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House parts ways with Senate on education reform

Posted April 10, 2013

House leaders Wednesday unveiled a education reform package that differs substantially from a proposal backed by Senate leadership.

House Bill 719, the Education Improvement Act of 2013, is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Reps. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, and Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland. 

Earlier in the day, the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 361, the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2013, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Berger's proposal would eliminate teacher tenure completely in five years. Starting in 2018, administrators would be allowed to offer four-year contracts to the top 25 percent of teachers. The rest of the teachers would be on annual contracts, with no legal recourse to challenge dismissal. 

The House bill takes a more moderate approach on career status for teachers, modeled on legislation in Colorado that uses a probationary/non-probationary system. 

Under the House proposal, Holloway said, all teachers with tenure or career status would start out as non-probationary.

"If you perform (on yearly evaluations), you keep the non-probationary status," Holloway said. "If you have two years of back-to-back negative observations, you're kicked down to probationary." 

Probationary status teachers could be fired or hired at will without recourse. 

"It makes everyone stay on their toes from the day they step into the classroom," Holloway said. "If you do well, you're fine. If you have a bad year, you have a year to fix it."  

Schools would not be required to fire probationary teachers. Holloway said that decision should be left up to local administrators. 

"We've had a struggle for years hiring teachers in science and math," he said. "There may not be someone there waiting to take that post." 

Glazier said administrators might decide to allow probationary teachers to retrain "to stay in that job and to earn their way back, if they have two years of good evaluations, to non-probationary status." 

The measure would also create a stakeholders' commission, appointed by legislative leaders, that would include teachers, parents, administrators and policy makers. The commission would take up the issue of merit pay and other teacher pay issues and come back to the General Assembly with a proposal for the best way to manage them.

"We need to look at pay as a whole issue," Glazier said. "There is no way to address this singularly or piecemeal, and that's what we've been trying to do for too long."  

"You've got to have buy-in from everybody to make a plan like this work, and we know other states have struggled to do this," Holloway added. "We want to do this the right way."

The proposal also recommends expanding digital technology and out-of-the-classroom learning, changes to school performance scores and grades and school improvement plans. 

Holloway said he's aware his bill is very different from the Senate version.

"They have their plan,"  he said. "We're moving ahead with our plan. Collaboration will take place at the appropriate time."

But Berger, R-Rockingham, doesn't sound much interested in collaboration.   

Asked if he thought there was room to compromise on the House proposal, particularly on the career status provision, he said, "I think what we've put in the Senate bill are things that need to be addressed in K-12 education. I think dragging our feet on some of these issues is something that's not productive in terms of improving our public schools."

4 Comments

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  • stthomp67 Apr 11, 6:28 p.m.

    And still no laws punishing at fault parents who do not help their children. Leave it to the teachers to raise your child correctly.

  • com_mon_sents Apr 11, 5:43 p.m.

    That would be the best thing for the teachers in this state to do. EVERY SINGLE one of the teachers just lock the door and not come back.
    However the problem is...teachers(I'm sorry) just don't have the guts to band together and do something like this. This would be the ONLY thing to the attention of the Federal, State and Local government that they have had enough abuse form those in charge.
    I am a conservative, but I'm beyond ashamed of what this legislature is doing. Amazing, simply amazing. They are all just down right cruel and mean...they are just childish bullies in adult bodies.

  • Plenty Coups Apr 11, 9:50 a.m.

    Berger's big plan to reward the good teachers. Mind you, only the top 25% would get this windfall. Are you ready...here it comes...$500. That's right, $50 more a month. A teacher who works 30 years in the profession could expect to make $15,000 more over their career if and only if they're in the top 25%. Whooop de dooo!!!! Teachers need to go on strike.

  • hiddentreasurescruecds Apr 11, 8:51 a.m.

    House Bill 719 actually makes some sense. At least it doesn't make the teaching profession as unappealing as what they're doing in the Senate.

    If Berger gets his way public education will be dead within a decade, which let's face it is exactly what he and who he works for want. Those with a stake in private and charter schools will be able to line their pockets with even more money!