Minnesota House OKs teacher layoff rules that drop seniority protection

/ 26 April 2012 / jennifer

Megan Boldt, Pioneer Press, April 26, 2012 –

A bill that would end seniority-based teacher layoffs passed through the Republican-led Minnesota House, bringing it one step closer to the desk of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who has promised to veto it.

The proposal to end the so-called practice of “last in, first out” was approved on a 70-61 vote late in the evening Thursday, April 26.

Proponents say the change is necessary to make sure good teachers aren’t laid off just because they haven’t been in a district long enough. Minnesota is one of 11 states that have such policies.

“It’s in the best interest of students,” said Rep. Branden Petersen, R-Andover. “And it’s in the best interest of teachers as well.”

But Democrats echoed arguments shared by Dayton that the bill is premature, linked to a new evaluation system for teachers that hasn’t been developed yet. Minnesota is still trying to work out the details of a new teacher evaluation law, which was passed by lawmakers last year and takes effect for the 2016-17 school year, a task other states have found is more time consuming and expensive than expected.

“We have time to actually get this done right,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “We’re rushing this through right now.”

Thissen argued Republicans should be focusing on issues that really affect student achievement – like a lack of affordable housing and health care, early childhood education programs and creating jobs with livable wages.

“These are the big

issues that we should be tackling,” he said. “Not your little reform that will move the dial a little bit one way or the other.”

Petersen said defenders of the status quo are doing little more than putting their fingers into cracks of a dam. People want overhauls in the country’s public school systems, he said, and that movement is coming to Minnesota. And that includes making sure teacher layoffs are based on performance, not on seniority.

“You’re standing in the way of a tidal wave,” he said.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve the measure, before it heads to Dayton.

Megan Boldt can be reached at 651-228-5495. Follow her at twitter.com/meganboldt.