MEA supports new Senate tenure reform bill

SB 503 addresses real issues with tenure while continuing to protect good teachers

LANSING, Mich., June 23, 2011 — The Michigan Education Association is in full support of a new Senate bill that addresses the real issues with tenure – the time and money involved in dismissing a teacher who is proven to be ineffective.

SB 503, sponsored by Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw), makes changes to the tenure process without assaulting the rights of tens of thousands of great teachers working in Michigan public schools.  The bill would shift tenure decisions from the current lengthy process through the Tenure Commission to a locally-initiated arbitration process. It would save districts money and limit the time involved in making decisions about dismissing tenured teachers.

“We applaud Sen. Kahn for introducing this legislation and we urge other senators to join him in supporting this common-sense approach to tenure reform,” said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “SB 503 refocuses the current tenure debate back on the real issues, rather than simply disguising an outright attack on the due process and collective bargaining rights of school employees, as was done with House Bills 4625-4628.”

Those bills, passed by the House earlier this month and reported out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday, would effectively dismantle teacher tenure by removing “reasonable and just cause” protections for firing tenured teachers and prohibiting all school employees from bargaining about a broad variety of subjects related to their working environments and their students' learning environments.  This would effectively require fired teachers to take every case to federal court, costing districts even more money than the current tenure process.

The complicated four-bill House package would also lengthen the probationary period to a fifth year, potentially keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms for an extra year. It also states that teachers, regardless of their skill-level and effectiveness, can be put on unpaid leave simply by having a principal say they don’t want them in their building.

“Tenure was developed more than 70 years ago to protect good teachers – not bad ones,” Salters said. “No one wants bad teachers in Michigan classrooms. But we all want our basic rights protected, and HBs 4625-4628 assault those basic rights to due process and collective bargaining.”

SB 503 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.  MEA urges the Senate to hold hearings on this bill and act on it as a common-sense alternative to HBs 4625-4628.

“Since January when we released MEA’s A+ Agenda (online at http://www.mea.org/a+), we have been ready and willing to engage in meaningful tenure reform,” said Salters. “Thanks to Sen. Kahn’s new bill, we finally have a vehicle to do so and look forward to working with lawmakers in both chambers and both parties to reach a tenure system that works for schools, educators and students.”

Contact: Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Public Affairs, 517-337-5566