Legislature(1995 - 1996)

1996-01-08 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

1996-01-08                     Senate Journal                      Page 2060
SB 204                                                                       
SENATE BILL NO. 204 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                              
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                          
An Act relating to teacher evaluation, teacher                                
tenure, teacher continuing employment status,                                  
teacher layoff and rehire rights, and the rights of                            
teachers to obtain review of decisions of                                      
nonretention or dismissal; relating to public access                           
to certain information on, and public participation                            
in, public school collective bargaining; and                                   
providing for an effective date.                                               
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs, Health,             
Education and Social Services and Judiciary Committees.                        
Zero fiscal note published today from Department of Education.                 
Governors transmittal letter dated January 8:                                  
Dear President Pearce:                                                         
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution,          
I am transmitting a bill that addresses a number of issues related to          
promoting professional excellence in education.                                
Last summer I vetoed similar legislation that was divisive and did             
not adequately address the real problems that face our educational             
system.  With my veto, I promised an opportunity to seek a                     
compromise with which the Alaska educational family would agree.               
A committee met and provided me with a proposal that addresses all             
of the issues contained in the vetoed legislation and that additionally        
highlights the importance of the evaluation process.  This legislation         
lengthens the probationary period for teachers; supports professional          
competence as a basis for achieving and maintaining "continuing                
employment status"; focuses on a strong supervision and evaluation             
process that provides special support for teachers new to the                  
profession; revises appeal procedures regarding dismissal and                  
nonretention decisions; provides for the development of locally                
determined procedures to address teacher layoff and recall; and                
increases public access to information on the collective bargaining            

1996-01-08                     Senate Journal                      Page 2061
SB 204                                                                       
This legislation is the product of the efforts of parents, school board        
members, teachers, administrators, Department of Education                     
employees, and others.  While these groups often voice different               
views and perspectives, in this instance they worked together and              
produced a bill that I believe begins to improve education in this             
The bill requires each school district to adopt a professional                 
assessment system to be used to evaluate that districts teachers.              
(Under existing law, "teacher" includes administrators and others).            
The assessment systems will be developed with input from parents,              
students, community members, classroom teachers, and administrators            
and will focus on improving the performance of the professional                
staff.  The assessment systems will contain provisions specifically            
designed to assist teachers new to the profession.                             
The bill replaces the current statutory term "tenure" with the phrase          
"continuing employment status" and increases from two to three the             
number of years that a teacher must be continuously employed with              
a district before acquiring continuing employment status.  Although            
tenured teachers have always been subject to dismissal or                      
nonretention for unsatisfactory performance, tenure nevertheless               
connotes to many a right to lifelong employment in a school district.          
Under this bill, a teacher earns a right to continuing employment              
status in a district by receiving a satisfactory evaluation in a third         
year of continuous employment with the district, among other                   
requirements. The bill also clarifies that, before acquiring continuing        
employment status, a teacher is on probationary status.  Several               
statutes are amended in the bill without substantive change in order           
to replace "tenure" with "continuing employment status" or to add              
the term "probationary."  I believe that use of the new phrase to              
describe the right to continued employment, coupled with the                   
important substantive changes made by this bill, signals a healthy             
shift in focus in the area of teacher employment.                              

1996-01-08                     Senate Journal                      Page 2062
SB 204                                                                       
The bill permits school districts to place continuing employment               
status teachers on layoff status as a result of financial emergency or         
a decrease in enrollment.  Before such teachers are placed on layoff           
status, however, all probationary teachers must first be nonretained           
(unless there is no qualified continuing employment status teacher to          
replace a probationary teacher). Local districts will adopt reduction-         
in-force plans that identify procedures related to layoff and rehire.          
The bill also identifies several routes for review of a local boards           
decision to dismiss or nonretain a teacher and gives the public more           
access to collective bargaining information.                                   
A sectional description of the bill is available from the Department           
of Education.                                                                  
I urge your prompt consideration and passage of this important bill.           
						Tony Knowles