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Attack on Teacher Tenure

A column from Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal.

The Senate spent several hours recently debating a bill (Senate Bill 806) that was originally designed to abolish the current teacher tenure system for public school teachers in Missouri. The bill was an attempt by special interest groups to bust up teacher unions and to micromanage how school districts across the state operate. As a school board member and a friend to many current and retired teachers, I was vocal in my opposition to this bill when it was brought up for debate on the Senate floor.

If we want to really reform the education process in Missouri, we need to look at some of the root problems plaguing school districts across the state. Although state and federal budgets are tight nowadays, some school districts are still providing teacher raises and awarding generous contracts to superintendents and administrators at underperforming school districts. I offered an amendment that addressed this issue and while I had bipartisan support, the amendment failed when it came to a vote.

We need to pass state laws that help school districts evaluate teachers, staff and administrators. That is why I am sponsoring Senate Bill 543 this legislative session, a measure that still awaits a hearing before the Senate Education Committee. The bill allows mechanisms for school districts to evaluate superintendents and reduce superintendent compensation for underperformance.

If we take away teacher tenure, we take away incentives for experienced teachers to remain in the classroom and provide a disincentive for potential teachers. Before the bill received the Senate's initial approval, it was amended, increasing the length of time from five to 10 consecutive years it takes to earn permanent teacher status. The in-depth evaluation of this bill in the Senate is a good thing. This issue is not one that can be sorted out during one day of debate. The issue needs to be analyzed more, and I am urging my colleagues, before casting their final vote, to take a closer look at how school districts hire superintendents and administrators while they evaluate the teacher tenure system in Missouri.

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