Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Let Them Give "The Donald Trump Treatment" to Virginia's Teachers

This column from Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch ought to get your blood pressure up!

House Bill 576 (Dickie Bell), which is backed by VSBA, VASS and Governor McDonnell, will be heard by the full Senate Education and Health Committee tomorrow morning at 8:30. We need for you to write your Senator now! Please click here to email a letter to your Senator.

Here is the text of the letter:

We are making Virginia a very unwelcoming place to start a teaching career. That is at our great peril. The turnover rate of Virginia teachers is 9 percent, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Many of our best and most experienced teachers are now or will in the next five years be eligible for retirement.

Virginia teacher education programs provide only a fraction of the new teachers required by Virginia school divisions—the rest must come from out of state.

What is the message we are sending those teacher candidates in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and other states? Come to Virginia: earn less, do more, go without job security, and earn inadequate retirement benefits. That is a recipe for disaster. And it would be a disaster for our students, who rely on you to provide a dedicated, well-trained teacher to guide them.

House Bill 576 would allow our experienced teachers in the future to be fired without reason and without due process.

The bill provides experienced teachers with a term contract for three years.

As is true now, a teacher could be laid off during the term in a reduction in force.

As is true now a teacher could be dismissed during the three year term with notice, hearing and proof of good cause. A teacher dismissed DURING the three year term gets full due process.

But that procedure will NOT be available if a teacher is denied a new three year term contract.

Read lines 426-428. “Nothing contained herein shall be taken to require cause … for nonrenewal of the contract of a teacher …in the last year of a three year contact.”

At line 394-395 the superintendent gives the teacher facing nonrenewal “the specific reasons, if any,” for the recommendation not to renew.

Line 474-475 provides “Dismissal shall not include the failure to grant a new term contract upon the expiration of a previous contract.”

An experienced teacher, who has completed probation, and worked successfully on a term contract – or completed many terms – can be denied continued employment. No reason is required to deny contract renewal. There is no procedure for the teacher to appear before the school board and no basis on which the teacher can appeal the decision.

At lines 163-165 the substitute provides “the division superintendent shall consider such evaluations, among other things, in making any recommendations to the school board regarding the nonrenewal of the term contract of any teacher.”

But no reason is required for the recommendation. Even a teacher with stellar evaluations and excellent student process can be denied contract renewal. That teacher will have no argument, recourse or procedure.

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.

Don’t give the “Donald Trump treatment to Virginia’s teachers.” I urge you to vote against HB 576.

Please send your letter now!