A Los Angeles County judge's ruling last month that tenure and several other state laws governing the hiring and firing of teachers run afoul of the state constitution was a step in the right direction. But governments have more to do if they hope to attract the teaching force our country needs.
In his ruling, Judge Rolf M. Treu found that 1 to 3 percent of California's teachers -- between 2,750 and 8,250 in all -- are "grossly ineffective" and that a single year with such a teacher costs students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings per classroom. The judge went on to note that attempting to fire such a teacher can take as long as a decade and cost between $50,000 and $450,000. That's because of the higher level of job protection that California teachers receive once they are granted tenure after a probationary period of less than two years.