Haslam Signs Teacher Tenure Bill as Charter School Bill Advances

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday signed into law a measure to make it more difficult for teachers to obtain and keep tenure in Tennessee shortly after another one of his education initiatives passed a key House panel.
Haslam signed the bill in a ceremony at the state Capitol shortly after the House Education Committee advanced a bill that would lift a cap on charter schools in Tennessee.
The new law will allow teachers to qualify for tenure after five years on the job, longer than the current three. It will also provide a mechanism for teachers to lose tenure if they perform poorly in consecutive years.
“I think, quite frankly, three years was too short a time to grant something with such a great privilege like tenure,” he said. “I think the bar had been set too low.”
Haslam reiterated that the legislation is not intended to undermine teachers but help enhance their performance.
“Several folks have said … this is about pointing fingers at teachers,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Great teachers are exactly what we need in the classroom.”
The charter schools measure was approved by the House panel on a 12-5 vote. It now heads for the House Finance Committee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
Charter schools are funded with state and local tax dollars but don’t have to meet some of the state regulations regular schools do as they try to find innovative ways to improve student learning.
Under current law, the number of charter schools is capped at 90 statewide. There are currently 40 in all: 25 in Memphis, 10 in Nashville, 3 in Hamilton County and one each in Knoxville and Shelby County.
The proposal carried by Republican Rep. Mark White of Memphis would remove the cap. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment to cap the schools at 120 up until 2015 failed.
Besides removing the cap, the proposal also allows any student in the charter school’s jurisdiction to attend the school.
Democratic Rep. Lois DeBerry of Memphis said she likes the idea of charter schools, but removing the cap and expanding enrollment at the same time is too much.
“This gives me heartburn,” she said. “At some point, we need to sit down and reason together.”
Opponents of the charter schools legislation say attention should be given to improving public schools.
Note: Haslam’s handout on the occasion is below.

Press release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – A crowd of supporters packed the Old Supreme Court Chambers today as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed his tenure reform bill into law, marking his first legislative victory and helping solidify Tennessee at the forefront of education reform in the country.
This historic legislation marks a major education reform milestone in a process that began last year with the bipartisan First to the Top legislation.
“If Tennessee is going to become the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, then it is critical that we improve education because businesses are looking to compete with employees educated for the 21st Century workplace,” Haslam said.
“We cannot remain toward the bottom of the pack if we are going to compete for those jobs, and nothing makes as much of a difference in a child’s education as the quality of the teacher at the head of the classroom,” he added.
The legislation, SB 1528/HB 2012, changes a teacher’s probationary period before becoming eligible for tenure from three to five years as well as links tenure status to performance evaluations, utilizing Tennessee’s extensive student data that is the envy of states around the nation.
The legislation also gives principals the flexibility to keep an non-tenured teacher after the five year period. Previously a teacher would either receive tenure or be fired after three years.
“Our goal in education is to grow the number of college graduates and provide a better educated work force to attract employers, so our effort begins with making sure every child in every classroom learns from a great teacher,” Haslam said. “We have many great teachers in Tennessee, and we can have even more.”
“True tenure reform has been a dream of Republican legislators for as long as I can remember,” said Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey. “I am proud and honored to stand with our Republican governor as we usher in the beginning of a new era in education in Tennessee where the interests of children come first and our focus remains on creating the most qualified teachers in the nation.”
“Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students,” said state House Speaker Beth Harwell. “We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.”
“This is the next step in the continuum of education reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “Last year, Tennessee made great strides in First to the Top in beginning to address the unacceptably low educational attainment in our state. In step two of these efforts, we once again have the opportunity to lead the nation in education reform by developing a system that treats teachers as professionals and recognizes the critical impact of their work. Effectiveness must be the core criteria for gaining and retaining teacher tenure.”
“Study after study shows when our students have the highest quality teachers leading them, they will reach their full potential,” said state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. “I’m proud to support the Governor’s efforts to identify and protect the best educators in our schools. Ultimately, this law ensures our next generation will be better equipped to enter the workforce and make Tennessee a better place to live and raise a family.”
“The Governor laid out a clear vision for remaking education in Tennessee,” said state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville. “He believes we can raise student achievement by recognizing teachers who are distinguishing themselves as high-performing educators in the classroom. I believe he is correct and this law helps us attain this important objective.”
Other education initiatives for Haslam include an expansion of charter schools in the state as well as allowing HOPE Scholarship recipients to use the money for summer classes.

Leave a Reply