Haslam earns victory as House OKs bill to increase tenure period

Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 1:43pm

In his first major legislative victory, Gov. Bill Haslam won state House approval Thursday of his proposal to make tenure harder for teachers to earn and to keep.

With Republicans unified in support, the House voted 64-32 for Haslam’s overhaul of the 60-year-old tenure law. The Senate adopted the measure two weeks ago.

The new tenure law will lengthen probation for teachers from three years to five years. To qualify for tenure, teachers must score in the top two of five evaluation categories in the two years immediately proceeding eligibility. If teachers then drop into the bottom two categories for two straight years, they lose tenure and return to probation.

Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, the Republican sponsor who handled the bill on the House floor, said tenure no longer will mean “that you just got hired for three years and still have a heartbeat.”

To reporters after the vote, he dismissed Democratic worries that few teachers will earn tenure under the new system.

“I hope people are not going into the teaching profession to get tenure,” Dunn said. “I hope they’re getting into it to educate our children to make a difference in their lives. To me, I bet you if you ask a lot of teachers, tenure is not first on their priority list. It’s being with children and seeing that light bulb go off over their head. That’s where they get their reward.”

School principals now are forced to fire poor teachers after three years rather than give them tenure, Republicans contended. They argued that extending probation actually would help these teachers keep their jobs.

“This gives the teachers more time to earn that tenure status and to improve their skills,” Dunn said.

Democrats tried to delay any changes in the law until the teacher evaluation system is developed. Tennessee Education Department committees are working on that and hope to finish the system by this summer when the new tenure law takes effect.

“We’re just getting this cart before the horse,” House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley said. “We need to see this evaluation system before we adopt a major revision in our tenure system.”

Democrats said the new tenure law would chase good teachers out of Tennessee. Some argued penny-pinching principals would fire good teachers after three years so they could hire more teachers at first-year pay.

“Let’s be honest about it,” Fitzhugh said. “Fiscal concerns could get in the way there.”

Rep. Joanne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said, “nobody wants to wait five years” for tenure. “The governor doesn’t have to wait five years for re-election. We do not have to wait five years for re-election. That is absurd to even have that there.”

The tenure law change is one of the governor’s key education reforms. The other is aimed at increasing the number of charter schools in Tennessee. Those schools now are capped at 90 and limited to students from low-income families who are eligible for federally subsidized lunches. Haslam’s bill will lift that cap and allow all students to attend.

“As a state, we have to treat teaching like the honorable and important profession it is and make Tennessee a place where great educators feel rewarded and appreciated for their efforts,” Haslam said after Thursday’s House vote.

“If our goal in education is to grow the number of college graduates and provide a better educated work force for employers looking to relocate or expand in Tennessee, then our effort begins with making sure every child in every classroom learns from a great teacher.”


7 Comments on this post:

By: mg357 on 3/24/11 at 11:57

This article is so jaded beyond belief. If education is to succeed, there are 3 integral parts to the equation. Parent/parents, student and finally teacher. If one factor is missing; the entire project will fail; no exceptions. Stop burning the teachers at the stake. Until we identify and remove the problem, it will remain constant. In my thoughts, this catastrophe was allowed to happen. I realize that we cannot cherry pick our students but, with private and magnet schools hasn't this very thing already occurred? The best and brightest should be guaranteed at least a fighting chance. The ones who have no such goals should be in alternative school with tough rules that have consequences if broken or abused.......mg

By: PhiDelt496 on 3/24/11 at 1:52

+1 mg

How can anyone change the system if the parents continue not to care or push the children. Teachers arent the parents of their students, and there should be some boundaries for the sake of both. Too often now, teachers are the only positive adult influence in a child's life.

By: mg357 on 3/24/11 at 7:24

I agree phidelt. A sad but true fact, is that many of these kids are only pawns to gain government handouts and nothing more. As I said, if one factor is missing; the whole structure collapses. Did you know that 82% of the nations schools are failing? Had this been printed any place other than the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, what would the reaction have been to such a staggering fact?

By: frodo on 3/25/11 at 8:55

Uh, wasn't this article about teachers and tenure? Yes, parents fail as parents, and yes our modern social norms have left us with some pitiful students (we could have a whole conversation about which players in our society brought us pitiful social norms, but for another day). However, these factors should not keep us from dealing squarely with the fact that tenure is an outdated model. how many taxpayers have tenure in their job? Why teachers? yep, I say get rid of tenure altogether.

By: gdiafante on 3/25/11 at 1:34

Frodo, again, retorts with the "if we don't have it, they shouldn't" mentality. In other words, the inmates are demanding to run the asylum.

Don't worry...make it harder for tenure, end collective bargaining, demonize the entire profession...you think you're not attracting the cream of the crop now? Just wait'll you get a load of the next generation of teachers...

By: frodo on 3/25/11 at 2:33

I am demonizing no one, gdiafante. Don't overwork your imagination beyond my words. I have great respect for teachers...and accountants, and store clerks, and janitors, and bank loan officers, medical professionals and teachers, etc., etc.

By: Gary Lampman on 3/25/11 at 6:01

Teachers are being demonized and those using pseudonomes to disguise who they really are and what they stand for. Simply, to be a common scurge on our fellow man are certainly more concerned about being Known than finding solutions. Hiding in the shadows and stabbing them in the back on ever turn.
Teachers Tenure from a teacher I have Known says its a pain in the ass and by no means are they free of scrutiny after receiving It. While many of our readers, take the stand as Guilty until Proven Innocent. What about your Prinicipals that are Hired by School Boards who fail to do their Jobs. I don't see them as being on Candidate of eternal Probation ?
There is plenty of blame to go around and it begins with the Parents who refuse to parent their own children. In our race to the top, Parents wanted to give their children what they did not have themselves.However, By doing so we have lost our common decency to raise our children, show compassion, and have spoiled them beyond reason. Parents are too busy becoming a Pal then provide them with the proper incentives to behave and learn in school. If your pointing one finger at the teacher than you are pointing as a Parent ,three fingers back to you.