By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A rift has developed between teachers’ unions over a controversial bill that aims to improve teacher effectiveness.
The American Federation of Teachers Colorado signed onto Sen. Michael Johnston’s, D-Denver, Senate Bill 191 yesterday, arguing that amendments expected to be introduced today in the House Education Committee send the bill in a “new direction.”
The amendments include providing for a due process system in which teachers would be able to appeal evaluations that result in an educator being returned to probationary status; providing laid off teachers with preference in rehiring; and providing for a system in which two teachers would provide input on so-called “mutual consent” hiring decisions when a teacher applies to transfer between schools.
But the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 40,000 teachers, does not put much stock in the approval given by the AFT of Colorado. They argue that the AFT Colorado is a much smaller union that represents mostly Douglas County teachers, and therefore does not have the interest of teachers across the state in mind.
“They do not represent the teachers of Colorado Ń the CEA does,” said Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association.
SB 191 aims to improve teacher effectiveness by developing an evaluation system that affects how teachers are awarded tenure. Teachers would no longer automatically be granted tenure after three years, and a teacher could possibly lose tenure if they demonstrate two consecutive years of ineffectiveness. The evaluations would be developed by the State Board of Education.
Brenda Smith, president of the AFT Colorado, believes in SB 191 for its focus on teacher-evaluation. She does not believe that her union is only focused on a select group of teachers.
“What’s good for teachers in Douglas County is good for teachers across the state,” said Smith. “I know that we have different situations in all locals and they represent different people in all locals, but I think good education policy is good education policy.”
AFT Colorado believes teachers will actually benefit from the evaluations.
“This would establish new parameters for teacher evaluation systems for every school district,” said Smith. “I’m confident that the proposal will give teachers a comprehensive look at their performance and provide them with the necessary support and skills training they need to be as effective as possible.”
Critics, however, say the legislation would essentially mean an unfunded mandate for local school districts. Districts would be burdened to hire more staff and pay for training to implement the new evaluation system, say opponents.
Another concern for opponents is that the state is yet to define “effectiveness.” The governor’s Council for Educator Effectiveness was created in January and is charged with defining teacher “effectiveness.”
Fallin said the Colorado Education Association cannot sign on to SB 191 in its current form, though that may change after amendments are added in the House.
“Right now, as the bill stands É we are opposed to Senate Bill 191,” she said.
In other coverage
Associated Press: Colorado lawmakers have agreed to tone down a bill that would hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students. Democratic sponsors said Wednesday they would amend the bill to give teachers more of a say in their careers. Teachers who have been laid off and proven they have been effective would be given preference in rehiring. The bill is up for a hearing in the House Education Committee on Thursday.