News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment awarding a Memphis teacher back pay and damages after the board failed to comply with the Teacher Tenure Act when it dismissed her.
Saundra Thompson, a tenured teacher in the Memphis City Schools, was terminated by the school board in April 2007 for failing to return to work after taking extended sick time. The board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.
Ms. Thompson filed suit alleging violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. She was granted summary judgment and awarded reinstatement, back pay, damages and legal fees of $325,419. On appeal by the school board, the Court of Appeals remanded the case after it determined a factual dispute existed as to whether Ms. Thompson requested more sick leave prior to her termination, or whether she forfeited her tenure by making no such request.
The Supreme Court, in its holding today, reverses the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the trial court’s summary judgment, determining that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. The Court notes that by dismissing Ms. Thompson without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law.
To read the Saundra Thompson v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow teachers to qualify for tenure if they “meet expectations” on their evaluations is likely dead this session.
The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington failed 7-5 in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Education Committee.
Under the state’s new teacher evaluation system, teachers can gain tenure only if they score in the top two ratings two consecutive years. A three on the five-point rating scale is “meets expectations.”
The proposal would allow teachers who meet expectations or above in the last two years of the probationary period to receive tenure.
Critics of the new system have included the tenure change in a list of recommended changes to the process.
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.
By a 21-12 vote, the Senate today concurred with a minor House amendment to give final approval to Gov. Bill Haslam’s plans for revising the state’s teacher tenure law.
The measure (SB1528) now goes to Haslam’s desk for his signature. It’s the first of his priority bills this session – the others being revision of charter school laws and tort reform – to win final approval.
Comment from the governor’s mouthpiece, David Smith: “Gov. Haslam is extremely pleased that this important piece of legislation is now on its way to his desk. Nothing makes as much of a difference in a child’s education as the teacher at the front of the classroom. We have many great teachers in Tennessee, and this is a step toward having every classroom led by a great teacher.”
The House joined the Senate today in approving changes in Tennessee’s teacher tenure system advocated by Gov. Bill Haslam.
The vote on SB1528 was 65-32 with all no votes coming from Democrats. (One Democrat, John DeBerry of Memphis, voted yes, as did Independent Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton. One Repubican, Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville, and one Democrat, Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville, were absent.)
The bill was approved earlier by the Senate 21-12, also with all no votes coming from Democrats.
A key provision of the bill will extend the time a teacher will spend on probatition before being granted tenure from three years to five years.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who served as lead sponsor on the measure, said that may help many teachers obtain tenure. As things stand now, he said teachers must be either dismissed after three years or be granted tenure. With the change, he said, teachers on the borderline may be given an extra two years to prove their skills and earn tenure.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh sought to amend the measure to postpone implementation of the revised tenure system for a year. That would allow a new teacher evaluation system to be implemented, he said, and it is “getting the horse before the cart” to have a new tenure system before the evaluation system is in place.
Fitzhugh’s amendment was killed down on a party-line vote. Fitzhugh and some other Democrats said they would have supported the overall bill if the delaying amendment had been approved.
The bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence on relatively minor amendments. Prepared statements from the governor, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Rep. Bill Dunn are below..
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state’s teachers have serious reservations about a measure that would make it tougher for them to get tenure, but they’re not going to “adamantly oppose” the changes, a lobbyist for their union said Monday.
The proposal by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam would require a teacher to be on the job five years instead of three to secure tenure and also would create a way for job security to be revoked for poor teaching performance.
Despite the controversial proposal, Haslam said during his State of the State address Monday evening to a joint session of the General Assembly that his goal is “to make Tennessee a place where great educators want to teach and feel rewarded and appreciated for their efforts.”
Of course there’s an element of political payback in Republican-sponsored bills attacking the Tennessee Education Association, opines Frank Cagle, but the current legislative move runs deeper than that…. And may not be a good thing for Republican politics in the next election.
An excerpt: This year, the House Republicans are dusting off and trotting out a plethora of education bills, long bottled up in committee, because they now have overwhelming control. It isn’t so much a sudden assault on the state education system as it is a dam breaking. All the bills are surfacing at once.
Alongside House Republican education bills you also have Haslam pushing for education reforms. I’m sure Haslam is not pleased that his education agenda is caught up in the more draconian agenda of conservative Republicans. His bill to extend the time before a teacher gets tenure and to use test scores as a measure is coming alongside a bill to outlaw teachers’ collective bargaining. His support for more charter schools is on the agenda, but so is a bill to allow counties to elect school superintendents–a measure he opposes.
The Republicans have the votes to pass pretty much whatever they want. The attitude of many of the incoming freshman Tea Party members is to deliver on the promises they made during their campaigns. But the TEA is organized statewide and has the ability to raise money. Some of the freshmen won in Democratic districts or swing districts. There could be major blowback come the next legislative election.
It would likely behoove conservative freshman legislators and TEA members to work out some compromises to lessen the impact of some of the education bills and to defuse some of the anger on display in downtown Nashville on Saturday.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is looking to reassure educators that his proposed tenure changes are not an attack on the teaching profession.
The Republican governor acknowledged in a meeting with Williamson County educators on Friday that a system to evaluate teachers based on student testing data has yet to be perfected.
“Coming up with that evaluation process that people can buy into, that’s the holy grail of education right now,” Haslam said at the breakfast roundtable at Hillsboro Middle School.
“Everybody understands why we need to have it, but nobody’s really comfortable with where we are.”
But Haslam said concerns over those details shouldn’t delay his legislation to overhaul rules for obtaining a job status that he said has become “a job for life” for teachers in Tennessee.
Under Haslam’s proposal, teachers would not be eligible for tenure for at least five years — up from the current three-year probationary period — and they could lose that status later if students perform poorly on standardized tests.
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.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed overhaul the state’s teacher tenure system cleared a key House committee Wednesday and is poised for passage Thursday on the Senate floor.
The House Education Subcommittee, which had been considered the only potential stumbling block for the tenure bill, spent about an hour debating HB2012 before approving it on an 8-5 vote.
All Republicans on the panel voted for the bill, joined by Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis. The five no votes came from other Democrats on the subcommittee.
Democrats focused their criticism on timing of the proposal, which as written will take effect before a new teacher evaluation system is implemented. The evaluation system will be used in determining whether a teacher is granted tenure, which makes dismissal more difficult.