News Story

Breaking Bad: Dearborn Gives Four Problem Teachers $197K to Go Away

Tenure Removal Too Costly

At the Dearborn Public Schools, the administration wanted to get rid of two teachers accused of sexual misconduct and two more that were accused of possession of illegal substances outside of school. The district ended up paying the four teachers a combined total of $197,353 to get them to quit their jobs.

Yet this outcome may have been the fiscally prudent one from the perspective of the local taxpayers. The district says its analysis of going through a costly and lengthy tenure process in each of those cases would have cost a total of nearly $400,000. They based this on the costs of two cases in which they did go through the tenure process.

“The perception is you are buying out a bad teacher. ‘Why are we paying these people?’” said Timothy Currier, the attorney who handles tenure cases for Dearborn Public Schools.

But Currier said it’s cheaper than going through the tenure process, which can cost the district more than $170,000 for two cases and take about 10 months.

By contrast, buyouts can happen as quickly as six months and, with a settlement, there is a certainty the teacher is gone, Currier said. Teachers are more willing to take a settlement if their record doesn’t show that they were fired, he added.

Other public schools have made the same decision to settle with teachers instead of going through the tenure process.

The state House of Representatives and state Senate recently passed a package of bills that make it easier to fire ineffective teachers. The bills are waiting for Gov. Rick Snyder’s expected signature.

According to documents provided by the Dearborn Public Schools, it has settled with 12 teachers accused of wrongdoing since 2006.

“This gives a better sense of the true cost to taxpayers of an antiquated and expensive government employee privilege,” said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s education director. “It doesn’t matter if a district pursues tenure charges against or strikes a deal with an ineffective teacher, taxpayers are on the hook.”

A Van Beek article about how to remove a problem teacher in 13 “easy” steps appeared in Capitol Confidential last year.

The American Federation of Teachers' president for Michigan, David Hecker, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Dearborn Public School teachers belong to an AFT affiliate.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.