Wisconsin teachers have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Greenfield School District in the Milwaukee suburbs. According to their complaint, the district violated state law by requiring that teachers sign their contracts in a timely manner or pay a fine. The teachers also allege that the new contracts permit the school board to terminate any teacher who refuses to abide by the contract or provide a proper education to the students.
On one hand, taxpayers in Wisconsin and throughout the country should rejoice that school districts are defining terms for dismissal or “non-renewal”. There is no more dysfunctional or unjustified provision than “teacher tenure”, which guarantees a position for life without significant review, revisions, or rejection for cause. On the other hand, teachers need protection from the fraught and growing politics of public education, but not through class-action lawsuits, because they put undue pressure on school districts, taxpayers, and students.
Districts and unions should not inhibit teachers’ pay. Instead of punishing bad teachers, merit pay should reward good teachers. Let parents choose where they enroll their children. If parents can choose the schools, then school districts can outline student codes of conduct to protect themselves from future legal actions. Tort reform would curtail frivolous civil actions, since disgruntled parents would exercise their liberty to send their kids elsewhere. Governor Walker’s reforms protect employees’ paychecks and curb collective bargaining. Now Walker should enact reforms to prevent legal challenges and judicial rulings from defining the working relationship between school district and staff.