Protecting Mediocre Teachers in Illinois

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In the last issue of TQB, we learned that sexual abuse of students is the primary reason that public school teachers in West Virginia lose their license--not necessarily because there are a lot of miscreants in the Mountain State but because that's how serious an offense must be before districts even try to fire a teacher. In East St. Louis, Illinois last week, the court dismissed a DNA test that determined with 99 percent certainty that the assistant principal impregnated a 14-year old girl at his school, with the result being that the man got to keep his job.

Illinois reporter Scott Reeder recently produced a disturbing expose, quantifying the problems surrounding the dismissals of teachers. He learned that only 7 percent of Illinois school districts have made an attempt to fire a teacher in the last 18 years, and only two-thirds of those districts were successful. A newspaper chain in downstate Illinois reported that out of 95,000 tenured teachers, only two teachers a year, on average, are fired for incompetence. It often costs school districts $100,000 in legal and administrative costs to fire a teacher. Rather than going through costly arbitration, districts with limited funds will simply put up with the incompetent teacher. Not only do state laws and collective bargaining agreements make it costly to fire a tenured teacher, documenting their shortfalls is too difficult since tenured teachers in Illinois are only evaluated every two years.