Should teachers be worried about their jobs?
That’s the short answer. But how many jobs will be lost, or job descriptions changed will be to differing degrees under the possible scenarios.
First let’s talk about Shelby County Schools teachers in the (likely) event of municipal school districts. All teachers, and principals, would have to reapply for their job. That means if you love your child’s teacher, he or she has to decide if they want to leave their tenure and accrued benefits to join the new (untested) school system.
Some will not want to leave, which leaves the municipal school districts looking to the youngest and most inexperienced teachers, or recruiting from outside the area. (Which is an expenditure not considered in the muni schools start-up costs, by the way.) This also means a surplus of teachers in the new unified Shelby County Schools. They will be combined with existing Memphis City Schools teachers to compete for the jobs in the old no longer existent Memphis City Schools. Are you following? That means layoffs.
Next lets talk about the possibility of the “path to autonomy” model school system. This means schools or groups of schools would be able to hire non-profits to run the schools instead of the centralized superintendent. That means charter organizations, churches, municipal foundations, or any other non-profit would run the schools. These organizations are not in the practice of using unions. That means all the teachers currently at those schools would have to reapply and leave the union. Union life as teachers know it today, would be over.
Charter organizations typically treat their teachers more like corporate professionals than the typical “union teacher.” They often work from 7am until 4pm. Students (and teachers) often attend schools through mid June and head back in late July. And they are not paid on a set scale based on tenure and degree like in unions. If you are better, you get a raise. If you are outstanding, you are put on the track to run a school. There’s no extra job protection for length of stay at a district.
Also, path to autonomy would mean major layoffs at the administrative level. Nearly all school governance would happen at the school level. The need for a “cabinet” of high level officials and support staff just wouldn’t be there. Plus, the big pot of money to pay for all that administration would be gone, the dollars follow the student to the charter school.
The other option is the “unified model.” This keeps operations at the “new” Shelby County Schools pretty much like it is now. Except things need to change or the money problems will continue to worsen. Governor Bill Haslam has made it clear he wants more charter schools in Tennessee. He has hired a state superintendent to be in charge of taking over failing schools and turn them into charters or charter-like schools. It’s already happening. Six schools in Frayser and North Memphis are on this path. Teachers will have to re-apply for their jobs and be willing to work a 7am-4pm shift.
As Tennessee continues down this path, the district will have to resize the administration or die. The administration already denied more than a dozen charter schools because they couldn’t afford to have the per pupil dollars follow the student to the charter. That will not be allowed much longer. The Governor and state legislature have made it clear, it will only get easier for charters to get approved. Right now school boards must approve charters; legislation us being discussed that would eliminate that requirement.
Education is changing. And the teachers will feel it the most. Jobs will be lost. The unions will be left behind.