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Tenure Bill Rankles State Teacher Unions

A bill that would require a longer probationary period for teachers has attracted opposition from labor organizations, who say it’s an attack on job security.

Right now, public school teachers must be employed by a district for three years before they can earn tenure. During that period, teachers can be let go without cause. But after that, school districts must notify teachers and put them on an improvement plan before choosing not to renew their contracts, barring extreme circumstances.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, a Fairbanks Republican, would like to see that probationary period expanded to five years.

“The reason I brought the bill forward was because I was approached by many superintendents and principals throughout Alaska, who believe that if they had more time to evaluate a teacher, they would have better results,” said Wilson.

Representatives from the Mat-Su School District offered support for the bill, describing the process of terminating a tenured teacher as “relatively impossible.”

Wilson also said her intent is to give teachers more time to develop their skills before districts have to decide whether to keep them on and grant them tenure, or terminate them.

“We want to be fair to the teacher and make sure that they have had time to get their feet on the ground and be effective,” said Wilson. “I don’t think this is about keeping ineffective teachers longer. I think it’s actually giving them more time what they really are capable of.”

But teachers’ unions from across the state questioned that logic. They called in to say that the bill isn’t about accommodating educators, but rather an attack on job security.

Joe Boyle is the president of the Mat-Su Education Association, and he says the change would make it harder for the state to attract teachers.

“For five years, you’ll have no job protection,” testified Boyle. “If an administrator needs to make room for a friend of family member, you’re gone. If you ask too many questions as a staff meeting, you’re done.”

The bill is being held in committee for more testimony.


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