House panel takes up bill to repeal tenure

School districts that want to fire ineffective teachers usually win tenure cases, a lawyer representing more than 400 districts testified today before the House Education Committee.

The committee is considering House Bill 4241, a bill to repeal the Teacher Tenure Act. The committee will meet again Wednesday at 9 a.m. to take additional testimony on tenure and to consider House Bills 4465 and 4466, legislation to toughen teacher strike penalties.

Responding to a question today from Rep. Thomas Stallworth III, D-Detroit, attorney Rob Deitzel of the Thrun law firm said that the State Tenure Commission has allowed schools to discharge tenured teachers.

“The commission rules in favor of school districts more often than not,” said Deitzel, who appeared at the hearing with Swartz Creek Community Schools Superintendent Jeff Pratt. They reviewed a case involving a Swartz Creek teacher, who the State Tenure Commission ordered reinstated with back pay following a lengthy legal battle.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, who described tenure as “an outdated system.”

“The education of our children is more important than the job protection of sub-par teachers,” Rogers said. “It should be virtually impossible for an ineffective teacher to remain in the classroom.”

Four other people testified today, including Fowlerville Education Association President Mary Aldecoa. She opposes House Bill 4241 and asked lawmakers to streamline the process for discharging tenured teachers. She also said administrators don’t always evaluate teachers on time and so ineffective teachers can earn tenure and remain in the classroom. But, she cautioned, legislators shouldn’t judge all teachers based on a few.

“The vast majority of teachers are good, competent, caring professionals,” Aldecoa said.

MEA Chief Legal Counsel Arthur Przybylowicz submitted written testimony in opposition to House Bill 4241.  He advised legislators that MEA supports streamlining the process for discharging tenured teachers, which is part of the association’s A+ Agenda.

“Teachers without tenure status could be subject to dismissal at the whim of local boards of education for partisan, political reasons and for many other inappropriate reasons, including creating a teaching vacancy for a relative of a board member or school administrator,” Przybylowicz wrote. “Teachers could be dismissed without regard to their having received consistent evaluations as highly effective teachers.”