Friday, January 11, 2013

What are you willing to trade for a 2% raise?

It’s the “Year of the Teacher,” so we are going to offer you a 2% raise if you give up your fair dismissal policy.  Isn’t it wonderful that according to Education Week’s Quality Counts that we have the 4th best state school system in America, but don’t we need to get rid of all those bad teachers.  This has been the incongruent message of the first week of the General Assembly.

If there is a cause for hope, it is that there is bipartisan recognition in the Education Committee of the Senate Finance Committee that we cannot maintain a high quality teaching core without raising salaries.  Republican Tommy Norment and Democrat Dick Saslaw are both on that same page.

Although Senator Obenshain reintroduced his bill eliminating continuing contract from last session (SB 935) it appears that most of the attention will be on the companion bills carried by Delegate “Dickie” Bell and Senator Norment.

These bills:

·       Do not do away with continuing contract

·       Extend probationary period from 3 – 5 years (teachers only, not administrators)

·       Teachers who have continuing contract in a Virginia school division who transfer to another Virginia school division will serve 2 years on probation before returning to continuing contract status.  It is currently 1 year.

·       Teacher incompetence is defined in the VA State Code.  This bill would expand the definition to include 1 or more unsatisfactory evaluations.  In other words, teachers who receive 1 unsatisfactory evaluation may be deemed incompetent and recommended for dismissal.  However, the bill would not require dismissal. 

·       The 3-member fact finding panels for teacher dismissal cases will be replaced by 1 hearing officer who may be an employee of the school division.  The hearing officer would be selected by the school board.  The hearing officer would run the hearing and provide the evidence to the school board but will not make a recommendation.

·       The definition of teacher is changed to exclude a wide array of school personnel now covered by teacher contracts such as school psychologists, math and reading specialists and diagnostic personnel.

 The change in the dismissal process is our biggest concern as we do not believe it will afford adequate due process to teachers.

 We will be working our hardest to fix these bills by offering amendments to restore fairness and due process.  Please stay posted as we will be calling on you to lobby from afar when the time is right.