Rep. Dieckhaus unveiles legislation doing away with tenure for veteran teachers

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By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Calling it “a foundation for improving our public schools,” Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, Wednesday unveiled legislation that would do away with tenure for veteran teachers.

“Some of the systems that we have in place now regarding teachers and administrators within our education system are outdated,” Dieckhaus told members of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

Under his propsoal, beginning in July 1, 2013, all teachers would enter into multi year contracts of two to four years with their school districts. There after, teachers would be evaluated in part on standards developed by the individual school districts with special attention paid to student improvement in several areas. At least fifty percent of the evaluation will be based on student growth on statewide assessment tests.

School administrators will also be evaluated on district standards that focus on student improvement.

“We’re going to be able to look at data and make staffing decisions based on the data, not on seniority,” said Dieckhaus. “We have seen that seniority really has little effect beyond a certain point on the quality of a teacher in a class room.”

The evaluation will also come in to play when school districts are forced to layoff teachers due to financial constraints. Currently in such situations, school districts must reduce teaching positions based on the “last in, first out” principle, meaning the lowest teachers on the seniority totem pole are the first ones who must be laid off in times of financial hardship.

As expected, the state’s teachers associations are not enamored with the bill. Otto Fajen of the Missouri National Education Association says the measure goes too far and seeks to micromanage school districts ability to make their own decisions. Fajen told the committee his association still sees value in the tenure system with a more robust system of evaluation for all teachers.

“Our association is leading the charge to make sure that the state has a policy that says we expect every school district to provide leadership in establishing and implementing a high quality evaluation procedure for teachers.”

Fajen said the association favors legislation contained in House bill 1566 that sets up evaluation procedures for school districts to use.

“We don’t need to fix what isn’t broken, and this system is not broken,” said Andrea Flinders of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers. She said procedures exist for dealing with teachers who are sub par, whether or not they are tenured or not.

The committee took more than an hour and a half of testimony on Dieckhaus’s bill, but did not take a vote. The committee is expected to go back to work on the legislation at its next regularly scheduled meeting next Wednesday