAGE Publications.
Russo, C.J. (Ed.) (2019). Handbook of comparative education law (Vol. 1). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Spiggle. T. (2020). The Supreme Court limits teacher protection against employment discrimination’, Forbes. Web.