The Minnesota Senate has approved, 36-26, a bill to end the tenure system that protects older teachers and makes newer teachers the “last hired, first fired,” says the Star Tribune. A similar bill has already passed the state House. After the two bills are reconciled, the bill will go to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature or veto.
According to Senate sponsor Pam Wolf, “In the event of a layoff, teachers would be laid off based on their effectiveness.” She also noted, “Seniority does not mean experience. … Experience does not necessarily mean effectiveness.” Opponents say the legislation is an attack on unions and an attempt to strip teachers of what little job security they have.
The Senate bill differs from the House version passed earlier this month by protecting new, probationary teachers from being automatically targeted for layoffs. It also includes a provision that prohibits districts from basing layoffs on financial grounds — an attempt to stop schools from targeting teachers with the most seniority and the highest salaries at layoff time. Those Senate changes were enough to persuade Dayton to ask for additional meetings with lawmakers before making a decision, but he has not hinted which way he’ll go.
Some teachers wondered why, out of all the education priorities in the state, a worst-case scenario plan for budget crises is the one that made it all the way to a vote. Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher called the Senate’s vote a wasted opportunity in a state where school districts already have the option of devising their own systems for dealing with layoffs — and 40 percent have systems that are not based strictly on seniority.
“Instead of tackling the serious issues facing our schools, these bills will make it easier for school administrators to shed experienced teachers for their less-expensive colleagues,” Dooher said. “These bills also confuse the layoff process with teacher effectiveness. Make no mistake, if there’s a problem with a teacher, there’s no reason for a principal to wait until a budget crisis to act.”
Wolf said that hiring and firing based on tenure is unfair to students and good teachers. Despite teacher and union protests, she said, “I have not heard from any students who oppose this bill, I have not heard from any parents who oppose this bill. I have only heard from [the teacher union] Education Minnesota.”
Sourrce: Star Tribune, 2/28/12, By Jennifer Brooks
[Editor's Note: The Minnesota School Boards Association provides background on the bill and its status in its Capitol Compass.
Tenure reform laws have been sweeping through state legislatures across the country, with Colorado's being one of the first. In February 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Denver Post reporting on a final measure to implement the state's tenure reform law that passed in 2010. After a bill revising the rules about how teachers and principals will be evaluated and how they will earn or lose tenure easily passed through Colorado’s general assembly with 99 out of a possible 100 votes, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law.]