By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R from Anniston) has shared a couple of drafts of a controversial ‘tenure reform’ bill. The 49 page Rewarding Advancement in Instruction and Student Excellence (RAISE) Act would two career tracks for new teachers and would fundamentally change how public school teachers are compensated in the state of Alabama moving forward.
Some educators and school boards have expressed opposition to parts of the bill.
Justin McNellage has started a petition at Change.org urging legislators not to pass the bill. McNellage writes: “The RAISE Act, although ornamented by a seemingly positive title, is deceptive in nature and unfair to educators in Alabama. If this is passed, teachers, administrators, and every other professional within the confines of the educational process will have their futures drastically and negatively altered. Under the RAISE Act, which is being proposed by Del Marsh, teachers will be monetarily bullied into adopting a career path that will be plagued by subjective surveys from students and parents, observations by non-educators (creating more ways to waste money that should be utilized to helping the students), and the pressure that comes with not having job security (tenure). If teachers choose to keep their tenure, they will no longer be given raises from experience or obtaining advanced degrees. This laughable proposal by Marsh will result in teachers teaching to the test, treating kids unfairly in order to increase the salary-determining scores, and quitting because of the ridiculous aspects being presented.”
At this point, 2,330 people have signed the petition begging the legislature not to pass the RAISE act as written.
Several commenters agreed with McNellage. One wrote, “I’m a teacher, and this is not in the best interest of our students. This is a way to end tenure and pretend the legislation is giving teachers a raise. Nobody in their right mind will grandfather out to receive merit pay, so therefore those who want to get an advanced degree to further their education won’t because they will not be compensated for it. How are teachers going to continue to be highly effective without continuing their own education at the University level? This is wrong on so many levels. Also, I’ve heard that states who use the ACT Aspire test and have gone through legislation similar to this pulled out of the state. The ACT Aspire doesn’t want to be held responsible or be a part of their test judging teachers. That’s not the intent. If this happens, what will Alabama use then? Back to the ARMT? The legislators need to quit disguising the bills. Call it what it is!”
Another wrote, “I am a special education teacher and I believe this bill is an insult to everyone in the teaching profession. Non-core teachers’ pay based on parent surveys? Wow. Most of the parents I deal with can’t even bother to return a meeting notice much less a survey to say whether I should be paid or not. This is a joke.”
Another said, “Alabama leaders have consistently taken from public schools and teachers. If they spent a day in my classroom where I teach at an 84% free and reduced lunch school I believe they’d understand that what he’s proposing is unfair. If we all taught cookie cutter children with cookie cutter families then maybe we could base pay on performance of students. But since these aren’t the times we live in it is impossible and unfair. If we had a raise under these current leaders without our insurance and retirement contributions being raised maybe we could believe in what they’re trying to do, but until then they do not have my support. I can barely take care of my own family yet I’m expected to teach twenty six year olds life skills, values, how to read fluently, how to write sentences and short stories, how to speak and act, how to count, add, and subtract, to reason, to construct viable arguments, to explain their thinking, and motivate them to learn by using everything from rewards to rap music. All while ensuring they get two balanced meals a day and providing them a snack out of my own pocket. I love what I do. I love making these children’s lives better, but it’s hard when after all they take out of my check I bring home $2300 each month and that’s with a master’s degree!!. I budget down to the dollar each month, so I can pay my mortgage and bills. I work at least 9 hour days, but many days it’s a 10 or 11 hour day. And yet since 2008 my pay has actually decreased. To say I’m upset that these so called leaders don’t value my profession is an understatement. I have lost all faith in these so called leaders.”
Marsh’s plan calls for two career tracks in education. 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 less well compensated 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.
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. Marsh has also blocked legislation that would repeal Alabama’s unpopular Common Core aligned college and career ready standards.
Common Core aligned college and career ready standards.
The 2016 legislative session will convene on February 2.
The 2016 legislative session will convene on February 2.