published Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Haslam teacher tenure bill clears Senate committee

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to make it harder for teachers to win and keep tenure is headed to the Senate floor after easily clearing the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

The Republican-controlled panel approved the landmark measure on a party-line 6-3 vote after a relatively brief 40-minute debate.

Haslam, a Republican, said he was “pleased to see the first step happen.”

Among other things, the bill expands from three years to five the time it takes for new teachers to achieve tenure, which is designed to protect teachers from unfair dismissals. They are eligible for tenure only if they fall into the top two tiers of a five-tier evaluation process.

Teachers risk losing tenure protection if they fall out of the top two tiers for two consecutive years.

Tennessee Education Association President Gera Summerford, a Sevier County math teacher, warned committee members the state’s teacher evaluation system on which the process rests remains under development.

For some 60 percent of teachers, including art, music and foreign language instructors, evaluations may be based in part on systemwide data and not on what takes place in their classrooms, she said.

“Due process and continued employment should not be based on an uncertain evaluation system or on the data from students who are not inside their classroom,” Summerford said.

The issue drew concerns from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga.

“My question is, what’s magical about doing this right now, as opposed to ensuring that we get our evaluations straight?” Berke said.

Haslam’s acting education commissioner, Patrick Smith, said that the evaluation system would not go into effect until July 1. The law would not affect currently tenured teachers, he said.

“We will have two years under our belt with the new evaluation system in which to make an assessment of its integrity,” Smith said.

Speaking later to reporters, Haslam downplayed the possibility of evaluation problems, noting he had discussed the matter with fellow governors meeting in Washington last week, and others.

“The consensus is this: The perfect is the enemy of good when it comes to evaluation systems,” Haslam said. “We are in process, but that’s a process that teachers are involved with. ... We can work forever to get the perfect one, or we can go ahead and move forward.”

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, charged that “it seems like Democrats are bought and paid for by the unions.”

Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, rejected that, saying, “I only answer to my God and my wife. And it’s kind of odd they bring up political contributions ... the fact of the matter is that teachers appreciate folks on my side of the aisle because we show appreciation, dedication.”

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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srlaymon said...

So teachers cannot receive tenure after 4 years of school and 3 years of on the job experience while incidentally being evaluated by more than one professor, veteran teacher, and principal during those 7 years. That makes the fact that elected officials such as senators and congressional members can receive pension for life and insurance after serving only one term, even more asinine. Thank you Andy Berke and Eric Stewart for standing up for teachers.

March 6, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.
cildawg1 said...

When Bill Haslam’s first order of business as governor was to take away the collective bargaining rights of teachers, I thought to myself, “What have teachers done in Tennessee to get stripped of their bargaining rights?” I wondered if Tennessee teachers had gone on strike or had massive “call in sick” days. I searched Google for “Tennessee Teachers on Strike” and could find nothing. In fact, I found that it was illegal for Tennessee teachers to go on strike. So apparently Tennessee teachers have not used their collective bargaining rights to go on strike.

Perhaps the problem is the retirement system that teachers enjoy. I went to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System and pretended that I was a 35-year teacher who had averaged $50,000/year for the last five years. (I don’t know if many teachers earn that much, but I used that number as a guide.) To my surprise, a teacher who earned $50,000/year and retires with 35 years of experience merely gets a pension of $2,296/month or an annual pension of $27,552. That’s the maximum, assuming that the teacher doesn’t want his/her spouse to have anything in the event of the teacher’s death. You can check this out yourself by going to the TCRS calculation website. It seems that the collective bargaining isn’t helping the teachers all that much with their retirement. So why is Bill Haslam picking on teachers?

It is untrue that a tenured teacher cannot be fired. Tenure only guarantees due process for teachers facing termination. Tennessee isn’t like New York City, where ineffective teachers are in a holding area earning their full salary while playing cards and waiting years for hearings. This doesn’t happen in Tennessee. However, it is true that for a Tennessee teacher to lose his/her job there has to be evidence of ineffectiveness and evidence that assistance was provided to the teacher to no avail.

Nationwide, teachers are consistently leaving the teaching profession. “Every year, U.S. schools hire more than 200,000 new teachers for that first day of class. By the time summer rolls around, at least 22,000 have quit. Even those who make it beyond the trying first year aren't likely to stay long: about 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years, and more than 45 percent leave after five.”[Source – NEA] So the notion that it’s hard to get rid of teachers is just not true. On the contrary, it’s hard to keep teachers.

Changing the tenure law is just the beginning of things to come. Changing the tenure law won't save money. The salaries and retirement plans that teachers earned will be next. I hope I'm wrong.

May 9, 2011 at 5:38 p.m.
Rtazmann said...


December 11, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.
joneses said...

The best thing that can happen to government schools is get the government out of the schools and privatize them. I have no tenure at my job why should teachers?

January 18, 2012 at 8:54 p.m.

YES , WE CAN..WE WILL WIN IN WAR ON TERROR (30 whities or what are terrorists will never come back alive from Afghanistan...thank you lord..aamen).

ARIZONA = NORWAY = THERE WAS NO SHOOTING, BUT “AFTERLIFE” FLASH MOB INSTEAD !! Tear gas and theater(guilt or blame and shame weapon) were used on faces of multiculturalism maniacs while calling YOU a terrorists in our own countries during bogus “economic crises” !!! 911(TWIN TOWERS) = NORWAY BOMBING OR STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM, HOWEVER, WAS REAL !!

Whitie is fighting war on terrorism just to come home and be pronounced as terrorist...turned in Timothy, jobless, homeless ..YESSS, WE CAN(FISH CAN & TENT CITY USA CAN)...

Don't worry O(s)bama, you have just saved lots of Dollars in your DEBT DEALS(DEAD & ILL) as those America best (Navy Seals) would also grew older !!



February 24, 2012 at 5:14 p.m.
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