Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Session, Same Governor, Same Battle

As the 2013 session begins, there is not a person at VEA who is not extremely disappointed by Governor McDonnell’s continued efforts to deprive Virginia’s teachers of a fair dismissal process.

Two truths should be weighed as you judge the Governor’s efforts.  First, over the past months your president and VEA staff members have devoted a great deal of time and effort to trying to work out a compromise that would reduce the costs and time involved in teacher dismissals, while still maintaining a fair procedure for Virginia’s teachers.  As the talks between the Governor’s representatives and VEA broke down, it became apparent that there was no interest in affording Virginia’s teachers a fair dismissal process despite assertions to the contrary.

Second, it is important to understand the ground VEA would not cede.

The Governor wants to eliminate the current three person panel that considers a dismissal grieved by the affected teacher.  The teacher picks one panelist, the superintendent chooses one, and the third panelist is chosen by the first two panelists from a list provided by the circuit court judge.  This panelist is a neutral who ensures the fairness of the process.

The Governor wants to go to a process where you have only one panelist, a hearing officer chosen by the school board.  That panelist can be a member of the school board or a school board employee.  How neutral and fair is that?

Remember, that in Virginia, even if the panel sides with the teacher, the school board makes the final decision.

There were other issues on the table, but this is the issue that led to the impasse.

Interestingly, no other public employee groups are being asked to give up a fair dismissal process – not state employees, not state police, and not local government employees.  Why is the Governor so intent on targeting teachers?  Isn’t it an irony that the Governor wishes to declare the year in which he wished to single out teachers in this regard “The Year of the Teacher”?

We will be fighting tooth-and-nail to preserve fairness in the Virginia teacher dismissal process.  I hope you are ready to join the fight.