While members of the education establishment have blasted TIME magazine’s recent cover story on the fight over teacher tenure, reformers like former television news anchor Campbell Brown offer a different type of response.

The label and imagery of “Rotten Apples” at the front of the magazine has driven much of the debate about the article. That is a shame, because it has overshadowed the substantive reality explored in the piece.

We know the vast majority of teachers are committed, caring and conscientious. They are not rotten; they are the core of our success stories in public schools.

The real issue is covered in the body of the story itself, and in the victorious Vergara case on which the Time piece is based: tenure, dismissal and seniority laws that work to keep grossly ineffective teachers in class. The most telling anecdote came from the superintendent whose singular request to improve his schools was not more public money or supplies but “control over my workforce.”

Why? Because states with flawed teacher laws are doing the unfathomable. They are working against their own stated mission of teaching all children well. In New York, the courts have found that access to at least a sound, basic education is guaranteed by the state constitution – and yet state laws actually undermine that.

It happens because tenure is granted to teachers long before school leaders have a reasonable chance to determine if those teachers are effective. It happens because dismissal laws make it nearly impossible for schools to fire teachers deemed grossly ineffective or even dangerous. It happens because teachers are laid off based solely on their level of seniority, without regard to their quality.