Teacher tenure debate likely looming


KIMT News 3 – A landmark court ruling has come out of California stating that a teacher seniority system hurts students.

In the past, lawmakers in our area have not agreed with the system either. In 2012, the Minnesota House and Senate passed legislation that would have done away with seniority as the sole determining factor in layoffs, but Governor Mark Dayton vetoed that.

He does say though that the current system is not quite right.

“It’s very important that every teacher be well qualified and they know they’re accountable to the school district and the school board and, most importantly, the parents and the students,” Dayton said.

Peggy Bennett is a local teacher who is also running for Minnesota state representative. She said it is about finding the right balance between not enough protection for teachers and too much.

“There are teachers that should not be teaching. It’s not for them; it’s not working out, not working out for the kids and so on. There needs to be a way to basically exit those teachers from the system,” Bennett said.

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said through a statement that changing the system will not fix the problems that exist.

“The debate over teacher seniority is a perennial issue in Minnesota. Education Minnesota is ready to make the case yet again that teachers deserve due process. It’s our First Amendment. It allows teachers to have courageous conversations with parents and policymakers about what does and doesn’t work in the classroom and advocate for their students without fear of reprisal.

Fair dismissal procedures do not protect ineffective teachers. Our goal is to have highly effective educators in all of our schools and classrooms. The debate over new layoff regulations distracts from the real issues that will help our students, like lower class sizes or having access to art and music instruction during the school day.”

Education Minnesota points out the differences between the California case and the laws in Minnesota. They said in Minnesota seniority protections are negotiable.

“Forty percent of districts don’t use straight seniority and licensure for layoffs. Minnesota’s probation period is longer at three years, compared to two in Minnesota.”

The lawyers who worked for the case in California say they are looking to file similar charges in several states including Minnesota.

Kathy Saltzman is a former legislator, but now serves as the Minnesota director for StudentsFirst. She said it is important to keep pressure on the legislature to have dialogue about this topic.

While it is not ideal, Saltzman said that going the legal route is a good second option if nothing is getting done at the capitol.

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