Senate panel considers dual track tenure system

JUNEAU — The Senate Education Committee on Monday took testimony on a bill that would increase the number of years a teacher would have to be in the classroom to reach tenure.

HB162 would keep the tenure track for rural educators at three years but would increase that requirement to five years for a teacher in an urban school.

The sponsor, Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said this will entice teachers to move to rural Alaska, while allowing for urban districts to weed out marginal teachers who have built up seniority in favor of better teachers who haven’t been on the job as long.

“Too often when the budget gets tight, it is first in and first out for new teachers even if some of them have proven they are rock stars,” Wilson said.

Committee Chairman Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said teacher tenure is a means of protection for many teachers.

“One teacher at the high end of a salary scale may be fired so a district can hire two teachers on the low end of the salary scale if tenure did not exist,” Stevens said.

Bill Ernst, with the teacher’s union at Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, said the length of a tenure track should stay at the current three years for the entire state. He said the proposed change would hurt recruiting efforts.

Currently, 42 states, including Alaska, offer teachers tenure after three years on the job. Only three states require longer service before tenure. Five states such as California offer tenure after two years of teaching service.

The House earlier determined the cut off between urban and rural schools would be if the community has more than 5,500 residents.

The change would only affect Anchorage, Juneau, Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe and the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Kodiak Island Borough and Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

The bill remains in committee.

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