Monday, September 3, 2012

Were Teachers "Tenured" Before Florida's SB 736?

Education reformers always make the claim that districts cannot fire ineffective teachers under the current employment rules in many states. Some even say that teachers who do blatantly immoral things to students cannot be fired. These reformers assert that after three years in most places, teachers qualify for a contract that pretty much guarantees them a job for life, otherwise known as "tenure." This was the driving force behind the failed SB 6, the original merit pay legislation in 2010, and the successfully passed SB 736 legislation. Under this law, teachers without a Professional Service Contract  (PSC) prior to July 1, 2011, would work under an annual contract for the duration of their career and be subject to non-renewal at the end of the school year for any reason or no reason. Through such a system, education reformers say that districts will be able to remove ineffective teachers resulting in greater student achievement. (Note that this law says that all teachers without an existing PSC will be on annual contract. Though politicians claim that good teachers will not be fired because of their value to a school, there is no provision in the law that will protect teachers earning "Effective" or "Highly Effective" under the new evaluation system that will include student performance on standardized tests in teachers' evaluations from being fired.) 

Despite all the rhetoric about this supposed permanent employment, one Florida Republican politician claims that teachers were indeed fireable under the old system. When discussing the issue of tenure with people, I always bring up the statement Republican State Senator Nancy Detert made in the debate leaning up to the passage of SB 736 in the Orlando Sentinel Education Blog back in February 2011. 

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, delivered the bluntest argument for bill’s passage: She said districts haven’t removed bad teachers, even though they could have done so under current pay systems.
“We had a process. You didn’t have the courage to use it,” she said.
With more than 90 percent of teachers earning good evaluations, yet many students still struggling on FCAT, something is amiss, she said.
“We’ve started to forget what business we’re in. We’re not in the employment business. We’re in the business of moving kids from point A to point B,” Detert said.
When someone brings up unions and protecting bad teachers on the websites of Florida newspapers, I always copy and paste that passage. I never get a response after that. 

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