Michigan House passes teacher tenure reform bills
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.”