A bill that would make it harder for public school teachers to earn and retain job security would also make merit pay for teachers more common, state Superintendent of Education John White said Friday morning.
“I would say yesterday was a great day for Louisiana’s future,” White told reporters during a conference call.
In a 12:41 a.m., vote, the state House of Representatives approved a bill that would make job protection laws more stringent for current and future teachers and allow local school districts to launch a form of merit pay for the best teachers who serve the hardest-to-fill classroom needs.
The measure is one of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s key public schools priorities.
The vote was 64-40 with one abstention, state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge.
“If you have someone who is highly effective, teaches in a low-income school district, teaches physics, we need to do everything we can to retain that person that is very valuable,” White said.
“You would not want to give that person a bonus,” he said. “You would want to build it into their salary.”
White added, “This is not a bonus. This is about a salary scale that attracts the teachers we need the most.”
Under the bill, current teachers rated the lowest 10 percent would lose their job protection, which is called tenure.
They could then face dismissal proceedings.
Under a House amendment, that provision would take effect during the 2013-14 school year, which is one school year later than first planned.
In addition, new teachers would have to be among the top 10 percent for five out of six years to earn tenure.
The original bill called for teachers to achieve that target for five consecutive years.
Jindal has said tenure changes are needed to ensure that every classroom in Louisiana has a top-flight teacher.
White has noted that, under current rules, more than 98 percent of teachers are rated “satisfactory” year after year.
Opponents contend that the tenure changes go too far.
The bill would allow new salary schedules to be set up by local school districts that include subject matter, geographic areas and teacher effectiveness as key criteria in what teachers are paid.
It would ban the use of seniority in layoff decisions.
The legislation would also require superintendents in “C,” “D” and “F” school districts to operate under performance contracts.
The Louisiana House on Thursday also passed a bill that would expand eligibility for low-income students to attend private or parochial schools with state aid.
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