The tenure system has been significantly affected by recent developments involving reduction in force due to financial emergency. For nearly two decades, there was a period of educational prosperity marked by rapid expansion of facilities, programs, and faculties. The current picture, however, is one of declining enrollments, expensive operations, and legislative budget cuts. National, state, and local governments are facing serious fiscal problems resulting from revenue shortfalls and unbalanced budgets. In Washington,
and elsewhere throughout the nation, one of the steps taken in response to the economic crisis in education has been a reduction in force on the grounds of financial emergency. The Washington legislature passed RCW 28B.50.873, which authorized the declaration of a financial emergency and termination of faculty if there was a reduction in funds by the governor or legislature. The statute was upheld by the Washington Supreme Court against
a challenge that it was unconstitutional in Washington Education Association v. State. Although financial emergency is not a new concept, it has become more important because of present conditions. The crux of the problem lies in balancing the preservation of
financial stability with the protection of academic freedom through the tenure system. The educational institution needs a tool that will assist in coping with a fiscal crisis. There is a danger, however, that financial emergency could serve as an excuse for dismissal actually
based upon conduct which would otherwise be shielded by tenure provisions. Tenured faculty members seek protection of their contractual, statutory, or constitutional rights to continued employment. The effectiveness of tenure is weakened by frequent declarations of financial emergency and subsequent reductions in force.