LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Board of Education wants to make it easier for school districts to remove failing teachers.
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis told WDRB News most of the state's teachers are effective, but he wants the General Assembly to give school districts more flexibility to get rid of those who are not making the grade.
“Our job is to ensure that every kid has access to a high quality, effective teacher,” said Lewis.
Lewis said he has heard from superintendents and principals across the state that the process for dismissing problem teachers needs to change.
“There are barriers in place that make it really difficult for them to remove ineffective teachers,” Lewis said.
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson Co. Teachers Association, called the idea, “just another attack on teachers and the profession.”
McKim said there is nothing wrong with the current system.
“In Kentucky, every teacher goes through a four-year probationary period, where they can be non-renewed for any reason,” he said.
After that probationary period, teachers can appeal disciplinary actions to a three-person tribunal, made up of an administrator, a teacher, and a lay person - none of whom can live in the school district involved.
“And it's a process that teachers see as fair, which helps us attract and keep people in the profession,” McKim said.
But Eric Kennedy of the Kentucky School Boards Association said, too often, members of the tribunals are unqualified and untrained.
The association supports reforms such as replacing the lay member of the tribunal with an attorney.
“Trained specifically in not only conducting administrative hearings, but in school law, and the history of opinions over time,” said Kennedy.
But McKim said changing the rules will turn off prospective teachers, and make the state's teacher shortage worse.
“If they feel like they don't have job security, they'll choose a different profession,” he said.
SB 69, a bill that would have changed the tribunal system, did get a hearing in the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but it died in committee.
Lewis is not yet endorsing a specific proposal. He said any change must protect teachers' right to due process. But, he added, education is about serving kids.
“That is the equity issue of our time,” said Lewis. “Ensuring kids have access to effective teachers.”
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