By Steve Gunn
BATON ROUGE, La. – It’s hard enough to get rid of a bad school teacher who’s protected by tenure.
Can you imagine a school district being stuck with a staff of tenured bus drivers?
That’s the case in Louisiana, where the Terrabonne Parish school district recently was forced to spend $14,000 on a lengthy tenure dispute involving a school bus driver, TheAdvocate.com reports.
Louisiana is reportedly one of the few states in the nation that offers tenure to school bus drivers. State Rep. Joe Harrison has introduced legislation that would end the practice, and it easily gained appoval Monday in the state House Education Committee.
Under current rules, bus drivers can earn tenure protection after a three-year probationary period. After that, it’s probably no easier to dismiss them than it is to fire bad tenured teachers.
That’s dangerous when you’re talking about student safety. Adults who are charged with transporting children must be closely monitored, and if it becomes obvious that they can’t safely perform the job for one reason or another, schools must have the power to get them off the road and off the payroll when necessary.
Tenure can only gum up that process.
Schools must also have the financial flexibility to privatize non-professional services like bus driving and custodial work in the current economic climate, which can save them six or seven figures per year. That would be difficult to do with tenured bus drivers.
The reform legislation is backed by the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, opposes the bill. We’re not sure how much union leaders worry about student safety or the financial health of school districts, but we’re sure they like the dues money that tenured bus drivers produce every year.