As you know, a very important piece of legislation will be presented for our consideration in the House tomorrow in Montgomery – Senate Bill 310 – the “Students First” tenure and fair dismissal reform bill. Like me, many House members have been inundated with phone calls and emails from opponents of this bill, and some have been visited by lobbyists working to amend it. On May 16, I let every member of the Republican Caucus know exactly how I feel about this bill and the efforts to amend it.
I, along with several other members of the Caucus, helped Representative Chad Fincher and Senator Trip Pittman draft the original substitute bill, which both ensured a fair process for teachers and gave local school boards the flexibility they’ve long needed. The bill was further altered as it made its way through the Senate. Frankly, I did not agree with every change that was made. The idealist in me wants to immediately amend the bill again to make it an ideal law. However, the realist in me understands that, because of tenuous situation in the Senate, amending this bill will ultimately kill it.
Our opponents know this. That’s why they’ve launched an all-out effort to call, email, text, and visit House members in an effort to convince us to change this bill in some way. Some of their desired changes have to do with the reduction in force (RIF) policy which has not changed from the original statute in the 1975 Code of Alabama. Most recently, they’ve talked about changes to the termination hearing process. Based on the evidence that has been presented and the conversations that have been initiated, it is obvious that neither of these proposed changes is based on actual policy concerns, but rather on a fundamental mission to stop this bill from passing.
SB310 is not perfect, but it is a very good bill. It’s a change in law that we’ve long needed, and one that the people of this state clearly want. This bill will not penalize or hurt good teachers in our state, it will make it easier to remove those education employees who need to find another career. It will help local superintendents and school boards support those certified and classified employees whose goals are to put “Students First”. Putting students first is the reason that almost every education career professional entered the education arena. This bill will help them to continue to accomplish their career ambition.
For those reasons, I will not be voting for any amendment offered on this bill. I will not be a part of the reason that criminals continue to draw salaries that can be paid to people who want to educate our children. I will not support those people who want to be a part of a system that rewards incompetent and uninspired individuals who seek white collar welfare options because they feel as though they are “owed” something.
I will always support good teachers and good classified employees and I will work to find a way to compensate them for their sacrifice and service in the future.
I encouraged my colleagues to join me in this effort to give our best education employees the support, encouragement, and protection they need by voting for the passage of SB310 as is.
Facts of intrest regarding Alabama’s Reduction in Force (RIF) education layoff policy.
Opponents to the “Students First Act 2011″ reform are attempting to scare teachers and other education employees by leading them to believe the bill endangers their jobs and livelihoods. They claim “reduction in force” language in the legislation would allow school boards and principals to arbitrarily fire teachers under false pretenses, including personal and political reasons.
That’s absolutely not true. The truth is, a “Reduction In Force (RIF)” provides for layoffs, not terminations. State law already guarantees protections for employees in these matters. Here are the facts:
- State law mandates that each school board adopt a written policy governing RIF layoffs to ensure that decisions are not arbitrary.
- State law limits RIF layoffs of education employees to “unavoidable” budget circumstances that arise for ONLY two reasons:
1. A decline in revenue that leaves the school system without resources to continue current personnel levels.
2. A decline in student enrollment that causes a system to have a disproportionate ratio of employees to students.
- Existing State law defines layoff as “an unavoidable reduction in the work force beyond normal attrition due to decreased student enrollment or shortage of revenues.“
- State law mandates that the Alabama Education Association be involved and have a “seat at the table” when a local school board is adopting a RIF policy or changes an existing RIF policy.
What is the proposed change for the RIF layoff policy and why is it needed?
- SB310 would clarify that revenue or enrollment based decisions about personnel may only be appealed if a local board does not comply with its own RIF policy.
- If any laid off employee believes the RIF policy was not followed, they would still have a Constitutional right to due process in the appropriate venue: a circuit court that can judge whether the layoffs were justified under existing law.
- The state must ensure that the basic financial decisions of a local school system are made by those accountable to taxpayers and parents; in addition, state law also mandates local boards adopt RIF policies based on objective criteria and include a process for recalls and notification of recalls.
The Bottom Line
By law, RIF layoffs are a measure of last resort for any school system, and they should be. Our laws should ensure that appeals are carried out efficiently, economically, fairly, and appropriately for all parties.