House Passes Significant Changes to State's Teacher Tenure Law

Thursday, June 9, 2011

LANSING - State Representative David E. Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) today expressed his concerns about two of the four bills passed by the House of Representatives that would make changes to the teacher tenure system in Michigan.

“As a member of the Education Committee, I have been working hard on this issue for the last two months, and have considered all of these bills very closely,” Rutledge said. “After speaking at length with teachers, school administrators, and my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle, it is clear that there are a number of problems with the current teacher tenure law.”

House Bills 4625-4628 were considered by the Committee on Education in May. The first bill Rutledge supported, HB 4525, extends the probationary period from four to five years for most teachers, but would create a “fast track” for highly effective teachers to earn tenure more quickly than they can currently, in three years. HB 4527, the other bill Rutledge voted to support, would clarify that length of service in personnel decisions can be considered if all other factors are equal.

Rutledge voted against HB 4526, which would redefine the standard for a district to terminate a teacher’s tenure, so that the burden of proof would be on the teacher to show they should not have been fired. Rutledge also voted against HB 4528, which prohibits numerous different considerations from being collectively bargained at the local level, effectively eroding teachers’ and districts’ rights to negotiate contracts that reflect the needs of the community. All four bills passed the House, and the legislation was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Rutledge and a number of other House members are working on reforms of the teacher evaluation system, to ensure that the definition of the term “effective” is fair and reflects the best interests of students.

“I considered my votes on these bills very carefully, because I understand the potential impact of these changes: they will affect every Michigan resident,” Rutledge said. “What is most important is that the basis for change is what is best for students’ education, and fair for teachers. While two of these bills make sound changes to the law, unfortunately I believe that HBs 4526 and 4528 erodes teachers’ rights and compromise teachers’ protections from unfair treatment.”