published Friday, March 25th, 2011

Favors warns of teacher shortages

  • photo
    JoAnne Favors stands in the Times Free Press photo studio during a portrait session. Photo taken Jan. 16, 2009.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE—A Hamilton County lawmaker warned House colleagues Thursday that Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to make teacher tenure protections tougher to achieve and keep could lead to future teacher shortages.

But despite the assertions by Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, House majority Republicans pushed the bill through on a 65-32 vote. One Democrat, Rep. John DeBerry, of Memphis, crossed party lines to vote with them.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where Republican senators are expected to agree on a minor House change to the bill they themselves passed along largely partisan lines earlier this month.

The proposal from Republican Haslam extends from three to five years the amount of time it takes for teachers to obtain tenure.

Teachers also would have to land in the top two ranks of a five-tiered evaluation system during their fourth and fifth years before getting tenure. They could find themselves on probationary status if their evaluations fall into the bottom two rankings for two consecutive years.

Currently tenured teachers would not be affected. However, the bill adds poor evaluations to the list of factors that can get a tenured teacher dismissed.

Favors, a registered nurse and former teacher, said stretching tenure from three years to five was “absurd.”

“I believe there’s going to be a shortage of teachers in the next five years,” she said. “We will be very, very sorry for what we have done. The governor does not have to wait five years for re-election. We don’t have to wait five years. That is absurd to even have that there.”

But Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who handled the bill, countered that the changes are necessary, noting tenure today means “all you have to do is have three years and a heartbeat and you’re in, and there’s no incentive to keep improving.”

He dismissed concerns that Haslam’s requirements for tenure would exclude teachers who fall into the third tier — “meets expectations” — from qualifying. He also disagreed with questions about whether state pay will keep up with increased demands on teachers.

“I hope people are not going into the teaching profession to get tenure,” Dunn said. “I hope they’re getting into it to educate our children, to make a difference in their lives.”

Many teachers would say “tenure is not first on their priority list,” he said. “It’s being with children and seeing that light bulb go off over their head. That’s where they get their reward.”

Debate largely revolved around efforts by Democrats to delay tying student performance to tenure for at least a year until all tests used in evaluations can be put in place. In a number of areas ranging from prekindergarten to second grade and physical education, tests are not ready, critics said.

As a result, teachers’ evaluations will depend on overall school performance, they said.

“We’re just getting this cart before the horse,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “We need to see this evaluation system before we adopt a major revision in our tenure system.”

Tennessee Education Association chief lobbyist Jerry Winters said that, while the 52,000-member organization raised concerns about implementation of the bill, “the TEA did not completely oppose it.”

“I hope we have proven to our critics that we’re not always trying to defend the status quo,” Winters said. “We’ve kept an open mind on changes to the tenure law and we’ve not resisted all of those changes.”

But efforts by Senate Republican leaders and some House Republicans to repeal teachers’ collective bargaining rights might turn off some younger adults who are considering teaching as a career, he said.

“If I was a student out there thinking about becoming a teacher, I would say, ‘Do I really want to do this in such an environment?’” he said. “I think the Legislature has a responsibility to think about that. We don’t need to be discouraging young people from going into the profession.”

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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chattreb said...

I agree with Favors. Though the teacher's union has over stepped its bounds by getting into politics outside of education (I know because I'm an ex-teacher) teachers are now getting a raw deal. They are already evaluated to death every year. Required to complete paperwork for the evals and then still having to keep up with their regular duties. A teacher shortage is coming. I will never recommend education as a career until teaher's are treated like the professionals they are. Maybe the parents should homeschool all children for one year to see what it takes to educate someone. If they did I promise you the teacher bashing would stop. BTW, TEA, get out of the politics that don't concern education, like abortion.

March 25, 2011 at 1:28 a.m.
rockman12 said...

There should be no tenure, period. People will only work as hard as they have to in order to keep their job. Teachers should be no different than someone that works in the private sector. In the private sector if you receive multiple poor evaluations you lose your job. That keeps most employees motivated and promotes continued improvement. If you want to improve the quality of the education that our children receive then get rid of tenure and then teachers will have the motivation that they need to keep their jobs. With that said, I do not agree with the Republican stance that the unions are the reason for all the financial problems that state and local governments have at this time, or their rhetoric that the unions need to be busted and that teachers do not have the right to organize. The state and local governments just need to be better negotiators instead of just saying "ok" to whatever the unions ask for.

March 25, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.
Leaf said...

The REAL issue here is that people are starting to realize that the educational system in America is very poor, and they are looking for someone to blame. The politicians whe passed this bill are desparately trying to pass the blame, and have decided that teachers will be the scapegoat. They are an easy target.

However, education will suffer further by attacking teachers. Fewer college graduates would want to work in such a caustic environment with lower pay relative to other jobs they could get.

If we REALLY want to improve the level of teaching (which is just one of the many things we need to improve) then actually making the profession attractive to highly qualified college graduates is the obvious path.

March 25, 2011 at 2:26 p.m.
easttn said...

tenure keep school system from getting rid of teacher when they start getting paid to much. If there was no tenure then school system would dismiss when they find some reason not to like the teacher

March 25, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.
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