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Tenn. Senate Passes 'Career-Ladder' Bill

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Nashville--The Tennessee Senate last week passed legislation creating a statewide ranking system among teachers, a plan that has received continued national attention since its introduction a year ago.

The Senate passed the so-called "master-teacher" bill by a vote of 23 to 9; by a narrower margin of 19 to 13, it approved a one-cent increase in the state's 4.5-percent sales tax that is expected to produce $281 million in new tax revenue next year and provide the bulk of the funding for the master-teacher plan, now known officially as a "career-teacher" system.

The Senate passed a version of the career-teacher bill that is virtually identical to that approved by the legislature's finance committees earlier this month. Those bills called for a five-tier statewide "career ladder," local evaluation of teachers at the first three levels, and an option allowing teachers to withdraw from the career ladder.

The key to the Senate's approval, observers said, was senators' support of an amendment calling for a reduction in pupil-teacher ratios from 25 to 20 in grades K-3 within five years.

The Tennessee Education Association, which recently endorsed the master-teacher plan, backed the amendment and its passage caused several Democratic senators to support the bill.

The House is expected to pass the bill this week and Gov. Lamar Alexander, who first proposed the bill, is expected to sign it in time to implement it this fall.--Jim O'Hara

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