JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House voted to pass a bill that would change requirements for firing teachers. It changes teacher tenure so a school cannot fire an employee based on seniority.
After an amendment was added on Wednesday, the bill lists what can and cannot be considered when firing a teacher. Individual performance, test scores, student achievement and contributions to the school in academics or extracurriculars would be positive factors. Records of misconduct or criminal activity could lead to termination. Special training, a master's degree and evaluations would also be considered before firing.
The bill also allows a school district's board of education to put as many teachers as necessary on a leave of absence due to a decrease in enrollment, finances or district reorganization.
Supporters of the bill said the bill is part of their plan to improve public education, specifically St. Louis City public schools, which have been unaccredited for years.
Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said the bill is about recognizing good teachers.
But Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, and a former school teacher, said this bill is the first step in taking away teacher tenure and that it would send the wrong message to teachers that the government does not support them.
"We've got to send the message you're doing a good job and we support you, not that we're disappointed," said Aull.
Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, said the bill would help children.
"Let's just think about the child that is in that classroom that has a teacher who is clearly not doing their job and the administration is helpless to be able to remove them because of the arbitrary policy we have today," said Schoeller. "The only thing that protects them [teachers] is an arbitrary number of the years that they have been there and the teacher that's truly doing the job preparing the children for tomorrow is said go home."
Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City agreed that there is a huge problem with student achievement in public schools, but that it needs to be a holistic approach to improving education.
"Seniority is the same thing as tenure, they are one in the same...That seniority equates to salary so when we say, in the bill, that salary shall not be a controlling factor...we are setting up a condition for lawsuits," said Holsman.
Jones said this bill is a tough decision, but it would help prevent good teachers from getting fired.
"This is an incremental change to move us forward, to let local districts do what they need to do, to reward the great educators among us, to encourage them to do more, to encourage more to come into this profession and do more for our children. And the only way those excellent educators are going to preserved and protected is by giving those local school boards the ability and authority to do so," said Jones.
Another bill, currently in the House Rules Committee, HCS HB 1740, would completely eliminate teacher tenure.
This bill passed by a close vote of 83 to 76, after keeping the vote open for more than ten minutes. It now moves to the Senate.
There are two weeks left in the legislative session.