New bill seeks end to teacher tenure

For teachers, the most problematic component of last year’s House Bill 1234 was the eventual end to continuing contract rights (read: tenure).

But most school administrators liked that part of the bill, which would have made it much easier to get rid of veteran teachers.

A bill filed today — Senate Bill 187 — would go further, allowing school boards to end those job protections right away.

I expected some pieces of HB1234 would return this session, but I’m a bit surprised this is one of them. As I wrote in November:

GOP lawmakers might choose their next K-12 battles more carefully. No matter the input teachers are given, a plan to turn continuing contract status for teachers with three years of experience from a statewide mandate to a local option is certain to inflame the union.

Melmer said the state probably should set that issue aside to focus on more important reforms.

"I don’t know if it’s a hill worth dying on any longer," he said. "I do think it’s somewhat of an outdated model … (but) maybe it gets us off topic on what we really should be talking about."

Harrisburg Superintendent Jim Holbeck said the phase-out of tenure was the most divisive part of the proposal, and on the heels of state funding cuts that suppressed teacher salaries, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

"The problem with tenure at this point is as teachers are 51st in the nation in pay, and they’ve kind of been beat down the last few years … this was another kick in the stomach," he said.

Another bill, HB1166, would provide $1 million in incentive pay for teachers who work at schools where a low number of college-bound graduates need remedial coursework. The money would go to the best 10 percent of schools according to this calculation.

I see some glaring fairness problems with this bill, but I’m sure that’ll come out in committee, if it’s not amended before then.