Why Do Teachers Have Tenure?

By Bill Maher

In California, like many other states, public school teachers are granted tenure - essentially permanent employment - after 18 months on the job, or two school years. After you put in all that time, any attempts to fire you if you happen to, you know, suck at teaching, or burn out, are subject to a lengthy and often prohibitively costly process, which insures that it rarely happens. Additionally, the teachers unions have set up a "last hired, first fired" seniority system where newer teachers, regardless of merit, must be let go first when layoffs occur. So sorry, go-getter! We've got to keep that washed up drunk who shows the kids Glory instead of teaching the Civil War.

Well, a group of California students took the state to court over teacher tenure. Their argument? That it's easier to get the Pope out of Rome than fire a bad teacher, and that violates their right to a good education. Except that these aren't just nine kids with pluck looking to get attention on their Harvard application. They're financially backed by David Welch, a Silicon Valley tech magnate, and are represented by a team of high-profile lawyers, including Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general of the United States. This is potentially big. 
What exactly is the argument for teacher tenure? According to the teacher's union's lawyer, "Tenure is an amenity, just like salary and vacation, that allows districts to recruit and retain teachers despite harder working conditions, pay that hasn't kept pace and larger class sizes." 

...Okay, but so is offering them a car. That's not an argument for why the teaching profession should be virtually immune from the normal threat of termination that just about every other employee in the nation lives under. Additionally, Hollywood writers, producers, and directors all have unions, but none provide any sort of protection like tenure; they mainly exist to argue for compensation and benefits. If you don't do your job, you still get fired. As it should be. Because this is America, and some amount of job insecurity is a good thing. It's why when you go to Greece or Italy you find yourself in a line 15 people deep because the person behind the desk doesn't really care about helping you. Because they're never getting fired. 

Shouldn't teachers' unions drop tenure and focus on compensation and benefits too?