Senate passes ‘Education Fairness Act’

By Amber Galaviz
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill making it easier to fire bad teachers, part of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s K-12 education reform agenda, won unanimous approval Monday from the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1223, called the Education Fairness Act, would extend the probationary window for teachers to five years from the current three years. It also would streamline the grievance procedure for firing teachers deemed incompetent.

The Virginia Education Association, which represents the state’s teachers, supports the legislation.

Senators voted 40-0 for SB 1223, which was sponsored by Republican Sens. Thomas Norment of Williamsburg and Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg.

Last week, the House voted 84-14 in favor of a companion measure, House Bill 2151, sponsored by Delegate Richard Bell, R-Staunton. Bell said the legislation is aimed at “improving educational opportunities for Virginia students.”

The Education Fairness Act addresses the evaluation policies and grievance procedures of public school teachers. It would require that teachers, assistant principals and principals be evaluated every year. Student academic progress would be part of the evaluation.

The president of the Virginia Education Association, Meg Gruber, said teachers support the change regarding grievance and dismissal.

“We believe the VEA’s involvement in the process has resulted in an improved bill, and Virginia’s teachers have had a voice in laws that directly affect their profession,” Gruber said.

McDonnell hailed the Senate’s passage of the legislation. He issued a statement saying that the longer probationary period for teachers would “allow for a more thoughtful examination of teachers being awarded continuing contract status.” McDonnell also said new teachers would get “an extended period of mentoring.”

“I am pleased that members of both parties came together in the House and Senate to support these key reforms to Virginia’s teacher contract and grievance system,” McDonnell said.

“We have incredible teachers in Virginia and these reforms will help ensure that our children always have the most effective educators possible in the classroom. Great teachers are the key to bright futures for our children.”

Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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