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Thursday
Mar012012

MN State Senate Strikes Down Teacher Tenure

According to the StarTribune, a bill to end the tenure system in Minnesota was passed 36-26 by the Minnesota Senate on Monday, moving it a step closer to Gov. Mark Dayton's desk. A similar bill has already passed the House. Once differences in the two bills are resolved, it will go to Dayton for his signature or veto. Senate sponsor Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, herself a middle school teacher, said the change restores basic fairness. "In the event of a layoff, teachers would be laid off based on their effectiveness," Wolf said, noting that under the current system, a teacher could have decades of experience but still end up first in line for layoffs by transfering to another school and losing seniority. 

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.

Opponents say the legislation is an attack on unions and an attempt to strip teachers of what little job security they have. 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 Monday'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 in a statement. "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."

The legislation would rely on a teacher evaluation system that is still being worked out and which would not go into effect until 2016-17 school year -- the same year the legislation would take effect.

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