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Reform changes teacher tenure status

The most recent legislative session produced a number of changes to the state’s educational landscape. However, even amid a new budget and further proration, the decision with the most profound long-term impact will likely be tenure reform.

“The gist of it is that, if a board can grant tenure to an employee, then the board should be able to dismiss an employee with cause,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said of the spirit behind the new legislation.

Under the old setup, tenure law prevented a school system from being able to dismiss a long-term employee without a lengthy and often costly arbitration process.

“Basically, instead of arbitration, which is a lengthy, expensive process, the decisions will be made by the board,” Griffin said.

Under the reform, tenure goes from guaranteeing an employee a job to its originally intended purpose of guaranteeing due process.

“There still has to be cause (for dismissal),” Griffin said. “Tenure is not a guarantee of a job, it is just a guarantee of legal due process. Teachers still have their tenure, it is just the dismissal process is different.”

Among the biggest benefits to school systems, aside from an increased ability to remove ineffective teachers, is the amount of money saved by avoiding long arbitration proceedings.

“(Tenure reform) keeps the school system from having to pay a dismissed teacher for months and years during the arbitration process,” Griffin said.

Still, tenure reform’s greatest benefit to local school systems will not come in the dismissal of teachers, but rather the fluidity of their location.

Under the new reforms, teachers can be transferred as needed from one school to another; something that previously required the teacher’s consent.

“It also allows for uncontested transfers within the first 20 days of a school year,” Griffin said.

Tenure law once created costly scenarios where teachers could decline a move to an open position, forcing the school system to hire another teacher for its vacancy while also paying a tenured teacher in a position where they were not needed.

“Being that we have less teachers than we once did, we have to be able to place teachers where they can best serve students,” Griffin said. “Transfers will become commonplace in education while the numbers are down.”

House Speaker Mike Hubbard praised the passage of such a critical reform calling the vote a milestone in the effort to move Alabama’s education system forward.

“Tonight’s vote is a victory for the students, teachers and taxpayers of Alabama,” Speaker Hubbard said.

“There’s no question that the quality of our teachers is at the highest level it has ever been. Now, Alabama is one step closer to having a tenure law that is as professional as our teachers.”