Teacher tenure bill: American Federation of Teachers' Colorado branch endorses it

The Colorado branch of the American Federation of Teachers today endorsed Senator Michael Johnston's controversial teacher tenure bill (learn more about it by clicking here), which heads to the House Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow after getting the green light from the Senate last week.

Many teachers, as well as the big-time Colorado Education Association union, oppose the bill. At a noon press conference, AFT Colorado president Brenda Smith said the union, which represents teachers in Denver, Douglas County and Trinidad, decided to get on board with Senate Bill 191 after it was okayed by the Senate -- with a few caveats.

AFT is pushing for a handful of amendments. Among them:

  • An amendment requiring that at least two teachers provide input to principals about which new teachers to hire.
  • An amendment requiring that a teachers' years of service, in addition to her effectiveness, be considered when making layoffs.
  • An amendment that would allow teachers to appeal an unsatisfactory review.

The most controversial part of Johnston's bill would change the way teachers achieve tenure. Teachers who currently earn this status can't be fired without due process after three years of satisfactory performance. But under the measure, teachers would only receive tenure if they were deemed "effective" for three years in a row -- and half of that determination that would be based on whether a teacher's students were showing academic growth.

Teachers would continue to be evaluated every year and could lose that tenure if they were deemed "ineffective" for two consecutive years.

A hearing before the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago lasted for five hours -- and was quite heated at times. Bill sponsors are expecting the same at tomorrow's hearing. Stay tuned.

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