Tenure bill passes a critical first test

A bill to reform Colorado’s teacher tenure system passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature Friday. It was approved by the Senate Education Committee despite the objections of the Colorado Education Association and the National Education Association.

A big reason Senate Bill 191 made it out of committee Friday was that it is not a Democrat-versus-Republican bill. The bill’s primary sponsor is Denver Democratic Sen. Mark Johnston, a former high school principal. And, as can be seen by the column on the facing page, it has the support of all four of Colorado’s most recent governors — three Democrats and one Republican.

All of them, and senators of both parties, recognize that the current Colorado system, which makes it nearly impossible to fire poor-performing teachers once they have obtained tenure, ill serves public-school students in this state.

The system Johnston’s bill proposes would require new teachers to demonstrate their abilities based in part on student performance during their first few years on the job. It would also allow poor-performing teachers to lose tenure after several years of substandard performance. And it would hold school principals to account for the performance of their teachers and schools.

SB 191 would reward teachers who do well with more opportunities for advancement, while refusing to allow those who do badly to coast through the system. It has genuine protections in place to ensure teachers’ tenure isn’t rejected for personal or arbitrary reasons.

No wonder the CEA was relegated to arguing that the bill was too much, too quickly and that it might prove more costly than the state has estimated. It has a tough time challenging the merits of the bill.

But Friday’s action is just the first step for SB 191. And we doubt the teachers’ union will abandon its effort to kill the legislation. Here’s hoping the bipartisan support will continue and the bill is approved by the entire Legislature.


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