Senate Approves Tenure Bill, 21-12

The Senate approved an overhaul of the state’s teacher tenure bill as proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam today, 21-12.
All 20 Senate Republicans voted for the bill (SB1528), joined by Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville. All other Senate Democrats voted against it.
The AP story follows, along with press releases from Democrats and Republicans on the matter.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democrats opposed to a Republican-supported proposal that would make it more difficult for teachers to get — and keep — tenure say a bipartisan discussion of the measure is lacking.
The legislation by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam passed the Senate 21-12 on a party-line vote Thursday. The companion bill is scheduled to be heard next week by the House Education Committee.
The measure would require a teacher to be on the job five years instead of three to get tenure and would create a way for job security to be revoked for poor teaching performance.
The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, and other Democrats have raised concerns. They say the evaluation system to be used to make tenure decisions is not in effect yet and that it has not been determined how best to rate educators whose subjects aren’t covered by the state’s value-added test scoring program.
An amendment by Democratic Sen. Eric Stewart of Belvidere would have delayed the measure for at least a year, but it failed Thursday, as did a similar proposal for the companion bill in the House Education Subcommittee the day before.
“My only concern is those teachers being evaluated should have the right to know what they’re being evaluated on as they go into the process,” Stewart said. “Let’s wait and really know what we’re talking about before the bill is implemented.”
Sen. Andy Berke noted how Democrats and Republicans worked together last year on education initiatives to help the state win $500 million in the national Race to the Top education grant competition.
“That’s not the way we’re doing things this year,” said the Chattanooga Democrat. “This wasn’t introduced with bipartisan support. When you do that, you miss the focus, which is our children.”
Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson agreed.
“Last year we proved that it can happen,” he said. “Why can’t that same process not be adopted this year? What’s the rush?”
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, who’s carrying the legislation for the governor, said federal regulations require specific initiatives to be in place by July and that teachers are not being targeted.
“There are improvements there to help our teachers,” he said. “We want them to feel as much at ease and as good about these reforms as we do. Because at the end of the day it’s about helping the children, not upsetting the adults.”
Tennessee Education Association lobbyist Jerry Winters said he understands the legislation is likely to pass this session, but that isn’t going to stop teachers from voicing their displeasure.
“It’s incumbent upon us to raise concerns, because again, tenure is an extremely important issue, for not only current teachers, but the individuals we’re trying to attract into the profession,” he said.

From the Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN) – The State Senate today passed a major teacher tenure reform initiative, fulfilling years of Republican efforts to reform Tennessee’s tenure system. The measure, which builds on the bold initiatives passed last year with Tennessee’s First to the Top program, is designed to improve student achievement and give them more opportunities to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.
“Tenure reform brings us one step closer to our goal of ensuring a high performing, quality teacher in every classroom,” said Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville). “It will also help us identify outstanding teachers as well as those who need our support to become outstanding teachers.”
Key Provisions of the Senate Bill 1528 include:
Extends teacher tenure probationary period from three to five years
Ties the teacher evaluation system to tenure eligibility and requires a teacher to score in the top two (out of a total of five) effectiveness categories on the evaluation in the two years immediately preceding becoming eligible for tenure
Expands the definition of “inefficiency” as a grounds for dismissal of a tenured teacher to include evaluations demonstrating an overall performance effectiveness level that is “below expectations” or “significantly below expectations”
For teachers tenured after the enactment of the new law, it requires a return to probationary status after two consecutive years scoring in the bottom two effectiveness categories of the evaluation
Moves non-renewal deadline from May 15 to June 15
Tennessee currently ranks 46th in student overall academic achievement.
The legislation uses the work of First to the Top which, in collaboration with teachers, creates an evaluation system that measures teacher effectiveness. The reform initiative passed last year requires annual evaluations using teacher effect data in teacher and principal evaluations. The evaluation system capitalizes on Tennessee’s two decades of experience with the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) in evaluating student achievement on a year-to-year basis.
The deadline for the evaluations to be put into place under the First to the Top law is July 2011. There has been a diligent process for determining what measure should be used for non-tested subject areas.
The bill also received approval in the House Education Subcommittee and is now pending action before the full House Education Committee next week.

From the Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats asked again Thursday why Republicans continue to focus on political payback against teachers instead of jobs creation and real education reform.
“We have spent yet another job-killing day telling our teachers that they’re the problem,” Democratic Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) said. “I’m waiting for Republicans to start blaming teachers for our rising unemployment.”
Senate Bill 1528 would extend the probationary period for tenure from three to five years and would require teachers to meet evaluation levels that have not been fully implemented. Republicans voted in lockstep in support of the bill, which passed 21-12.
Republicans defeated an amendment by Sen. Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere) to delay the provisions of the bill until the necessary evaluation procedures had been fully enacted.
“We announced a plant expansion in my district yesterday, but we’re not up here talking about jobs creation,” Stewart said. “Instead, the majority party is focused on punishing teachers, printing their own money and ignoring Tennesseans.”
The House version of the bill is scheduled to be discussed in the Education Committee next week.

One thought on “Senate Approves Tenure Bill, 21-12

  1. Jameson Manor

    Sen. Jim Kyle is completely on the money with his assessment. Remember tenure only assures that a teacher can’t be let go from a job without cause; poor performance is cause. In all other professions, employers give employees a 90 day probationary period; now teachers go from a 3 year probationary period to a 5 year. This is extremely partisan and is an out right demand by the Republicans of teacher to not support Democrats’ campaigns. The same pundents that support (R) agendas painted teachers as being wealthier than the average American and could afford to have more oversight, stated that people who make over $250,000 need lower taxes; they said that $250,000 was average income, and that Banks need less govermental oversight. Teachers make far less. The only thing you do by attacking the educators is you have fewer people entering the field and retirement doesn’t stop happening, so eventually fewer enter the field and the same leave the shortage of good teachers will be overwhelming.

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