House considers major tenure overhaul

MEA opposes four-bill package

A four-bill package to dismantle teacher tenure would also eliminate significant collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Michigan needs effective tenure reform that streamlines the process of discharging ineffective teachers. But House Bills 4625 (sponsored by Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton), 4626 (sponsored by Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc), 4627 (sponsored by Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage), and 4628 (sponsored by Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia) would overturn due process and collective bargaining rights that have been in place for many decades and make it possible for administrators to fire teachers without just cause.

MEA opposes the bills, which would:

  • Change the initial probationary period for teachers from four to five years;
  • Allow teachers to be suspended without pay for 20 or 40 days;
  • Remove reasonable and just cause protections and allow discharge or demotion of tenured teachers for reasons that are not arbitrary and capricious;
  • Eliminate seniority-based placements when reducing or recalling staff;
  • Require teacher performance evaluation ratings that describe educators as “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective,” and “ineffective”;
  • Prohibit collective bargaining of teacher placement, personnel decisions during a reduction in force, a recall, or during hiring, performance evaluation systems, employee discharge/discipline, the format or number of classroom observations during evaluations, and merit pay.

Today, the House Education Committee listened to testimony on the bills. At the end of the hearing, Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, promised continued discussion about tenure but warned that consensus must happen.

“We need to get to yes,” he told fellow lawmakers on the panel. 

Testifying today was Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He advised lawmakers to “unbundle” education services for students. He suggested three main ways of doing this – virtual learning, delegating some teaching duties to local college students, or inviting volunteer professionals to teach on a part-time basis for free.

In a commentary published today in Education Week about these ideas, Hess wrote: “These changes make it newly possible to pipe in instructional support from New Delhi or Singapore, or more systematically possible to use cheap talent and computer-assisted models to provide intensive remediation or enrichment opportunities.”

Learn more about these bills – read the House Fiscal Agency analysis of the package.