Lawmakers will consider several bills that could eliminate teacher seniority from consideration in layoff decisions, including one introduced by a DFL state senator who will have to build support from other members within her own party.
Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, on Thursday broke with her party by introducing a bill that would consider merit instead of seniority when schools make layoff decisions. Republicans have long been critical of so-called “last in, first out” practices, arguing that it hurts student achievement.
Supporters say it’s important to retain the most experienced teachers in the classroom. “It is my belief that really in every profession merit ought to be what gets someone hired, promoted or kept,” Bonoff said. “I believe especially in a profession where our teachers play such an important role in shaping the lives of our young people that we want to make sure the very best teachers are in every classroom.
The bill introduced Thursday isn’t the first time Bonoff has supported ending the teacher seniority protection. The Minnetonka lawmaker voted for a 2012 bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed, calling it premature and vague in the absence of an objective evaluation system.
The landscaped has changed since then. A teacher evaluation system has now been implemented statewide, giving school districts more data on teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom. Under the state evaluation law, 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must gauge student achievement as measured by tests.
“School districts have the tools, they have the information available to implement whatever improvements they think are necessary in their system,” Dayton said in an interview earlier this month. “We’re on that track, and if the Legislature wants to review the track and look at it, then that’s fine.”
The DFL governor, now serving his second and final term, has not yet reviewed Bonoff’s bill, a spokesman said.
Education Minnesota, the state's teacher union, opposes the legislation.