Saturday, February 4, 2012

Act Now and Spread the Word!

The week ahead will be most challenging. Both the VRS legislation and the teacher contract bills will be considered in committee.

If you haven’t sent the email letters on both the contract and pension issues, they are now up on our website please do so ASAP. You will see them in the top right portion if the web page at We’ll do an email letter on the contract issue to the Senate in the near future.

Our challenge is anticipating how Senate Bill 438 (Obenshain) will be altered in light of the problems encountered by this Governor’s initiative on the House side (see Thursday’s posting).
SB 438 will be taken up by the Public Education Subcommittee of the Senate Education and Health Committee one half hour after adjournment of the Senate on Monday afternoon.

We need calls and emails to members of this subcommittee urging them to vote against SB 438.

The subcommittee members are:

Blevins (Chairman), 804-698-7514
Howell, 804-698-7532
Locke, 804-698-7502
Black, 804-698-7513
Carrico, 804-698-7540

Below is VEA Senior Attorney Dena Rosenkrantz’s explanation of the most recent form of the bill:

As introduced, HB 576 eliminated job security for Virginia Teachers. It provides new teachers employment only on a probationary contract allowing “dismissal without cause” and puts experienced teachers on annual contracts. An amendment in the nature of a substitute was the subject of lengthy discussion at a February 2nd subcommittee hearing. No vote was taken and further amendments and substitutions are very likely. Still we can look at what the proposed substitute would do to teacher employment –

• How can a new teacher be dismissed during the school/contract year?
The substitute no longer includes the provision making teachers on probationary contract subject to “dismissal without cause.” So probationary teachers will have a contract for the school year and face annual decision on contract renewal.

• Who is a new probationary teacher?
The substitute bill requires new teachers to complete FIVE years of probationary service, an increase from current statute establishing three year probation. Currently, even an experienced teacher who moves from one Virginia school division to another can be required to complete one year of probationary service. The substitute bill allows but does not require the new school division to impose TWO years of probationary service when hiring a teacher with Virginia experience.

• How can experienced teachers lose teaching employment?
Currently state law provides teachers who successfully complete the three year probationary period with continuing contract. Continuing contract does not protect a teacher from losing employment due to decline in enrollment, abolition of subject or reduction in classes, or decrease in school budget. Statutory dismissal procedures govern termination of a continuing contract teacher for causes including: incompetency, immorality, noncompliance with school laws and regulations, disability as shown by competent medical evidence when in compliance with federal law, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude or other good and just cause.

The substitute provides experienced teachers with a term contract for THREE years. A teacher could be laid off during the term in a reduction in force. A teacher could be dismissed during the term with notice, hearing and proof of good cause. And, most important, the teacher could be denied a new three year term contract. The failure to grant a new term contract is not a dismissal requiring hearing and proof of cause. The substitute requires the division superintendent to consider evaluations among other things in making recommendations not to renew the term contract of an experienced teacher. However, the substitute specifies “no reason is required to deny a new term contract.”

• Will teachers already on continuing contract be put on term contracts?
The Administration wants to eliminate continuing contract completely but faces constitutional difficulties. We could see a two tier system that “grandfathers” teachers already on continuing contract to preserve their constitutional property while giving newer teachers, and anyone who moves the lesser protection of term contracts. Even teachers already on continuing contract should be alarmed about this radical change in the security teachers enjoy.

Improving teacher evaluation and professionalism is a laudable goal. But putting teachers on term contracts subject to renewal without good cause does not improve the teaching profession or benefit Virginia students.