Rep. Irwin Blasts Republicans' Continued Attacks on Education

Teacher tenure plan removes protections for good educators.
Thursday, June 9, 2011

LANSING - State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) today voted against a package of bills (HBs 4625-4628) that will make it more difficult to attract and retain good teachers.

“We need a process that protects our good educators and removes our bad teachers without placing undue time and financial burden on the community. Unfortunately, what we voted on today was yet another attack on public schools, their students and their employees,” said Irwin. “First, we sent our schools less money and larger classes by cutting their budgets despite a surplus in the School Aid Fund. Now, the Republicans are proposing to eliminate the protections for good teachers, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

The teacher tenure process was put in place to protect good educators from being fired without due process. The Republican plan passed today will strip language from the current law that only permits a teacher’s dismissal when there is “reasonable and just cause,” replacing that with language that only protects effective teachers when their firing was “arbitrary and capricious.” This opens the door to good educators being fired for reasons other than their effectiveness. With budget cuts increasing and health care costs rising, these bills will mean that the most experienced and the unhealthiest teachers will be fired. The plan also dismantles many collective bargaining rights such as the right of teachers to negotiate discipline policies, the placement of employees and the methods to measure effectiveness. “The best run organizations in the world seek to engage their employees in decision-making. These bills reject that best practice and deepen the adversarial relationship between the public and our public employees.”

“I know that Michigan’s current tenure system could be improved,” Irwin said. “But the Republican’s plan goes beyond our shared goal of improving tenure by removing even the most basic protections of due process for our educators, making them potential victims of political motivations and personal grudges. Successful schools come from supportive parents, teachers and communities. By making our schools absorb a massive per pupil cut and now attacking school employees, it is clear that the Governor and legislative Republicans do not have the interests of our children, communities and schools at heart.”