With the number of unfilled teaching positions at record highs nationwide, creating a definitive timeline for when teachers can be dismissed seems like an impossible task. But after months of debate and negotiations, the House passed its version of reduced job protections for veteran educators in June and brief about Teacher Tenure Pros And Cons.
On July 20th, 2012, Governor Walker signed legislation that would require school districts to offer new teachers permanent employment after three years on the job instead of two years. The legislation also grants districts the option of moving to a system of “probationary” teacher contracts after two years, rather than three.
Authored by State Senator Stephen Nass
The bill was authored by State Senator Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) and co-sponsored by State Senators Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). Vukmir, a former special education teacher, said the change “takes away the fear” of long-term employment for teachers and creates a fair system that rewards good work.
The bill was opposed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC). WEAC President Mary Bell said that tenure is essential to protect job security for teachers.
The changes may be too late to help the remaining 20 or so districts affected by this summer’s layoffs, including Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Waukesha. Michael Bonds, president of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards welcomed the changes but said they could have been made much sooner.
Prior to the passage of this law, there were two main systems used for assigning teachers in Wisconsin’s public schools.
The first is the “Tenure” system, where teachers eligible for tenure have employment contracts of indefinite term. These teachers are guaranteed a number of due process rights, including:
Dismissal proceedings must be initiated with 60 days’ notice and cannot be initiated until the teacher has completed at least two years of employment. The teacher is entitled to a jury trial, which must be held at a district hearing board.
Employees who are under criminal investigation by the district or legislative body may not be suspended pending final disposition of the charges.
The employee must be given an opportunity to rebut evidence and to call witnesses as well as an opportunity to examine the personnel file of the employee, including disciplinary records and memoranda.
The employee has the right to take evidence and present his or her own witnesses, and the district must provide a reasonable opportunity for the employee to be represented by counsel.
The employee is entitled to have all documentary evidence before any disciplinary decision is made available to the employee.
The employee has the right to challenge any factual findings which may result in the proposed action.
The employee can appeal a decision to the state board of education, and that board must consider whether the proposed dismissal appears to be in the best interests of the children and whether it is just and proper under all the circumstances.
However, even with these rights, tenured teachers are not necessarily safe. A teacher can be fired by a school district after three years with no warning or explanation.