SALT LAKE CITY -- Educators upset about a proposed bill that could change the hiring and firing practices of local school boards have inundated state school board members with letters and emails.
The State Board of Education voted 12-3 on Friday to approve a working draft of a bill proposed to go before the Legislature in 2012. The board will discuss the bill again at its October meeting.
State school board member Kim Burningham, of Bountiful, spoke against the proposed bill, saying he was "troubled by the section which allows termination of teachers without cause."
Superintendent Larry Shumway said the bill would replace the current Utah Orderly School Termination Procedures Act.
Shumway said the proposed bill would:
- Repeal the current Utah Orderly School Termination Procedure Act and give responsibility for personnel policy to local school boards.
- Assign responsibility for education workforce management to local school boards.
- Create limitations on the durations of expectations of continued employment.
- Create provisions for the incremental development of performance-pay elements in district and charter school compensation programs.
- Provide a 10-year opt-out clause for employees who are "career employees" under the current law.
Personnel policy should be made by local school boards, not the Legislature, Shumway said. The bill, if legislators pass it, would put local school boards in control of personnel policy.
Also, educators should not have the expectation that continued employment means "perpetual," Shumway said. Those who have spoken against the bill claim teachers will maintain their jobs only "at will."
The bill would require all teachers to be evaluated every five years, Shumway said.
It would also allow districts to implement performance pay.
But what troubles those opposed to it is the ability to terminate without cause.
Burningham said after the meeting that was his biggest concern. "In a time when we are already underpaying our teachers, we yank another benefit from them when we should be showing them support."
Deputy Superintendent Martell Menlove said the bill does not eliminate due process when it comes to administrators terminating a teacher.
Teachers will not lose their jobs just because someone does not like them, he said.
Jo Eglund, president of the Weber Education Association, said teachers learned about the bill just a few days ago.
After she read the proposed bill, she said, "It feels like a dictatorship. We give our lives to our kids."
She and Burningham said mechanisms are already in place to get rid of teachers who are not performing.
But it takes time, said Isaiah "Ike" Spencer, the board representative for the Coalition of Minorities advisory committee.
Spencer, who works at the Granite School District, said the current process to terminate a teacher takes too long and "most administrators won't fool with it."
Pete Previte, a parent with children in Ogden schools, also spoke against the bill.
"After reading this bill, line after line, it reads like a solution looking for a problem."
Previte said this will just discourage people from entering the teaching profession because, "from my experience, 'at will' means do it cheaper."
He said teachers who have been with a district for more than five years could be replaced by those just entering the teaching field and districts could pay them less.