Ken Landes’ guest column in the Examiner on Thursday (”It’s time for teacher tenure to go”) had several misleading statements about Missouri’s teacher tenure law.

Ken Landes’ guest column in the Examiner on Thursday (”It’s time for teacher tenure to go”) had several misleading statements about Missouri’s teacher tenure law.

As a high school principal who evaluated teachers for 23 years and a state legislator who served on the Education Committee for 14 years (two of them as chairman), I have worked with the Missouri teacher tenure law quite a bit. The teacher tenure law is found in Missouri Revised Statutes, Sections 168.102 to 168.130.

Mr. Landes’ made five statements that I think are misleading or wrong.

1. Teacher tenure did start late in the 1800s, but the Missouri law went into effect on July 1, 1970. I taught from 1956 to 1965 and did not have tenure.

2. Mr. Landes states “good teachers never need tenure to protect their job.” Wrong. I have seen school board members attempt to fire good teachers who gave their children low grades even though the grades were fair. I’ve also seen administrators who “did not like” a teacher and recommended dismissal as well as administrators who dismissed teachers to make room for friends, relatives or a coach.

Good teachers need protection. As stated in the Jan. 28 Joplin Globe, “School boards are ever changing. We know teachers need some protection,” and “Bad teachers, just like any bad employee, linger because their bosses fail to deal with problems. Tenure, in Missouri, does not mean that a teacher is an untouchable, although that’s the stereotype that’s being pushed by some with an agenda.” The law spells out how a tenured teacher can be fired. Read the statute.

3. Mr. Landes insinuates that a superintendent might give a bad teacher a good reference if the teacher agrees to resign. In my 31 years as a public school teacher and principal, I never saw this happen. Superintendents have to live with their reputations. Even so, tenured teachers who move to another district must teach four additional years as a probationary teacher before earning tenure in the new district. Four years is enough time for any effective administrator to determine the quality of a teacher.

4. The assertion that if tenure was eliminated, “most of the non-producing teachers would do better, knowing their job depended on it” is an insult to the tenured teachers who have been doing and continue to do a good job.

5. Mr. Landes indicates that good teachers should not defend tenure because it only protects bad teachers. Wrong again. It is precisely the good teachers who need tenure to protect their jobs against unfair dismissal. Poor teachers can be dismissed whether or not they have tenure. The tenure law establishes the process for dismissing tenured teachers.

It is frustrating to read criticism of teachers from someone who has not walked a mile in the teachers’ shoes.