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Georgia, Idaho, and Washington Initiatives

Before election day, we reminded people that while education is up for a vote in every state through the candidates they select, Georgia, Idaho, and Washington had initiatives on the ballot that could have major impacts education in each state.

Georgia’s students scored big on Tuesday with a 58% to 42% victory for Amendment One. The Peach State’s ballot initiative on charter schools allows local communities to create more of these important options by amending the state’s constitution to allow other state and local agencies, in addition to local school boards, approve charter schools.

Washington state’s ballot initiative on charter schools is still looking favorable for reformers with a slight lead of 51% for passage. While still not declared a victory, it looks like Initiative 1240 will open up new educational opportunities for families with the creation of 40 new charter schools over the next 5 years. A modest proposal, but it would make Washington the 42nd state to adopt a charter school law and finally bring them into the 21st century of education delivery.

Idaho’s ballot left the fate of three laws, known as the Students Come First laws, up to voters. Unfortunately, the $1.2 million in NEA funding to squash these measures paid off. Voters turned down that reforms that would have paid teachers based on performance, phased out tenure, limited collective-bargaining, and expanded online learning opportunities.

NJ Tenure Reform

“Compromise, Caffeine, and Trade-Offs: Behind NJ’s New Tenure Reform Bill”
by John Mooney
NJ Spotlight
August 7, 2012

With the signing yesterday of New Jersey’s new teacher tenure law, there was the expected fanfare about the stakeholders and bipartisan efforts that went into crafting the final bill.

Less attention was given to the two weeks of marathon meetings in early June that finally turned the legislation, the break coming when the governor relented on an issue that was once almost non-negotiable.

A half-dozen key players led by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the main crafter of the bill, met for hours at a time in a handful of locations to work out the details, according to several of those who attended.

Among those in the rooms were state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the top leadership for the New Jersey Education Association, and state Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), the driving force in the Assembly.

Just a week before the bill came to final vote in the Senate, Ruiz and Cerf even squeezed in a closed-door meeting at the Liberty Science Center after a special State Board of Education session held at the Jersey City museum.

“We lived on coffee dispensed from a vending machine,” Ruiz said yesterday of that meeting.

Ultimately, it was Gov. Chris Christie stepping back — at least for now — on an issue that was once a no-trespass line: his insistence on ending seniority rights for teachers in the case of layoffs.

“That was very near the end of the process, not a single moment, but suddenly it didn’t appear so much in the conversations any more,” said Vincent Giordano, the executive director of the New Jersey Education Association and one of the regulars at the table.

“When that issue started slowly fading away, without question, that helped smooth out other hurdles in the road,” he said.

Read More …

Newswire: June 5, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 23

WISCONSIN RE-CALL. Labor’s credibility is on the line today as voters in Wisconsin go to the ballot box for the gubernatorial recall election. Governor Walker’s all-out assault on collective bargaining sparked this most expensive election in the state’s history. Although most political pundits are giving the edge to Walker, voter turnout is key to the outcome. But, others suggest that if labor, including teacher unions, take a loss, it may not be as unexpected as thought…

LOVE’S LOST ON LABOR. Public opinion of teacher unions, even among teachers themselves, is on the wane. That’s according to a survey released by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. Between 2009-2011, the annual poll found little movement, with about 40% of respondents neutral in their views of teacher unions. But, this latest poll finds unions losing ground. Among teachers surveyed, the drop is even more dramatic. In 2011, 58% of teachers had a positive view of unions, dropping to 43% in 2012. Teachers holding a negative view of unions nearly doubled during the same time period, from 17% to 32%, all of which could explain the NEA’s reported loss of 200,000 members by 2014. The researchers responsibly say the decrease in teacher support could be due to an opinion that unions are not doing their job in Legislatures nationwide, given the hard hits they have taken on benefits, evaluations, etc. However, they also note that dwindling teacher support could emanate from a realization that unions are putting up roadblocks to meaningful reform.

UNION LIP SERVICE. Given the results of this poll and reform trends nationwide, Washington Post columnist Jay Mathew’s characterization of union “tolerance” and support for charters and evaluations is befuddling at best. In a recent column on Obama

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NC Senate Approves Overhaul Bill

“NC public school changes approved by Senate”
by Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press
News & Observer
June 4, 2012

The Republican-led North Carolina Senate gave its final approval Monday evening to a public school overhaul bill after a Democratic amendment was defeated that would have deleted the measure’s proposed end to teacher tenure and weakened merit pay requirements.

The Senate passed the legislation on a party-line vote of 31-17, with GOP leaders calling the measure necessary to improve test scores, graduation rates and reading proficiency among children in early grades. But Democrats said the changes would demoralize teachers already discouraged by job losses, no pay raises since 2008 and other GOP-backed changes last year.

The Democrats’ amendment was defeated by the same margin as the full bill. Senate leader Phil Berger, a primary sponsor of the bill, called the Democratic ideas well-intentioned but “really represent a defense of the status quo.”

“What this bill tries to do is take us away from the status quo,” the Rockingham Republican said later in the debate.

The bill would scrap the current tenure system for veteran teachers that Republicans argue makes it difficult to fire teachers when administrators determine they are ineffective and gives them contracts of one to four school years. All teachers would get one-year contracts during this next school year. Tenure supporters argue that teachers need protections from political or other unfair firings.

The bill also would require school districts to create their own bonus or merit-pay programs to reward the most effective teachers. A program also would provide reading-intensive instruction in early grades. Most third-graders who didn’t show reading proficiency on tests by the end of third grade would be held back.

The bill now heads to the House. Republicans there have said they like the bill’s concepts but that there may not be enough time this

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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

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Lawsuit Over Tenure Reform

“Teachers union files lawsuit over Michigan Teacher Tenure Act”
by Lori Higgins
Detroit Free Press
March 8, 2012

A local teachers union is challenging aspects of Michigan’s Teacher Tenure Act, saying in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that a controversial amendment made to the law last summer is unconstitutional.

The amendment barred school districts from using seniority as the determining factor when making layoff decisions — tossing aside traditional “last in, first out” procedures.

The amendment was part of sweeping changes to Michigan’s tenure act. Michael Lee, a Southfield attorney representing the Southfield Education Association, said he believes it is the first time the changes have been challenged in federal court.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, stems from a dispute in the Southfield Public Schools that began when the district laid off teachers last summer. Lee said the district did not follow its own procedures for recalling teachers — procedures that were put in place following passage of the tenure changes.

That part of the dispute is addressed in a lawsuit the union filed in circuit court last month. The federal lawsuit addresses the broader issue of whether the amendment itself is lawful.

Lee said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized tenure as a property right in cases that go back as far as 1978.

“Once you pass legislation that says ignore tenure and people are laid off as a result, you have taken away that property right, and you have done that without due process,” Lee said.

Ari Adler, spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said the amendment was part of needed changes in tenure laws for teachers. Legislation to enact the changes originated in the House.

“The focus was to do what we could to protect good teachers and ensure a high quality of education for the students,” Adler said. “We were

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Tenure Reform Bill Takes Heat

A few critical words at the top of page 14 of the proposed tenure reform bill caused quite a stir yesterday at a Senate hearing on the measure.

The new rules — which redefine how New Jersey teachers earn and keep tenure — will not apply to “those who acquired tenure prior to the effective date” of the bill.

In other words, the bill put forward by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the bill that has been given the best chance yet of overhauling New Jersey’s century-old tenure system, will be grandfathered in. Read More…

Banner Year For Teacher Policy Reform

The National Council on Teacher Quality releases it’s annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook, noting that 2011 “was no ordinary year for teacher policy”. While the fifth edition of this report saw more changes in states’ teacher policies than any years prior, Florida, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Tennessee lead the nation on teacher quality policy.

One policy that is being targeted nationwide is teacher tenure. States are tossing aside historic protections in an era that demands high-performing teachers to produce higher achievement among students.

Check out CER’s map to see how your state stacks up when it comes to teacher quality.

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