OUR OPINION: TEACHERS | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

OUR OPINION: TEACHERS

Posted: March 2, 2012 - 8:44pm

It’s time to stop using seniority as the only criteria when considering teacher layoffs.

A bill removing the teacher tenure system is expected to arrive at the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton soon and we urge him to sign it. The longtime policy of “last hired, first fired” might make sense in some cases but might very well result in bad choices in others. The new legislation calls for a system based on seniority, licensure and performance.

This legislation doesn’t cure the state’s persistent problems in meeting up with its constitutional obligation to provide Minnesota’s young people with an education. In recent years lawmakers borrowed millions of dollars from school districts in order to balance its own budget. Finding an equitable and consistent funding source for schools is still a task the Legislature must address.

What the new legislation will do is take the handcuffs off school district administrators who are trying to put the best teachers into classrooms while weeding out those who are less competent.

Seniority doesn’t automatically translate into effectiveness. It doesn’t even automatically translate into experience, according to Senate sponsor Sen. Pam Wolf, Spring Lake Park. She said under the current system a teacher could have decades of experience but drop to the bottom of the seniority list by transferring to another school.

School districts, while still protecting the rights of teachers, need all the tools they can to ensure that the best qualified teachers retain their positions when cuts have to be made.

— Mike O’Rourke