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KSTP/Channel 5 Gets The Question Completely Wrong

Category: Education
Posted: 02/27/15 09:21

by Dave Mindeman

KSTP/Channel 5 did another of their snapshot surveys and asked this question:

There is a proposal in the legislature to change "teacher tenure" rules by ending the so-called "last in, first out" method of laying off teachers who have the least seniority. Should layoff decisions be based on seniority? On the quality of the teacher? Or on something else?

Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of error for this question = +- 3.5%.

11% Seniority
80% Quality
4% Something else
6% Not sure

Now I think there is an odd narrative perpetuated with that question and shows obvious bias. Notice that the questions seems to be separating "Quality" from "Seniority" as if they are two separate things.

The reality of evaluating teachers is that embedded in the "seniority" class of teachers are virtually ALL of the "quality" teachers as well.

This debate has lost any credibility in its terminology. The use of Last In, First Out (LIFO) is a defined parameter which a lot of school districts would use regarding layoff decisions anyway. Teaching "quality" isn't going to magically appear in a teacher just starting out. Some will show natural gifts, but good teaching methods are born from experience (seniority if you will).

And the even larger issue is ignored here. The number of teachers laid off gets to be fewer and fewer as we reach a crisis in shortages. Our problem is finding a way to keep quality/experienced teachers and teachers in general - not laying people off. A low paying job can be a little more attractive if some job security (tenure) is available.

KSTP may believe that their question has validity based on how things have been framed at the legislature. But truthfully, the choices offered via that question tell us nothing.

Yes, I am sure that 80% of Minnesotans want to keep "quality" teachers, but let's at least correctly define who that is.
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The House GOP Only Accepts Fiscal Notes They Like

Category: Education
Posted: 02/26/15 19:04

by Dave Mindeman

The House GOP members are getting to be a piece of work. Now they have delayed the teacher tenure bill over a fiscal note dispute.

The estimate arrived a few hours before a scheduled House floor session. But House Ways and Means Chairman Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said he's still not convinced that there is a fiscal impact.....Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie, the bill's chief sponsor, said she thinks the fiscal note is "bogus," and blamed DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

And what did the fiscal note indicate?

Minnesota Management and Budget released a fiscal note Thursday showing the two-year estimated cost of the bill is $895,000, a slight reduction from a preliminary estimate.

$895,000? Yeah, I think it is bogus too, because it is too low.

But leave it to the House GOP to argue about $450,000 per year. Guess it just doesn't fit into their campaign narrative. Sounds a lot better if they can hit the teacher's union without having any costs.

But Rep. Knoblach and Rep. Loon might want to consider this line of reasoning. The LIFO negotiated contracts are reasonably clear. The language has flexibility but is not ambiguous.

What Knoblach and Loon are contemplating is subjective criteria for deciding employment contracts. And you know where that goes....


The parties are not always going to agree and if you layoff someone for a subjective performance reason, you will get a dispute. Disputes lead to lawyers and lawsuits lead to higher insurance costs.

Thanks again, House GOP. When you can't leave well enough alone, then fiscal notes are bound to happen.
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MN House GOP Plans To "Ensure" Quality Teaching For All

Category: Education
Posted: 02/26/15 11:30

by Dave Mindeman

The Minnesota House GOP has become education oriented apparently. They have stated their TOP education priority via a bill by Rep. Jennifer Loon:

The top education proposal from House Republicans would require public school districts to negotiate local policies for layoffs and other staffing decisions that emphasize a teacher's performance over seniority. It would end the practice known as "last in, first out."

This has been talked about for some time and I still do not understand how this is going to "guarantee" a quality teacher for every kid. At least that's what they seem to be saying...

Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, told members of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee that her bill would help ensure quality teaching for all students.

However, at the same time that Rep. Loon declares universal quality in teaching is at hand, the bill also lowers standards for new licensure. The bill allows teachers in the classroom who don't even have an education background fill jobs that pertain to the subject.

Does that guarantee quality? I doubt it.

So here are my questions that never get answered....

1) Where is the evidence that LIFO recommendations lower teaching quality?

2) If districts are going to use subjective (performance) guidelines to determine layoffs, what is to stop districts from simply laying off the highest salaries (while fudging performance data)?

3) And if we use performance, does the district get to use its own selected data? Do they compare data with other districts? Is it based on student performance which can vary depending on school district resources? And how would that actually be a fairer system?

4) Where is the "guarantee" of quality for positions that districts cannot find qualified candidates?

5) And where is the "guarantee" for special ed students where staffing is nearly impossible to fill needed positions with fully trained teachers?

I don't understand the GOP emphasis LIFO as some kind of magic bullet for improving standards in our schools. And at the same time, they reject the idea of funding Pre-K programs which WILL guarantee improvement in our students over the course of their education.

I hope there are better explanations forthcoming, but I see nothing that has any real benefit coming from the GOP plan so far.
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