Teacher tenure is in the news again, this time in Los Angeles, where the local paper has run a story that essentially finds that everyone is given tenure regardless of their actual teaching ability. Then, once they have tenure, those teachers are pretty much never fired.
This is sure to drive the teacher tenure opponents up the wall and probably with good reason. That said, I don't know that this is really the focus of all that's going wrong in our schools. I think it was Diane Ravitch who made the point that if unions and tenure decisions are really so bad, why aren't they ruining middle class suburban school systems? Fair question and one to which I haven't heard an answer.
However, it seems like tenure advocates have to be slapping themselves on this one too. Best case scenario is that tenure looks bad and hurts the PR for the unions and for teachers in general. (The worst case is that it actually hurts students learning.) So when you see a story like this, you know it's just hurting your own case.
I personally don't think that tenure is what's causing any sort of significant problems in our system. But that's no excuse for not being intelligent about how it's awarded and what it means. The article from the LA Times shows that neither of those things are taking place. It's not the end of the world, but it is a problem.