Governor Mike Dayton vetoed a proposal to overhaul teacher layoff rules earlier this month, a top priority for the state’s Republican lawmakers. In defense of his veto, the governor said the measure was “an example of prejudice against public school teachers” that singled out hard-working teachers by negating long-establish[ed] bargaining rights, replacing them “with only vaguely formulated ideas.”
The proposal would have ended the “last in, first out” seniority-based layoff system in Minnesota public schools. Existing teacher contracts also do not allow consideration of other issues such as teacher effectiveness. This move has heightened the tension between the Democratic governor and Republican legislators in the state.
“The governor has dealt a major blow to teachers, schools, students and parents across the state,” said the proposal’s chief sponsor, Rep. Branden Peterson. “I am sorry that Governor Dayton chose to side with big-labor special interests and sell out our children’s futures.”
The debate over the proposal sparked controversy across the state and led to heavy lobbying. Education Minnesota, the state’s powerful teachers union, spent $500,000 battling the measure, Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCAN) spent another $260,000, and the state Chamber of Commerce spent whopping $2 million.
Dayton’s veto did not entirely close the book on revamping teacher layoff policies, however. Dayton said that the measure was simply too early, since the state does not yet have a new teacher evaluation system in place. After those systems are completed (in 2015 or 2016), only then would it be “appropriate for the Legislature to decide how to incorporate them into layoff decisions. His reasoning did not please those who were in support of the bill.
“We shouldn’t be waiting around to embrace common-sense reforms to improve our schools,” said Tim Melton of StudentsFirst.
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