A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Anti-tenure bills would kill collective bargaining, too

A four-bill package pending in the state House to overhaul tenure would actually reach far beyond what some say is the real problem – the time and money it takes to discharge a teacher with tenure.

The legislation – House Bills 4625, 4626, 4627, and 4628 – would, in fact, dismantle tenure AND collective bargaining of most subjects currently decided at the local bargaining table, including placement of employees, evaluation systems, discharge/discipline policies, and more. In an ironic turn, the legislation is backed by Republicans, who usually claim to oppose such intrusions on local control by state government.

Under this legislation, it would be possible for a school district to fire an unmarried, pregnant teacher. Or a tenured teacher who happens to be gay. Or an unpopular employee disliked by the principal. Or veteran teachers who can be replaced with cheaper, less experienced alternatives.

Beyond the tenure debate, the legislation aims to reverse decades of successful collective bargaining and local control by prohibiting employers and employees from negotiating many important issues. While proponents argue that school administrators need the power to make unilateral decisions impacting staff, such control will tilt the playing field too far with dire consequences for students.

When public school teachers and school employees lose their voice in the workplace, students are directly affected. For example, will teachers demand smaller class sizes to provide more individualized instruction if their administrator is overcrowding classes to cut costs?

Experience matters in the classroom; removing proven teachers negatively impacts student achievement. In these budget-cutting times, what’s to stop a principal from giving a veteran teacher a bad evaluation so a newer teacher can be hired for less?

And think about how high rates of staff turnover will influence student learning. Children do better when they have consistency and less chaos, so a revolving door of teachers or other school employees will only contribute to decreased learning, especially in schools already struggling to boost achievement.

MEA strongly opposes these bills, though the association supports efforts to reduce costs by streamlining the process of removing tenured teachers, as outlined in our A+ Agenda. We also support the model evaluation system backed by the Education Alliance of Michigan.

Consider some of the possibilities:

  • Public school employees will lose their voice in the workplace -- and that directly affects students.
  • Experience matters in the classroom and removing proven teachers will negatively impact student achievement.
  • High rates of staff turnover hurts student learning.

Take time to learn more about how these bills will affect your students, your job, and your school -- and find out what you can do to fight back!