Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tennessee Considers Ending "Last In, First Out" Policy

An opinion piece in today's Tennesseean, penned by former Senator Bill Frist and former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, references legislation currently moving the state legislature which would address the "last in / first out" provision of teacher collective bargaining laws. As Frist and Rhee write:

Any change to Tennessee’s collective bargaining laws for teachers must include explicit language removing seniority as the basis for making personnel decisions. Legislation currently moving through the General Assembly and endorsed by Gov. Bill Haslam (HB 130, Amendment 1) contains this important language.

I have read the amendment in question, and in some ways the Frist/Rhee description is a bit misleading. Rather than addressing "last in / first out" in its entirety, Amendment 1 only refers to the removal of teachers subsequent to a strike by the union. Specifically:

When the local education agency has determined which employees engaged in or participated in the strike, those employees may be subject to dismissal or forfeiture of their claim to tenure status, if they presently have attained tenure, and the employees may revert to probationary teacher status for the next three-year period. Any employees who engaged in or participated in the strike but who are not tenured teachers may also be subject to dismissal.

Now similar moves to repeal LIFO provisions are underway in New York and Illinois, among other states, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has also weighed in with his opposition to the current practice. So am I missing something here with regard to Tennessee? Is there a provision of which I - and presumably others - are not aware which would carry forward the post-strike provision into layoffs? If so, shouldn't Frist and Rhee be more clear in that regard?

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