Education Legislation Update

A major piece of Governor McDonnell’s education reform initiative has been sent back to committee, which kills it for this legislative session. Under the plan dubbed by some educators and lawmakers as the “Fire the teacher” bill, new teachers would have been eligible for three-year contracts instead of the current practice of continuing contracts

The bill required evaluations certifying that teachers met certain standards in order to retain their jobs. Educators denounced the bill as soon as it was unveiled. They’ve argued it’s an assault on teachers—and moments before its defeat, an insult, when one of the bill’s supporters, Senator Mark Obenshain, referred to poorly performing teachers as “lemons.” Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw said the state should help teachers improve instead of just firing them:

“We don’t have lemons, and it is pretty insulting. I just don’t see where this is going to add anything. I’ve not gotten a request from my Superintendent and if he wanted this, he certainly didn’t convey it to me,” said Saslaw.

Obenshain recanted slightly, but said he still believed the measure was needed to improve education.  “What this bill is about is restoring balance in our education system. Balance in the employment relationship—incentives for teachers to continue to try and achieve and do a better job,” said Obenshain.

The bill was sent back to committee on a 23-17 bipartisan vote.

–Tommie McNeil

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