State Senate defeats ‘fire the teacher bill’

A bipartisan 23-17 vote in the State Senate on Thursday sends legislation dubbed by critics the “fire the teacher bill” to a Senate committee, effectively killing it for the 2012 General Assembly session.

House Bill 576 was a cornerstone of the education reform agenda of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who said the legislation would bring more accountability to the classroom by forcing teachers into a performance-based evaluation system.

Democrats decried provisions in the bill extending probation periods for new teachers to five years and replacing continuing contracts with three-year contracts as crippling Virginia’s ability to recruit and retain quality teachers.

“As a former teacher and elementary school principal, I am offended that some of my colleagues have called some teachers ‘lemons.’ That language insults me. When I was a new teacher, I wasn’t as good as I could be. Plenty of people helped me improve. When I became a principal, I remembered the people who helped me — and I worked to help my teachers,” said State Sen. Philip Puckett, D-Russell.

“I come from an area that prides itself on its schools. When teachers aren’t effective, the best schools train those teachers. You don’t just can them. You work with them. You help them improve,” State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said,

McDonnell cited efforts ongoing at the federal level led by Democratic President Barack Obama to bring a culture of accountability to U.S. schools as the genesis of his effort in Virginia.

“The president was right. Improving our public education system is a critical, bipartisan issue,” McDonnell said. “This is about the future prospects of future generations of American leaders. We owe every child in Virginia and America a world class education, no matter their zip code or where they go to school. That begins with ensuring that when they walk into their classroom they are greeted by a great, committed and motivated teacher.

“Fortunately, in Virginia the overwhelming majority of our teachers are excellent. But we live in a globally competitive world. This great nation finds itself at risk of losing some ground to other industrious nations when it comes to educational excellence. This is unacceptable. We can’t accept the status quo in education. Funding is important, but accountability and results matter far more,” McDonnell said.


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