By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Some lawmakers are chiding the state’s teachers union for tapping into taxpayer-funded leave time to lobby the legislature this week against a much-debated tenure-reform measure.
Senate Bill 191, which made its debut in committee Wednesday, would reform the evaluation process for determining teacher effectiveness in the classroom, along with reforming the basis on which a teacher can gain a non-probationary status—what some would call tenure.
The bipartisan proposal, sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston, D- Denver, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, has met with pronounced push back from the Colorado Education Association and its local affiliates, who say the bill’s provisions are unfair to teachers, particularly when it comes to probationary status.
For both Johnston and Spence, non-probationary status should not be assumed and should be earned and kept based on performance.
“The privilege of non-probationary status is the most significant one that we have to offer in the profession,” said Johnston, “Historically we have seen that being offered to people based on getting older.”
All week, teachers have been appearing at the Capitol gearing up for today’s Senate Education hearing, prompting Republicans to issue a public denunciation of what they say is a misuse of tax dollars when money must be spent to pay for substitute teachers in the classrooms of those teachers appearing at the capitol.
“It’s certainly not right– taxpayer money is being used to undermine the public education system,” said Spence in a prepared statement earlier this week.
According to Article 35 of the CEA’s policy, a limited number of workdays can be used for official Association business—such as lobbying at the capitol—with appropriate and timely notification to the school’s principal.
Yet, Spence is wondering what the reasoning is for pulling teachers out of classrooms and then not having them actually testify, on record, before the committee. Spence said that the only on-the-record opponents of the bill were union officials—not rank and file teachers or parents.
“I was astonished that the CEA leadership from across the street monopolized the testimony time and the rank and file teachers were not given the opportunity to testify,” said Spence. “I would have liked to hear from the rank-and-file teachers on this bill that their union leaders are opposing. So far we’ve only heard from the union officials.”
Because so many individuals are expected to testify, only opponents of the bill were heard today. Proponents of the bill will testify before the committee Thursday, after which the panel will vote the measure up or down.