Controversy Over Teacher Tenure Legislation|Southern Education Desk
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A proposed Louisiana law aimed at making tenure for teachers more difficult to get is increasingly a matter of heated debate as the legislative session nears.
Senate Bill 603 says that “in order to be deemed eligible to acquire tenure, a teacher must be rated ‘highly effective’ for five consecutive years.”
Some parents and the Louisiana Teachers Federation oppose its implementation.
Every parent wants their children to succeed. Bill Worsley has four children in elementary school.
He’s concerned about Bill 603, which would change criteria for teacher tenure.
The current probationary term for Louisiana teachers is three years; a teacher needs to avoid being deemed “unsatisfactory” during that period in order to obtain tenure.
The new legislation would require five straight years of meeting state benchmarks of “highly effective” service. Worsley says the proposed requirements for teacher tenure are unrealistic.
“I don’t think there’s any way possible that that could actually happen, because so much depends on not only how the teacher teaches, but how the students do on the test. And I don’t think it’s fair to the teacher to also be put in that situation - that her job depends on the kids in that situation.”
But not everyone with a stake in the issue opposes the change. Christina White is considering pursuing a teaching degree; she says teachers need to be accountable.
“I think there’s too many teachers right now who’ve lost focus because they’ve gained tenure and they’re no longer being really effective in the classroom. So I think that a longer period before tenure and showing a higher effectiveness in the classroom would be a good thing.”
Vice President of the
Louisiana Federation of Teachers
“If you reconstruct tenure, basically what you’re going to do is reconstruct the due process. To want to eliminate or extend tenure is not good. Many people say that we protect bad teachers when we talk about tenure, but that is not true at all.”
Lollie says she’s confident the current guidelines are sufficient.
“There are mechanisms in place to give a teacher who is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, according to the principal – there are mechanisms in place to evaluate them and if in fact they are evaluated and it’s not successful – then there are mechanisms in place to get rid of them.”
Some are looking to the future for ways in which the new tenure regulations could affect education. Nichole Smith is expecting her first child in July. She is not in favor of the changes.
“I think one of the good things about teacher tenure is that it boosts morale. And so when teachers feel like their job isn’t threatened I believe that they perform better. That would affect my child because if the teacher isn’t performing better, then that decreases the quality of the education that they could receive.”
Sandie Lollie says the proposed tenure changes in the bill are likely to become a flashpoint, and not just in Louisiana.
“I do think that there’s going to be a lot of debate before it actually happens. And I think that there are going to be a lot of – not only Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the AFL/CIO, but also the other teacher agencies – the National Education Association – that are also going to oppose this. So I think it’s going to be a lengthy debate.”
No matter what happens at the legislature in Baton Rouge, educators in other states are watching. Kevin Gilbert is the President of the Mississippi Association of Educators. He says that his union is interested in what happens next door in Louisiana.
“I can’t say how that will affect us in Mississippi, but it’s definitely something we’ll keep an eye on because you can never tell what happens from state to state. A lot of times legislators go to the same conferences as each other. They talk about some of the same things. So I will not disqualify the idea that that could possibly come our way."
Gilbert says that right now the system in Mississippi works and he expects it will remain as is, but he says they will be watching as the legislative session here in Louisiana to monitor how the bill plays out.
Air Date: Fri, 03/09/2012