State Senate passes historic teacher tenure reform

LANSING–Historic legislation reforming Michigan’s antiquated teacher tenure laws passed the state Senate today after amendments were added to streamline the process for dismissing ineffective teachers.

The amendments were sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Phil Pavlov, who shepherded the House bills through the Senate. Pavlov’s changes strengthened the legislation while making the process fairer and legally sound.

“These bills restore some very important, common-sense balance to Michigan’s education system,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “For too long, the system has focused on adults at the expense of children.  A student’s right to a good education should always trump a bad teacher’s right to a job for life.”

House Bills 4625-4628 require tenure to be granted based on performance as opposed to the number of years a schoolteacher has been instructing.

The measures also include a prohibition on seniority-based layoffs—the so-called “last in, first out” policies that force less experienced educators to be let go regardless of their effectiveness in the classroom.

“The passage of any legislation is a process where improvements are made,” Pavlov said. “In this case, we included an annual evaluation system for all teachers and administrators and required that parents be notified if their students have an ineffective teacher or administrator.

“Good educators should be cheering today, because this legislation protects them and their students.”

The bills extend the probationary period for new teachers but allow tenure to be earned more quickly if a teacher is rated “highly effective.” The legal standard for dismissing a teacher is changed to match that of administrators and to allow for the dismissal of ineffective teachers.

An appointed council of evaluation experts is charged with recommending a statewide evaluation system to the Legislature no later than April 30, 2012, at which time the system could be placed into statute.

The bills now return to the Michigan House for concurrence.