We need your calls to help pass teacher tenure reform in the Alabama House!
This week, the Alabama House will consider one of the most significant education reform proposals in the last decade–teacher tenure reform. The AEA union bosses have prevented meaningful reform of our state tenure laws and have protected teachers at all cost, even when the price was our students’ education. The new Republican-led legislature is working to change that with SB310 the Students First Act. The legislation has already passed the Alabama Senate, and will be considered by the Alabama House this week. Those who want to preserve the current system are working hard to influence legislators and putting out a great deal of misinformation on the bill. Below, we address the issue of teacher tenure, why reform is needed, and what you can do to help ensure that we put our students first for a change. Your action on this issue is critical. It only takes a few minutes to call or email your representative and those few minutes can make a huge difference in Alabama’s education system (You can find your representative and get their contact information here).
The Truth About Teacher Tenure Reform
Why is it needed?
Tenure is designed to protect teachers who dissent from popular opinion, openly disagree with authorities, and/or research unpopular subjects. Proponents of tenure say it fosters a more open academic environment where teachers are free to posit new ideas and give honest opinions. It prevents teachers from sticking to the “safe” position for fear of reprisal from their employer. Sounds good so far, right? The problem is that it’s had the practical effect of protecting bad teachers who are a drag on our system. It has led to ridiculous situations like this, where taxpayers are continuing to pay a teacher who is sitting in federal prison after being convicted of having sex with a minor student. Alabama students deserve better.
How will SB310 address the problem?
So now that you know why we need tenure reform, the question is how to do it. The goal is to protect good teachers while making it easier to fire bad teachers and ensure that protections don’t come at the expense of Alabama students’ educations. Sen. Trip Pittman has introduced SB310 to accomplish that.
- Teachers and classified employees will still get tenure upon completing three years of employment with the same employer.
- Tenured employees can only be terminated for the following reasons: a justifiable reduction in force, insubordination, incompetency, failure to perform duties in a satisfactory matter, immorality or other good cause.
- Tenured employees CANNOT be terminated for political or personal reasons.
- Tenured employees will still have due process upon termination. They will be able to appeal their termination to a hearing officer who will be a retired Alabama judge randomly chosen by the Executive Director of the Alabama State Bar.
- The hearing officer’s decision may be appealed to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.
- A terminated employee will continue to get paid until the hearing officer makes the decision, or until 75 days after the employee is terminated–whichever comes first.
- If the hearing officer reinstates the employee, the employee is eligible for back pay and benefits.
- Employers will have the authority to reassign or transfer employees when the situation requires. This cannot occur more than once a year and has to be on or before the 20th day of the school year.
These provisions will continue to protect good teachers and address the problems with the process of terminating those who fail to adequately perform their duties.
So what can you do to help?
SB310 has passed the Alabama Senate and has come out of committee in the Alabama House. We anticipate a vote on the House floor late tomorrow. There are several legislators who need to hear from the grassroots on this bill. It is imperative that they get calls and emails ASAP.