By Victor Skinner
LANSING, Mich. – A Democratic state lawmaker and Michigan’s largest teachers union tried to force several school districts to hire experienced teachers from two districts that dissolved due to financial mismanagement.
Luckily their attempt to push the teachers on those districts, based on nothing but their seniority, was shot down by wary state lawmakers.
The Buena Vista and Inkster school districts were dissolved earlier this year due to persistent financial mismanagement, and school officials in neighboring districts are working to accommodate students affected by the closings.
State Rep. David Rutledge and the Michigan Education Association wanted to accommodate the displaced teachers, as well.
The Michigan House and Senate recently passed House Bill 4813 to establish procedures for dissolving financially failed school districts. Rutledge attempted to attach amendments to protect teachers with the most seniority from layoffs, Michigan Capitol Confidential reports.
He wanted to require districts receiving students from Buena Vista and Inkster to offer new teaching positions to the most senior teachers from those schools.
“Rutledge said he wanted hiring to be based on seniority so districts wouldn’t hire the least expensive teacher and not factor in quality,” the news site reports.
“Why wouldn’t I hire them?” Rutledge questioned.
We can think of a lot of good reasons why the laid off teachers might be a bad fit for the receiving schools, but the cost of Rutledge’s proposal seems to be the most obvious issue.
Hiring teachers based on seniority, rather than effectiveness, does little but guarantee that the most expensive teachers get the job, wrote Aubrey Spalding, education policy director for the Mackinac Center, which publishes Michigan Capitol Confidential.
“Districts should be able to hire the best teachers first,” she said. “Requiring districts to have to take in the teachers with the most seniority would force them to hire the most expensive teachers first, without being able to consider a teacher’s performance.”
Rutledge’s proposal is a perfect example of how lawmakers often side with the politically powerful teachers unions over their constituents, including students.
The MEA, of course, threw a massive pity party when more sensible lawmakers roundly rejected Rutledge’s proposed amendments.
“School employees in the dissolved districts would not have rights to jobs in the receiving district – even though their district dissolved through no fault of their own,” the union said in a prepared statement.
We have to wonder: Do the former teachers in the two dissolved districts really deserve the “no fault” label?
Parents in the Buena Vista school district have been using school choice laws to move their children out of the local district by the droves, an exodus driven by the district’s dismal academic performance.
This year, “more students use schools of choice to avoid attending Buena Vista schools than are actually enrolled there,” Mlive.com reports.
It’s easy to see why:
“In October 2012, no students achieved proficiency in eight exams: fourth-grade math, fifth-grade science, sixth-grade social studies, eighth-grade math, eighth-grade science, eighth-grade reading and ninth-grade social studies.
“Buena Vista High School has a 47 percent four-year graduation rate and a 26 percent dropout rate, according to the Michigan Education Dashboard,” Mlive.com reports.
It sounds like the teachers in that district were not getting the job done. But the union still expects other districts to welcome them with open arms?
We concur with Amanda Fisher, assistant state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, who put the situation into context for Michigan Capitol Confidential.
“The students have to be the first priority, making sure that they have a school to attend this fall. I would hope that if there are teachers of excellence, that they would be given every consideration by the (receiving) school districts, but to have that sort of guarantee in statute is ludicrous,” she said.
“If a private company is mismanaged and goes out of business, are those employees guaranteed new jobs? Absolutely not. It’s a shame that the MEA seems to be more focused on clinging to the unsustainable salaries and benefits of the past, than on the future of Michigan’s children.”