Published Online: April 23, 1997

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News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Florida House Eases Up on Teacher Tenure

Republicans in the Florida House have toned down their campaign to eliminate teacher tenure--the Sunshine State's practice of automatically renewing teacher contracts.

After House Republicans failed April 10 to muster support for a bill that would have allowed school administrators to fire incompetent teachers without explanation, the provision was dropped.

A softened version of the bill, which was written and passed by the Senate in mid-March, would shorten to a few months the time needed to fire poorly performing teachers; the process now can take up to three years. Under current law, after teaching full time teachers are granted multiyear employment contracts that are automatically renewed unless school officials can prove a teacher is not performing up to standard. Critics say the contracts virtually guarantee teachers lifetime employment.

Last week, the Senate began reviewing the House changes to the bill, SB340.

R.I. Regents Nix Lifetime Teacher Certification

Lifetime certification for public school teachers is on the way out in Rhode Island.

In a unanimous decision, the Rhode Island state board of regents for K-12 education opted to discontinue issuing lifetime certificates to teachers newly hired in the state. Before then, teachers with six years of classroom experience and a master's degree were eligible to apply for lifetime certification.

The regents, however, made concessions to public school teachers now working in Rhode Island. Those who have already earned lifetime certificates will keep them, and teachers currently working in Rhode Island may earn a lifetime certificate if they complete all the requirements by 2005.

State officials said the change was an important step toward their goal of holding schools and teachers more accountable.

Nev. Bill Targets Employee-Student Relationships

School employees in Nevada who have sexual relationships with some teen-aged students would face felony charges under a bill passed by the Senate this month.

The bill, approved 18-2, follows a sex scandal involving a student and teacher in the small southern Nevada town of Pahrump. After the incident came to light, parents and others in various parts of the state complained about other incidents. Some of the alleged relationships cannot be prosecuted under current law because the youths involved were older than 16, the state's age of consent. The bill targets employee-student relationships at all education levels, including higher education.

A dissenting senator criticized the bill for not including employers and others who also could abuse their authority over children.

The bill must also pass in the Assembly, which is now reviewing the measure.

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