Dear Fellow Educators:
There has been a lot of discussion about public education over the last several months, in every corner of our state. Amidst such discussions, facts can become unclear, and I wanted to use this edition of Ed-Connect to state some critical facts in clear terms.
Many inaccuracies have to do with House Bill 974, which would empower principals and local superintendents to make personnel decisions with the objective of keeping effective teachers in the classroom. Our current system too often treats teachers in a cookie-cutter fashion, rewarding teachers, evaluating teachers, and retaining teachers as if all educators are the same, like widgets on a factory line. But no one knows better than teachers that often there are differences among us, and local leaders should not have their hands tied when it comes to ensuring we do everything we can to keep effective teachers in our classrooms. That is just the right thing to do for our children.
Some myths have been circulated about the bill, distracting from the facts. Below I have listed some of these facts in the hope of clarifying things. I hope you find it helpful.
MYTH: Teacher salaries may be cut if this bill passes.
FACT: While districts would be required to compensate teachers based on effectiveness as determined by evaluation results, content or license area, and experience, the law prohibits any current teacher's salary from being decreased. The bill provides districts an additional opportunity to reward teachers who go above and beyond.
MYTH: This bill will impact teachers' plans for retirement.
FACT: There is nothing in this bill or any other proposed legislation that addresses retirement plans for teachers.
MYTH: This bill may unfairly result in teachers losing their jobs or erodes due process.
FACT: The bill proposes that teachers rated "ineffective" - roughly 10 percent of teachers - would no longer have tenure, and this provision does not come into effect until 2014. It does not mean that anyone rated ineffective loses his or her job.
In fact, Act 54 establishes a process for teachers to grieve their rating. A teacher's tenure would be reinstated if the rating is overturned. If a teacher's ineffective rating is upheld, the teacher is placed on an improvement plan, per Act 54, and only after a second consecutive ineffective rating would the teacher be dismissed.
Tenured teachers maintain significant due process rights. After responding to dismissal charges, a tenured teacher is able to appeal to a panel, appointing a representative to the panel. The panel's recommendations can then be heard in a court, and even that court's decision can be appealed.
MYTH: This bill would do away with tenure.
FACT: Starting in 2014, only teachers who are rated Ineffective would lose their tenure status. All other current tenured teachers would retain tenure.
Teachers who do not have tenure today would be required to earn five Highly Effective ratings any time during the course of a six-year period in order to achieve tenure.
The greatest myth of all is the idea that teachers are uniformly opposed to change. There are more than 50,000 teachers in the state. They hold widely varying opinions. Not everyone agrees with everything in the bill; some agree with none of it. But teachers are change agents by definition, committed to changing lives each and every day. For the media and others to portray teachers as group thinkers reflexively against change demeans this most noble of professions.
I encourage you to read a Letter to the Editor I wrote recently to The Advocate, addressing some of the concerns I've heard from teachers on this issue.
I hope the above was helpful. As always, thank you for your commitment to our kids.