By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has unveiled his long awaited “tenure reform” bill. The 49 page Rewarding Advancement in Instruction and Student Excellence (RAISE) Act will fundamentally change how public school teachers are compensated in the State of Alabama moving forward.
(This reporter could not find the bill on the State Legislature’s often troubled website.)
The Alabama School Connections blog’s Trisha Powell Crane is reporting that they have a draft version of the controversial bill.
According to original reporting by the Anniston Star’s Tim Lockette, Marsh said, “We all want to do what we can to improve education, and we have the potential to offer the highest teacher pay in the region.”
Marsh told Lockette that for 2017 hires, he wants two tracks. A non-tenured performance based career track that is higher paid but has little job security, and a traditional tenure track where the teachers are compensated less but can be awarded tenure by their local school boards.
The Marsh bill, as reported by Alabama School Connections, would increase the number of years for a young teacher to get tenure from three to five years. This means that a teacher who takes a job at a school system under the tenure track could work in a place for up to five years and then the school board could vote not to give them tenure and they would be without a job. School boards will not be able to give tenure to any teacher that scores less than a 3.0 on Marsh’s new teacher evaluation scoring system. Support personnel will not be given tenure at all.
Performance track teachers would make more money but be fired at any time if they receive poor performance evaluations from their principal and a performance evaluator. Pay would also be tied to student performance on standardized testing. Existing teachers will be grandfathered into the tenure track. If they elect to move to the performance track, they can’t go back to the tenure track. New hires under the performance track can not ever switch to the tenure track.
Existing Tenure (obtained under the Students First Act of 2011) can be revoked if the teacher receives two consecutive significantly below expectations performance ratings. The teacher can begin to earn tenure again upon revocation. Cost of Living increases for current tenure track teachers will be capped at a maximum of five percent in any year.
Performance track teachers who receive “exceed expectations” evaluations receive bonus money.
Principals and assistant principals would be paid and evaluated under a similar system.
Marsh told Lockette that he wants Alabama to have the highest starting pay for teachers in the Southeast.
Many rural systems are reporting that they are already having difficulty recruiting new teachers and based on enrollments at many teaching programs around the state there is an impending teacher shortage.
Many prospective college students are aware that many school boards routinely cut loose young teachers rather than give them tenure so have learned to avoid majoring in education.
It is unclear how making it easier to fire teachers and principals is going to help rural school systems actually attract bright, young, educated people to teach at schools in rural counties, with very limited employment prospects for persons with college degrees. If there is one school system and you have a degree in elementary special education for example, and the one system cuts you based on not wanting to award tenure or due to a bad performance violation, then you will likely have to uproot your family and move to another county or state where there are more opportunities for someone with that degree.
Sen. Marsh was one of the primary proponents of the Alabama Accountability Act as well as the charter school legislation that was passed in 2015.
It is unclear if Senator Marsh will allow legislation to advance to the floor that would repeal the highly unpopular Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, written to align with Common Core. The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee has twice voted to repeal the unpopular experimental education standards and methods. Despite near universal Republican opposition to Common Core the legislature has not voted on repeal legislation, even though the Alabama Accountability Act and the Charter Schools bill (both pushed by Marsh) have sailed through the legislature.
The 2016 legislative session will convene on February 2.