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Judge: Bad teachers cost kids big bucks

A California Superior Court judge has ruled that teacher tenure "disproportionately" affects poor and  minority students, saying the evidence "shocks the conscience."

The judge sided with the arguments of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who argued that students can lose millions of dollars in potential future income if they aren't educated properly.

Jennifer Medina is a reporter based in Los Angeles who covers the city for The New York TimesShe says the judge's ruling will make teachers more accountable:

"What's at issue here is how teachers are hired and fired. The way teachers are fired is a very long and complex process that makes it very difficult to get rid of teachers that administrators and principals deem ineffective."

Medina says tenure has been viewed by many opponents as the catalyst for a vicious cycle that puts kids at risk. 

"Teachers tend to want to get out of (low performing schools) and so those schools have the highest turnover. When you get a high turnover of teachers it's seen as a less desirable school and you're much more likely to get teachers people want to get rid of. People refer to it as the dance of the lemons."

Medina says this effort in California was bank-rolled by Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch, and he plans on pushing the initiative elsewhere, so this case could have an impact on the entire U.S. educational system.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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