The Nevada Senate approved legislative bills that would make it easier for school districts to fire underperforming teachers, reports Associated Press in Education Week. Teachers’ unions have protested the measures, and sent a casket to the governor’s office to symbolize the devastation of the proposed school cuts. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce calls the measures “tremendous.”
The Democrat-sponsored bills would also end the policy of first laying off teachers with the least seniority. That “last in, first out” provision was a key element sought by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, and the Senate’s approval greases the wheels of ongoing budget negotiations. The bills, based on recommendations from the group that developed Nevada’s application for Race to the Top federal funding, extend a “probationary period” for new teachers and administrators from two years to three years. Employees’ contracts can be discontinued at the end of a school year during probation. Other sections of the proposed laws set up a four-tier evaluation system to replace an existing two-tier scale, and send teachers back to probationary status if they earn two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations.
The Assembly, which passed diluted versions of the bill weeks ago, need to agree with the stronger language approved by their Senate counterparts. Assembly leaders said they won’t move the bills forward until they get other budget concessions from Republicans.
Representatives from the Nevada State Education Association teachers union have fought the measures throughout the session, saying they don’t allow enough due process protection for newer teachers if they are unfairly demoted. Union representatives accused lawmakers of piling cuts onto teachers—starting with a proposed pay cut, calling on them to contribute to retirement plans for the first time, and approving a bill that could impose more unpaid furlough days. They brought a casket full of protest letters to the capitol.
“It’s an opportunity for administrators, through evaluations and observations, to determine earlier if there’s someone who shouldn’t be in the classroom,” said Dotty Merrill, executive director of the Nevada Association of School Boards. “There will be greater effectiveness in classroom instruction.”
The Republican governor and Democratic sponsors of the measures said the bills put Nevada in line with a national movement to make it easier to lay off bad teachers and keep good ones.
Source: Education Week, 6/1/11, by Associated Press
[Editor’s Note: As the Nevada bills’ sponsors note, there is a national movement to roll back seniority-based layoffs, reform tenure systems, and to incorporate some type of “value-added” component to teacher evaluations. See the first and second links below for Legal Clips coverage of this national trend. At the third link, the Center for Public Education provides a comprehensive analysis of the drawbacks and the potential of “value-added” teacher evaluation models, with invaluable information for school boards examining a change in their own systems.]