News Story

Union-Backed 'Protect Our Jobs' Ballot Initiative Would Wipe Out Reforms Unions Already Supported

Constitutional amendment would reinstate 'last in, first out,' eliminate tenure reforms

At a time when the National Education Association is calling for teachers to take more responsibility for improving their profession, the "Protect Our Jobs" ballot proposal would wipe out teacher reform laws, some of which were supported by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Education Association.

For example, for years school districts determined which teachers would be laid off by seniority alone. The Ann Arbor Public Schools went so far as to use the randomness of Social Security numbers as a tie breaker if teachers had the same qualifications.

Teacher reform laws forced school districts to use a teacher's effectiveness when determining which teachers stay and which ones are let go.

Yet, if the "Protect Our Jobs" initiative is passed, union contracts would have higher authority than state laws. Some contracts are filled with cumbersome provisions that make it difficult to get rid of bad teachers.

One school district, for example, had a contract that required a 13-step process to remove ineffective tenured teachers. Even then-MEA President Iris Salters acknowledged changes needed to be made.

"No one wants or can afford ineffective teachers. That's why the MEA's plan calls for streamlining the process for fair dismissal of ineffective tenured teachers, making it less costly and less time-consuming," Salters said in January 2011.

Patrick Wright, senior legal counsel for the Mackinac Center, said teacher reform laws would be made irrelevant.

"Union contracts would take precedence over the laws," Wright said.

Earlier this month, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, "It's not enough to say that most teachers are good. If there is even one classroom with a teacher who isn’t prepared or qualified, we can’t accept that."

The MEA released a statement in 2011 saying it supported some of the GOP's attempts at education reform.

Some of the teacher reform was completed under Democrat Gov. Granholm, who passed laws that, for example, required teachers to have an annual performance review and created categories for which teachers were rated. Under most union contracts, the teacher reviews were once every three years and if they were not completed, the default was a "satisfactory evaluation."

Dan Lijana, spokesman for "Protect Our Jobs" ballot initiative, and Doug Pratt of the MEA didn't return emails seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.