Union Endorses Ammended Tenn. Master-Teacher Plan

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Nashville--After a compromise agreement with the state teachers' union, Tennessee's master-teacher incentive pay plan and career-ladder legislation are headed for floor action this week in the state's General Assembly, having cleared its finance committees last week.

The finance panels approved the legislation after adopting amendments that a group of House sponsors had negotiated with the Tennesee Education Association.

The working out of those amendments won tea approval for the legislation, which the teachers' union had opposed since Gov. Lamar Alexander last year introduced the concept of the statewide plan--the first such proposal in the country.

"We recommend to the teachers of this state the endorsement of the tentative agreement. ... We also endorse all taxes required to fund the program," the union's executive board said, endorsing the plan one year to the day after the Governor introduced it. Known then as the master-teacher bill, the measure is now officially the career-teacher legislation.

The legislature's finance panels also approved a one-cent hike in the state's 4.5-percent sales tax. That increase will bring in $281 million in new tax money next year and is the major source of financing for master-teacher and other proposed education measures.

The amendments that received the tea's support are aimed mainly at protecting the power of local school systems and the rights of current teachers.

An estimated 36,000 of the state's 46,000 teachers belong to the tea, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Right to Review

Originally, the bill called for teacher evaluations by a state commission. These evaluations--at the second and third levels of the career ladder--will be conducted instead by local school systems. The state commission will retain the right to review and veto any and all evaluations.

The bill proposes that first-year teachers be "probationary," a status that would include a one-year license. Probationary teachers would be required to pass a local evaluation in order to reach the second rung of the five-step career ladder, the three-year "apprentice" level.

The panels also approved an indefinite extension of the so-called "toe-in-the-water" provision. The career-ladder is optional for current teachers and originally they were to be allowed to put a "toe in the water"--to try out the system--and take up to five years before deciding to stay. As amended, the bill lets teachers exit from the system at any time.

The teachers' organization was also concerned about the use of the National Teacher Examination to create a "fast track" to move current teachers into the system. A passing mark on the test, together with local school-board approval, would allow current teachers to jump to the third level of the career ladder, with its $1,000 annual supplement, thus skipping evaluation.

But spokesmen for the teachers' group say they are wary of the use of the nte, and in the House the bill has been amended to let teachers move into the career ladder by going through a local staff-development program monitored by the state. The Senate version does not have this provision.

There has also been legislative discussion about reducing the $1,000 supplement and using that money this year for across-the-board raises for teachers of about 13 percent. However, the Senate appears unwilling to agree to that, and the Governor has expressed opposition as well.

Many lawmakers appear to be willing to try instead to find money to offer teachers a 10 percent raise. Governor Alexander is proposing a 7.5-percent pay increase.

Vol. 03, Issue 20

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