Attack on tenure passes

February 23, 2011 / Comments (0)


Feb. 23 – SB 315 (sponsored by Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek) passed the Senate today. Bad news indeed.


SB 315 weakens Montana’s tenure laws for teachers for no good reason. It redefines good cause in the teacher tenure act and limits third party review of teacher terminations.The bill is a slap in the face of every teacher in Montana. It is an outrageous attempt to turn school boards into judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to teacher tenure.


SB 315 is one of several efforts this session to weaken or even repeal tenure. (Read more about the flap over tenure below.)


MEA-MFT lobbyists worked furiously on SB 315 and managed to persuade two Republicans (Don Steinbeisser, Sidney, and Alan Olson, Roundup – our thanks to these courageous souls!) to change their YES votes to NO votes – but we needed three in order to kill the bill.


All Democrats noted against the bill (thanks to all of them), all Republican senators but two voted yes. It does matter who sits in the legislature.


MEA-MFT will now work even harder to kill SB 315 in the House. We’ll need your help; please stay tuned.


“Like so many things going on in this legislature, SB 315 is not about reason, logic, fair play, well-crafted argument, and facts,” said MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver, who led the effort to kill the bill. “it’s about numbers and the almost unrestrained opportunity to do whatever the majority party wants to do — because it can.”


The flap about tenure:

America is seeing a nationwide attack on teacher tenure, as part of the general attack on teachers. Tenure has been misrepresented as a lifetime job guarantee for teachers. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Read the following letter to the editor written by MEA-MFT member Mike Picking, president of the Great Falls Education Association, and Jerry Rukavina, MEA-MFT field consultant, on the issue of teacher tenure:


Tenure is not entitlement. Never was; never will be. Tenure is not a guarantee of a job for any period of time, let alone a career. Never was; never will be.


Teacher tenure is the use of a set of standards, called just cause or good cause and widely used in the employment/labor arena, to gov¬ern teacher termination after three full years of probation.


Teachers, and virtually teach¬ers alone, experience three years of employment as a probationer, subject to dismissal (called non-renewal) after each of those three years for no reason whatsoever. No reason at all!


Most employees experience perhaps a 60- or 90-day proba¬tion period, maybe even six months
or a year, but three full years? Beginning teachers have no sense of employment security
at all during all that time, during which they may very well be “evaluated” by three or more
different administrators, each hav¬ing a different perspective and evaluatory experience.


Supervision and mentorship that is consistent, appropriate, and always geared towards bet-ter instruction is always neces¬sary, and is eagerly welcomed by teachers both new and experienced.


If and when the most serious of issues — termination of employment — rears its ugly head, teachers are specifically exempt from Montana’s wrong¬ful discharge statute that would give them a process by which to object to an unfounded or base¬less termination.


Enter tenure and the tests of just cause, essentially a fairly standardized process of fairness that ensures that the termination was not for reasons that are arbi¬trary, capricious, or unrelated to teaching effectiveness and class¬room behavior.


No one — not parents, not stu¬dents, not school districts, not taxpayers, not teachers
themselves, and not teachers’ unions — wants unskilled or ineffective teachers in any
classroom. But the wholesale evaporation of a teacher’s right to a just and fair
due process (often after a reme¬diation effort involving the school system and the teacher’s union)
simply does not resolve the issue.


Professional educators are as determined to provide excellent education to students on day one as they are right up to retire¬ment.


Very, very few, if any, think for a moment about tenure, and certainly not about supposedly “slacking off’ once it is achieved. They teach with dedication and heart, knowing that when they do their job well they can rely on a fair process to be followed if that job is jeopardized.


They dedicate their profes¬sional lives to students and com¬munities of all sorts, and we shudder to think of the negative impact on schools if fairness is thrown to the wind to appease those who don’t understand teacher tenure and its applica¬tion.


Tenure is about fairness to a profession and people who sim¬ply deserve fairness. Nothing more — nothing less.




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