Teacher tenure legislation signed into law by Haslam
Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:30 pm
By LUCAS JOHNSON II
NASHVILLE (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday signed into law a measure to make it more difficult for teachers to obtain and keep tenure in Tennessee shortly after another one of his education initiatives passed a key House panel.
Haslam signed the bill in a ceremony at the state Capitol shortly after the House Education Committee advanced a bill that would lift a cap on charter schools in Tennessee.
The new law will allow teachers to qualify for tenure after five years on the job, longer than the current three. It will also provide a mechanism for teachers to lose tenure if they perform poorly in consecutive years.
“I think, quite frankly, three years was too short a time to grant something with such a great privilege like tenure,” he said. “I think the bar had been set too low.”
Haslam reiterated that the legislation is not intended to undermine teachers but help enhance their performance.
“Several folks have said … this is about pointing fingers at teachers,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Great teachers are exactly what we need in the classroom.”
The charter schools measure was approved by the House panel on a 12-5 vote. It now heads for the House Finance Committee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
Charter schools are funded with state and local tax dollars but don’t have to meet some of the state regulations regular schools do as they try to find innovative ways to improve student learning.
Under current law, the number of charter schools is capped at 90 statewide. There are currently 40 in all: 25 in Memphis, 10 in Nashville, three in Hamilton County and one each in Knoxville and Shelby County.
The proposal carried by Republican Rep. Mark White of Memphis would remove the cap. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment to cap the schools at 120 up until 2015 failed.
Besides removing the cap, the proposal also allows any student in the charter school’s jurisdiction to attend the school.
Democratic Rep. Lois DeBerry of Memphis said she likes the idea of charter schools, but removing the cap and expanding enrollment at the same time is too much.
“This gives me heartburn,” she said. “At some point, we need to sit down and reason together.”
Opponents of the charter schools legislation say attention should be given to improving public schools.
Associated Press writer Erik Schelzig contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 4.13.11