Friday, January 20, 2012

Assault on the Teaching Profession

What’s with House Bill 576, which will deprive Virginia’s experienced teachers of continuing contract status?

This bill is a solution looking for a problem. First, Virginia’s teachers, despite the public perception indicating otherwise, do not have “tenure.” What we do have is continuing contract, which is earned after three years of successful service and satisfactory evaluations. The notion that teachers in Virginia cannot be fired is simply not founded in fact.

Second, the performance of Virginia’s teachers is a significant factor for our state being routinely recognized as having among the best school systems in our nation. This month, Virginia was recognized as having the fourth best school system in the nation by Education Week’s “Quality Counts 2012.” Virginia’s grade was a B. However, under “The Teaching Profession” subcategory, Virginia received a B+ for teacher “Accountability for quality.”

The timing of this proposal could not be worse. It comes at a time when we are shifting to new performance standards and evaluation criteria for teachers, based in part on student performance data, which will be implemented beginning July 1, 2012. Initial implementation of this plan will require extensive training and will require collegial interaction between and extensive training of teachers and their instructional leaders. Incidentally, the Governor provides $415,500 for this training on this new evaluation plan, which works out to $4.21 per teacher.

We can’t afford to make Virginia a less attractive place to teach. Our teacher salary is 12 percent behind the national average, our retirement benefits have been degraded in recent years, and this bill would make Virginia’s teachers stand alone in the region in regard to a lack of job security and access to fair dismissal procedures. One-fifth of our teachers are over 55. Recruiting high quality new teachers to replace those retiring in the next decade will be a major challenge. The passage of this bill will have a very serious, negative impact on this effort.

Please click here to send your delegate a letter urging opposition to HB 576.