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Reform bill not a solution
Editor:
The Alabama Legislature is very close to passing a bill to "reform" teacher tenure that will actually make it harder to fire school employees who aren't doing their jobs. The lawmakers have resurrected the Amendment 1 version of tenure reform, which is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the problems with the current law.
Currently, teachers appeal to their firing to the Alabama Tenure Commission. Despite popular opinion, however, the commission is not the problem. It upholds teachers' firings more than 70 percent of the time.
All the Amendment 1 bills really do is disband the commission and have teachers appeal their firing to an arbiter. The bills keep fired teachers on the payroll up to 112 days longer than current law, give more power to an arbiter (accountable to no one) than the local school board, and fail to address the real roadblocks to dismissing bad employees.
The primary problems with the current tenure law are the difficulty in building the case against the teacher and the ambiguities about what constitutes "poor performance." Nothing in the Amendment 1 bills addresses those, but the governor's new plan (Senate bills 307 and 308) would.
His new bills streamline the hearing process; give specific examples of things that would be firing offenses; clarify that the "case" against the teacher can include prior years' offenses; allow as evidence things like emails that are not in the teacher's formal personnel file; and create a workable process for suspending school employees without pay as a discipline measure.
Almost all school board members and school board attorneys, the people who must make the law work, oppose the Amendment 1 tenure bills, but they support the governor's new plan.
Please join me in urging our local legislators to oppose the bad bills and support Senate bills 307 and 308.
Jimmy Dobbs
Board member, Morgan County Board of Education

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