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Tenure Elimination Stalls In Missouri

“Missouri Senate sidelines bill abolishing teacher tenure”
by Virginia Young
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 3, 2012

An attempt to get rid of the tenure system for public school teachers in Missouri foundered in a test vote Tuesday evening in the state Senate.

Instead of eliminating job protection for teachers, senators voted 17-15 to set up a task force to study teacher salaries and effectiveness.

After the vote, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, shelved the gutted measure.

“What I saw today is nothing new,” Cunningham said in an interview. “It’s business as usual. It’s always putting government personnel above kids. It’s not putting kids at the back of the bus; it’s putting them under the bus and running over them.”

The bill has been a priority for school choice advocates such as Rex Sinquefield, who have pushed changes for teachers along with expanded charter schools and tax credit-supported scholarships for urban students to attend private schools.

Lobbyist Woody Cozad, who works on education issues for Sinquefield, was listening to the Senate debate from a nearby Senate office on Tuesday.

“The problem with tenure is that is has nothing to do with whether you’re doing a good job,” Cozad said.

But the state’s teacher groups have fought the bill, saying that teachers need protection from political pressure and that local school districts — not the state —  should evalute teacher performance.

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said the idea of eliminating tenure was a major change that needs a thorough study. His amendment proposed that a task force prepare a report on teacher effectiveness by Dec. 31.

His amendment passed with support from a bipartisan group of 10 Republicans and seven Democrats.

Afterward, Pearce said: “The bill today would have abolished tenure, and I think it was just a rash decision that the Senate was not prepared to make.”

While his amendment retained the tenure system, Pearce did not touch another change proposed by Cunningham. Still in the pending bill is a provision that would require school districts to base layoffs on teacher effectiveness rather than seniority.

Cunningham said she hopes to bring the issue up again.

“We’ll take a step back and figure out what we’re going to do,” she said.

(The bill is SB806.)

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