NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam's tenure-reform bill cleared its first major House hurdle Wednesday, passing out of the House Education Subcommittee on a largely party-line 9-4 vote.
One Democrat, Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis, joined with the panel's Republicans in voting the bill out of committee.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, the bill's sponsor, said the bill continues reforms implemented last year as part of Tennessee's successful quest for a $500 million federal Race to the Top grant.
"Basically, if you talked to anyone, they'd say the current [tenure] system isn't working," Dunn said, noting it "doesn't really deal with effectiveness."
But Tennessee Education Association officials and their advocates on the panel said the tenure overhaul will rest on a teacher evaluation system that remains under development.
"There are a lot of unknowns out there. I think it is so premature to tie high stakes human resources decisions" to an unfinished evaluation process, warned Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis.
The bill lengthens from three years to five the amount of time someone must teach before being eligible for tenure. To be considered, teachers would have to rank in the top two categories of a five-tier evaluation process for two consecutive years.
Tenured teachers could be placed on probation again if they miss the top two tiers for two consecutive years.
The bill would not affect the tenure of teachers hired before July 1. Democrats on the subcommittee tried to amend the bill and delay the reforms for at least a year until the new evaluation system was completed and tested.
The Senate is set to hear its version of the bill Thursday.