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House moves forward on bipartisan education reform

Posted April 16, 2013 12:10 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2013 4:40 p.m. EDT

State House lawmakers could vote this week on a sweeping overhaul of the state's teacher tenure system. 

The House Education Committee gave unanimous approval Tuesday to House Bill 719.

The measure would revamp the state's teacher tenure system, shifting it to a probationary/non-probationary system. Sponsors Reps. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, and Rick Glazier, D- Cumberland, say it's modeled on a Colorado system that has shown success.

Instead of achieving career status after four years, teachers would be considered "non-probationary," a protected status. But maintaining that status would depend on yearly observation evaluations. 

If a teacher receives two years in a row of negative evaluations, he or she would become probationary and would be able to be fired at will. 

"This establishes a performance model," Holloway said. "They can be removed, or if the school system decides to allow them to continue on, they can be restored to non-probationary status with two years of positive observations."

The proposal would also create a stakeholders' board, appointed by lawmakers, tasked with addressing compensation issues such as base and merit pay. The board, which would include parents, teachers and administrators, would be asked to submit a plan for lawmakers' approval next year. 

"It’s a tough concept. It’s a tough plan to implement. I think the most important thing is to have buy-in," Holloway said.

The bill would also direct the state Department of Public Instruction to design a program to allow students to earn educational credit for "real-time experiences" like clerkships and internships, Glazier said.

The proposal would also increase the number of professional development credits teachers are required to get from 7.5 to 10 per cycle and strengthen requirements for School Improvement Plans.  

"This is one of the best looks at the major issues in a real way that will strengthen public education, not hurt public education," said Glazier.

The bipartisan bill could be on the House floor for a vote as soon as Wednesday.  

The House proposal differs starkly from a competing plan backed by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. That proposal, Senate Bill 361, has been approved by the Senate Education Committee and is expected to pass the full Senate soon.