Letters

One Alternative to Tenure: State Pay Could Follow Job Changes

Regarding the article "More States Yank Teacher-Tenure Rug," May 7: The immediate solution to the problem of tenure would be to have teachers paid by the state and not by the local school administration. Pay levels and benefits could be carried from system to system.

To obtain the experience necessary for positions of their choice, young teachers might find it advantageous to start in schools that have trouble obtaining teachers because of location. Experience could be built, and "sold" as a benefit when seeking employment opportunities. As it stands now, teachers must get into the best situation as early as possible and then stay put.

The proposal mentioned above would be fairer. Teachers could be fired (with some cause) but could also find new employment. The present system is not good because it saddles school systems with teachers they no longer want, and it also makes it impossible for teachers with more than a few years' experience to seek another position within the teaching field.

There are more alternatives, but none of them as simple or as far-reaching as paying teachers over a wider administrative structure.

Ronald Lacharite

Newton, Mass.

Liberalism helped candidates in '94

Contrary to common perceptions, a recent study reveals that Democratic incumbents did not lose the US House in 1994 because they were too liberal. Being a liberal, as opposed to a moderate Democrat, actually enhanced significantly a politician's likelihood of election success. This was true particularly in House districts that were marginal for Democrats in 1992 (i.e., liberals did not win just because they were in safe, liberal districts).

It is true, however, that those 15 percent of Democratic incumbents who would be considered conservative also fared better than moderates, though not as well as liberals. Thus, at least for Democrats, "moderation in all things" is not a wise policy.

Our statistical analyses correlated incumbent political ideology (using ratings by the conservative American Conservative Union and liberal Americans for Democratic Action) not only with incumbents' wins and losses, but also with their percentage of votes received. We focused primarily on Democratic incumbents, though a separate analysis for Republican incumbents revealed a near-negligible relationship between ideology and electoral success.

So why did the Democrats lose in '94? Our analyses did find that Democratic incumbents lost in districts in which they were vulnerable or in which President Clinton had done poorly in 1992. (Other factors were important too, including the economy and cynicism about government.) While Republican challengers did make significant gains in 1994, it wasn't because the Democrats in office were too liberal.

Political observers said the lesson of '94 was that Democrats must move to the right to win. While that strategy might work for moderates, they'd actually be better off becoming more liberal. There was a misreading of the '94 election. We'll see what Democratic candidates in the upcoming election learn from the previous one.

Leonard Williams

Manchester, Ind.

History and Political Science Dept.

Neil Wollman

Psychology Dept.

Manchester College

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