The debate over teacher tenure, now fiercely under way in New York, California, and North Carolina and surely coming soon to a state near you, is usually framed in terms of education. Tenure advocates insist it’s a benefit that offsets relatively low wages and is necessary for better teaching; critics say it keeps too many ineffective teachers in their jobs and hinders reform. But there’s another way to look at it: If tenure is a benefit, like medical or dental, then it’s worth actual money. Taking it away is big pay cut.
Just how big a pay cut is hard to say. So far no one has offered enough money to persuade teachers to give up tenure. Former D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee tried and failed. Republicans in the North Carolina state senate floated a proposal that would have given teachers an 11 percent raise if they gave up their tenure. Under their plan, the average teacher would have gotten $5,200 more a year. The legislators abandoned the plan in early July after facing opposition in the House, an indication that the teachers weren’t happy with the offer.