Tuesday, March 8, 2011

House Votes to Streamline Process to Fire Poor Performing Teachers

State lawmakers voted today to streamline the process for firing poor-performing or ineffective teachers, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars for state schools.

House Bill 1380, by state Rep. Corey Holland, would increase the power of local school boards. Under the legislation, if an administrator recommends dismissing a teacher, that educator would have the right to a hearing before the local board of education, which would make the final decision on the issue.

“Under my legislation, the process begins when the board hires a teacher, and the process would end with the board if a teacher needs to be fired,” said Holland, a Marlow Republican who is a former teacher. “This empowers local school boards elected by local parents to make the decisions necessary to provide the best education to local children.”

Currently, if a board decides to terminate a contract, teachers can appeal the firing in district court, an expensive and time-consuming process that would be eliminated by House Bill 1380.

Holland noted that the current process to fire even the worst teacher can take more than one year and cost school districts between $80,000 and $100,000 per case.

The Oklahoman recently reported that it cost Purcell Public Schools around $80,000 to fire a teacher later charged with lewd acts with a child.

“With the financial situation facing schools today, most districts will choose to save money and not fire poor performing teachers, leaving them in the classroom to the detriment of students,” Holland said. “The purpose of our schools is student learning. When the decision is made not to pursue firing an ineffective teacher, student learning is negatively impacted. Our children deserve to have a quality teacher in every classroom, and I believe this bill is a strong step towards achieving that goal.”

Teachers would still have several protections not afforded to most private-sector employees, Holland noted. First, teachers would have to be put on a plan of improvement and fail to boost performance before contracts could be terminated. In addition, to be fired teachers would have to demonstrate a clear and continued pattern of misconduct or incompetence.

“At the Capitol, school administrators have advocates who lobby for their causes and teachers have advocates who represent their views, but no one really stands up for the children in our schools,” Holland said. “This bill advocates for the right of students to have a good teacher and a quality education.”

House Bill 1380 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 69-31 vote today. It now proceeds to the state Senate.

Location:Oklahoma State Capitol

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