Minneapolis teachers will no longer be forced to change subjects to prevent the layoff of another tenured teacher, at least for a year, under a tentative agreement reached between leaders of the teachers’ union and the public school system.
State law forced teachers in the city’s schools who had licenses in more than one teaching area to shift to another subject for which they had a license if that kept another tenured teacher on the job. For example, a math teacher who also had a license in special education could be moved to special education, even if he or she had never taught the subject before.
School officials said such realignment, as the practice is known, caused disruption by contributing to significant teacher movement between programs and schools. Last year, 125 teachers got such notices, said Emma Hixson, the executive director of employee relations for the district. Several parents objected to the practice, she added.
A Stabilizing Factor
The change, which would be piloted for a year, is expected to stabilize the teaching staffs of schools that district officials said saw the most disruption, including those with large numbers of children from low-income families, schools with large numbers of English-language learners, and those that are failing to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles said in a Jan. 12 statement that relaxation of the rule will help educators better focus on such pressing issues as eliminating student-achievement gaps in the city’s schools, she said.
Louise Sundin, the president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, agreed that the state law had caused some disruption for parts of the school system. Under the tentative contract, teachers slated for pink slips would have a choice of going into another subject area for which they hold a valid license.
“But they won’t be forced into it, and people above them will not be forced into another licensure area to save them,” said Ms. Sundin whose union counts almost all the district’s 3,200 teachers among its members.
Teachers have until Jan. 31 to vote on the accord—the same date that the school board is expected to take action on it.
The Minnesota legislature granted requests from the Minneapolis district and teachers’ union last year to renegotiate teacher realignment. St. Paul is the only other district affected by the law.
School officials said realignment was necessitated by the rapidly shrinking enrollment in district schools. Enrollment has dropped by nearly 10,000 students since 1998, to around 40,000 this school year, and last year, 10 schools were closed. That decline in turn has forced major layoffs of teachers, whose numbers have shrunk from around 4,700 in 2001-02 to about 3,200 this year, Ms. Hixson said.
“Laying off teachers has magnified the impact of the realignment provision,” said Josh Collins, a spokesman for the district.
Some teachers even chose to surrender their licenses to avoid being realigned.
The tentative pact also includes a 2 percent base-salary hike.
A beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree would earn $32,501 under the proposed contract; a teacher with 10 years’ experience and a master’s degree would earn $58,525.
Ms. Sundin said one of the most significant provisions would reduce the “blizzard of paperwork” that has overwhelmed teachers, particularly because of multiple accountability systems, including provisions of the NCLB law.
For instance, elementary teachers would use the first parent-teacher conference and the first report-card period for goal-setting with students’ families instead of giving regular report cards.
“We spent a lot of time,” Ms. Sundin said, “trying to ensure that teachers are not overwhelmed with accountability through paperwork.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2006 edition of Education Week as Minneapolis District Relaxes ‘Bumping’ Rule for Teachers