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Posted on Thu, Jun 9, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Michigan House passes teacher tenure reform bills

By Kyle Feldscher

The Michigan House of Representatives approved a package of bills Thursday that will dramatically alter teacher tenure in Michigan by lengthening the amount of time it takes to gain tenure and making it easier to fire ineffective teachers.

The legislation extends the period teachers must work to earn tenure from four to five years, require the dismissal of a teacher who was twice judged to be “ineffective” during the five-year period, ban the seniority protections older teachers receive and changes some language in the laws to allow for easier dismissal of tenured teachers.

State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, voted in favor of the legislation and hailed the reform effort as a measure to make Michigan public schools more student-centered.

“We need to make sure our most effective teachers remain in our classrooms so they can provide the best possible education for students,” Ouimet said in a statement. “Successful teachers help shape and create successful students.”

Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, joined Ouimet, in voting for the package. Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, voted against the package of bills. The four bills will now move on to the Senate.

Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, supported a bill extending the probationary period for teachers from four to five years and a bill clarifying that length of service can be considered in personnel decisions can be considered if all other factors are equal.

However, Rutledge voted against the bill redefining the standard for a district to terminate a teacher’s tenure and against the bill that eliminated six additional areas from collective bargaining.

“I considered my votes on these bills very carefully, because I understand the potential impact of these changes; they will affect every Michigan resident,” he said. “What is most important is that the basis for change is what is best for students’ education, and fair for teachers.”

Irwin said the new bills open the door to good educators being fired for reasons other than their effectiveness. He said the new bills mean the most experienced and the unhealthiest of teachers will be fired.

“I know that Michigan’s current tenure system could be improved,” Irwin said. “But, the Republicans’ plan goes beyond our shared goal of improving tenure by removing even the most basic protections of due process for our educations, making them potential victims of political motivations and personal grudges.”

The new bills would end the practice of the least senior teachers being contractually required to be the first laid off. Instead, “effectiveness” would be the determining factor when layoffs are necessary.

In addition, the bills would remove six additional areas from collective bargaining. According to a House Legislative Analysis report, they are:

  • Placement of teachers
  • Personnel decisions when conducting a reduction in force, a recall or when hiring
  • Performance evaluation systems
  • The discharge or discipline of employees
  • The format or number of classroom observations conducted during performance evaluations
  • The method of performance-based compensation

The bills are all tied in such a way that none will go into effect unless the others all pass as well, the report stated.

Olson said he voted for the package of bills to have a greater focus on student achievement when making personnel decisions.

“I want to have the most effective teachers in the classroom and make sure that the teachers that are highly effective, when reductions are enforces, their effectiveness would be taken into consideration,” he said.

Ouimet said the legislation would modernize teacher tenure law in Michigan by requiring teachers to receive three consecutive years of “highly effective” evaluations before tenure is received.

“Teachers still can’t be fired for arbitrary or political reasons under the legislation, but school officials and taxpayers will no longer have to deal with a costly tenure process to make needed changes,” he said.

However, Irwin left the legislature Thursday feeling as if the public education system in Michigan had just suffered another attack.

“We need a process that protects our good educators and removes our bad teachers without placing undue time and financial burden on the community,” he said. “Unfortunately, what we voted on today was yet another attack on public schools, their students and their employees.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sun, Jun 12, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Reforms are needed, but do these reforms help or hurt the cause of attracting good college students into education?


Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

We had some friends visiting from Toronto recently and decided to take them on a brief driving tour of U of M's campus. Among other things the tour provided an interesting snapshot of our society's values. We started out driving around the athletic campus. We started with the recently expanded U of M football stadium. We then proceeded past the Football practice facility. We then stopped the car and took a walk in the area of the Wilpon baseball / softball complex. With our guests thoroughly impressed with the University's commitment to its athletic facilities, we continued up State Street and passed the fairly new School of Public Policy. Next came the ongoing construction of the addition to the Law School. A turn up South University and a turn on to Tappan took us past the incredible facilities recently constructed for the Business School. Our guests were really impressed, not only with the facilities themselves, but also with the fact that wealthy alumni contributions were responsible either in whole or in large part for what they had seen. We then continued south on Tappan and after proceeding one block on eastbound Hill turned left onto East University. Anyone familiar with U of M's campus knows that our route took us past U of M's shining tribute to our society's values --- the University of Michigan School of Education. Noting that the structure housing our efforts to prepare teachers is essentially the same as it was when I attended the University of Michigan in the mid-1960s, we agreed that its renovation and upgrading must await contributions from those incredibly over-compensated teachers who got their start as education students at the University of Michigan. (Note: we continued our tour by showing our guests the Engineering school facilities on North Campus.) And we think changes in the tenure law and reductions in teacher pay and benefits will solve our problems! Will we ever wake up?

Jeff Irwin

Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

One additional problem with this legislation is that the definition of "highly effective" doesn't exist yet. In other words, the Republican leadership scheduled the vote to change tenure before they scheduled the vote to determine exactly what the changes would mean. I felt it was very strange to pass a bill that references a standard that will be created later. If we're putting so much emphasis on the phrase "highly effective," don't we need to know what "highly effective" means?


Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

I've read all the bills: PA-100, 101, 102, 103 and didn't see any of these defined per say. But those kinds of things don't have to be spelled out in the legislation that is focused on giving a school district the ability to remove or demote sub-par teachers. That was the point of these legislations. And they don't take effect unless they are all passed.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

It seems like when it comes to rewarding effectiveness in government it is an "us versus them" argument. I suspect there are teachers who seem highly effective to one administrator and less effective to another depending on a political outlook. Some administrators reward classrooms with quiet, obedient children who take out their pencil and paper and work diligently in a book, answering questions as they go along. Other administrators might like better what appears as a noisy room with students actively engaged in a controversial conversation on freedom of expression in poetry. Some male administrators like male teachers better than female teachers and rate them more highly, perhaps based on how a man projects himself, or perhaps on camaraderie regarding sports. What might be useful in tenure is peer review and multiple administrator review as well as student and parent review from a careful sample. But best would be if education students were screened better coming into the process. If becoming a teacher required a graduate degree in both subject matter and education. While most teachers eventually get advanced degrees, they are not always rigorous degrees, often because teachers don't have the time to teach and do graduate work concurrently in an effective manner. So, weed out the weaker students early on in undergraduate education. Have a test like the GRE before the student begins education school rather than a state test after college. Make earning a teaching degree as rigorous as an engineering degree or a nursing degree, then pay teachers who earn these degree commensurate with their education. Finally, administrators should be seasoned, well respected teachers before they become administrators. They too should have a further education, perhaps a PhD, to make them worthy to evaluate their former peers. All of this would remove the need for administrators taking time to do evaluations. Look at how colleges hire: the candidate comes to campus and teac


Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Note to Mark Oiumet: This is why you are about to be recalled along with the six month public service Led Zepplin. You aren't (nearly) man enough to admit you are targeting union campaign contributions while your lawyers from the bench open the flood gates to corporate influence. These are to perfect your party's palpable ideations to perfect the more permanent majority which you all have been hoarse-blinded with since the millennium. Please state what your problem is with THE AMERICAN WAY or stop bullying the teachers with your deleterious politi. The GOP dishonesty knows no bounds.


Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 6:08 a.m.

Unions are better? More ethical? Altruistic? Fair minded? Fiscally responsible? C'mon, godsbreath64, it's become a self serving world for union members under the auspice of education.

John Kopesky

Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

This is a good first step in ensuring that a teacher is paid and employed based on his ability and/or effectiveness. All I can say is they all need to suck it up and join the real world. We in industry and other white collar professions have been reaping the whirlwind for the past five years and this crappy economy has simply caught up to the public sector. I do not expect sympathy in a town like Ann Arbor but I do believe the citizens of this town understand economics....well, maybe not. The simple fact of the matter is that budget constraints can no longer support a public sector system that promotes the sucking of money from a budget simply because the money is there, not because the most cost-effective solution has been arrived-at. Administrators MUST have the freedom to select teachers for positions based on talent and not seniority...period. The reason there is a chronic shortage of science and math teachers in this state is because gym teachers get paid the same with a far-easier degree major and worklife. When lay-offs occur, these new rules will allow more flexibility in retaining the more sought-after talent while letting go the easy-to-find skills. BASIC BUSINESS SENSE PEOPLE! It also benefits children since the right people will more easily be in the right jobs. Great job Snyder and's what I voted you in to do!!!


Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 5:08 a.m.

Great Job Republicans.........Why folks don't see the cost of union/tenure protected incompetance is beyond me but I'm glad we are starting to put laws into place to protect the public from incompetance. Why unions are fighting "common sense" employment practices is beyond me. The Ann Arbor fire department union protected the job of an unlicensed fire truck driver who crashed into a civilian during a response to a fire. The unlicensed driver STILL has his job.. Fire officials talk about "public safety" but unions are standing in the way of "public safety" or this firefighter would have been fired. This bill changes those "union protections' for teachers. Now let's get the ball rolling for other "public' employees. I can't take anything union officials say seriously when they protect the incompetant and undesirables.


Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Thats right snap' Go to guv to solve your problems. Move over children and make room for bigger-than-anything-you-know- government. They have the track record you have been lacking.

Roger Roth

Thu, Jun 9, 2011 : 10:34 p.m.

Mark says, ""We need to make sure our most effective teachers remain in our classrooms so they can provide the best possible education for students." I say, "Mark speaks with a forked tongue." How is it, Mark, that you can say this after you and Snyder and your legislature friends dismantled teaching as a career option for kids seeking the American Dream. To make matters worse, you do this while you give tax favors to corporations, hoping, hoping, not knowing, that thousands of high paying jobs will result. What, I ask, is "conservative" about this: Betting MI kids' future that, even though their education will be sub standard, we're hoping there will be a high paying job for them if they graduate? Oh, I get it: you can dismantle the career of teaching and still get the best teachers to deliver the highest quality education. Mark, one day in Logic 101 would expose the flaws in that kind of reasoning. What do you people expect? That, as the economy continues to worsen because of political bungling, there will be an ever increasing number of willing, highly qualified teachers who don't care about their compensation and benefits? Dream on. You people are shooting yourselves in the foot.


Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

Oh, and Mr. Roth, if you take a look at the 2011 state budget, education comprises nearly 53% of the state budget. I think we're spending proportionately.


Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Dismantled teaching as a career option? You don't know much about how teachers are hired in a school district. I personally know brand new teachers who apply for jobs in school districts who get dismissed because some person's kid got hired because mommy or daddy knows a school board member. How do you think that hired teacher will perform knowing they are under the protection of the board? This legislation should invigorate the teaching community since it rewards energetic, motivated teachers to do well and punishes those who are on tenure autopilot. How do you think a hard-working teacher feels when they are dedicating themselves to their student while looking across the hall at a teacher who may have 30 years in and doesn't care anymore. It's disheartening. Ensuring that the quality teachers are rewarded and lazy teachers are removed or demoted IMPROVES the quality of education. I can not see how you can see this any differently... besides that you simply don't like Snyder no matter what he'd do. You say kid's education is sub-standard. You improve that by improving the teachers.

Roger Roth

Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

I should think, and so should the legislature, that the last place that should be cut is education. Republican legislators all preach its importance to MI's economic future but then proceed to make drastic cuts. What sense does this make, especially while giving tax breaks to corps.? Surely, you can see the hypocrisy and lack of logic in this ploy. If you're going to insist on doing this, then stop demanding that teachers be more qualified and that they "teach better." That's like going into a new car dealer with 10 grand and demanding the dealer give you a new Mercedes for your 10 G's. It's nothing short of stupid.


Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

"... dismantled teaching as a career option for kids seeking the American Dream." The American Dream is in jeopardy for many Americans right now, and since they pay the taxes that make teaching possible, teachers have to share in the sacrifice. The implication that any job should be without risk of performance evaluation or pay cuts during lean times is unrealistic.


Thu, Jun 9, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Looks like the legislature is trying to fix too many things at one time.


Thu, Jun 9, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

I thought the purported emphasis of this legislature was to create jobs and improve the economy. Why they're spending so much time tinkering with things like teacher tenure is confounding.


Fri, Jul 29, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

One of the things that a company looks at when relocating a business to a new area is the quality of education in that area. It is cheaper to hire a local worker than an out-of-state one. It also provides a excellent look into the quality of the state and it's desire to improve as a whole. Increasing the quality of the teachers will increase the quality of the education system; which produces better students.


Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

@snapshot, I don't see how tenure prevents one from being creative and productive. Do you have research you could recommend that measures this in schools who have teachers with tenure compared to those who don't?


Sat, Jun 11, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

Tenure is a barrier to creativity and productivity. It is an artificial security blanket protecdting those who are given a "free pass" to nderperform without consequence.


Fri, Jun 10, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Great comment. They are liars pure and true.