Teacher Tenure Laws Challenged Across Several States

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Source: RAND, “Inspiring Better Teacher Planning and Instruction or Just Adding Noise?,” rand.org, July 20, 2016

Challenges to teacher tenure laws have recently been underway across the nation in various states including Kansas, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

On Jan. 20, 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by the Kansas National Education Association seeking to re-instate the teacher tenure rights that were repealed by a 2014 law. Democratic legislators in the state introduced a bill to restore tenure protections for teachers, but the House Education Committee chair indicated he will not advance the bill this year.

In Minnesota, a group of parents and the Partnership for Educational Justice sued to repeal the state’s tenure law, which grants teacher tenure after three years. The group is currently appealing an Oct. 2016 court ruling that threw out their case, arguing that the law prevents bad teachers from being fired and contributes to racial achievement gaps.

In New Jersey, where teachers receive tenure after four years, the State Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by Governor Chris Christie seeking to end the state’s seniority protections for teachers. In its Jan. 31, 2017 decision, the State Supreme Court told the Governor he must take his case to trial court first, and did not offer an opinion on the tenure law itself.

Challenges to teacher tenure in other states are also underway.

According to the National Education Association, tenure laws are important to “prevent good teachers from being fired for bad reasons,” and protect “proven teachers from discharge for such arbitrary and unfair reasons as advocating on behalf of their students, speaking out in support of educational reforms, and standing up to unfair or abusive administrators.”

Other organizations believe that teacher tenure laws go too far. According to the Partnership for Educational Justice, “in many states, the policies providing job protections for teachers are so extreme that they amount to ironclad jobs for life, irrespective of demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom. State laws and local policies must strike a better balance in protecting the interests of students, and should be recalibrated to protect our most effective teachers, rather than simply those who have been in the classroom longest.”

There are currently teacher tenure laws in 46 states, where teachers obtain tenure after 1-5 years on the job. Approximately 2.3 million teachers have tenure protection in the United States.


Emmanuel Felton, “Minn. Teacher Tenure Lawsuit Revived,” edweek.org, Jan. 17, 2017

Partnership for Educational Justice, “FAQ,” edjustice.org (accessed Feb. 16, 2017)

Peter Hancock, “Kansas Supreme Court Rejects KNEA Suit on Teacher Tenure,” ljworld.com, Jan. 20, 2017

Peter Hancock, “House Considers Bill to Reinstate Teacher Due Process Rights,” ljworld.com, Feb. 14, 2017

National Council on Teacher Tenure, “Policy Issue: Tenure,” nctq.org (accessed Feb. 16, 2017)

National Education Association, “Tenure Safeguards Good Teachers from Being Fired for Bad Reasons,” nea.org, Jan. 14, 2015

Salvador Rizzo, “Top Court Declines to Hear Christie Tenure Law Challenge,” northjersey.com, Jan. 31, 2017