GOP pushes teacher tenure, license changes at hearing

Rep. Jenifer Loon presents her bill on teacher seniority and licensing to the House Education Innovation Policy Committee. Tim Pugmire / MPR News

Legislation that changes teacher tenure protections and teacher licensing received its first committee hearing today in the Minnesota House.

The top education proposal from House Republicans would require public school districts to negotiate local policies for layoffs and other staffing decisions that emphasize a teacher’s performance over seniority. It would end the practice known as “last in, first out.”

Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, told members of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee that her bill would help ensure quality teaching for all students.

“Demonstrated success for children academically and developing their skills is closely correlated with quality teaching,” Loon said. “Making sure that every one of our children has the best available teachers in the classroom is a goal that I know that we all share.”

The statewide teachers union, Education Minnesota, opposes the bill. One of the union’s attorneys, Jess Anna Glover, said school leaders already have plenty of tools to remove ineffective teachers. She also warned that the proposed changes could lead to costly legal challenges.

“Money spent on attorneys is money not spent on students,” Glover said. “Layoffs based on license and seniority provide a predictable, reliable and credible layoff system for districts.”

Representatives of other education groups spoke in support of the bill.

Tim Alexander, an assistant superintendent in Minnetonka, said removing ineffective teachers is currently a complicated, lengthy and expensive process. He said the proposed seniority changes are an important.

“It provides us, obviously, the flexibility to be able to as much as possible to keep the most effective teachers in the classrooms,” Alexander said.

In addition, the bill would make it easier for teachers licensed in other states to work in Minnesota. School districts would also be able to hire non-licensed community experts when licensed teachers are not available.

The committee hearing is set to resume Thursday.