Axing tenure worth assessing

Breaking from her party’s traditional platform, state Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, proposed a bill last Thursday that would eliminate teacher tenure in Minnesota.

Tenure programs associate seniority with job security while targeting more recently hired teachers for dismissal in the event of layoffs. Its proponents argue that tenure rewards experienced teachers and protects them from dismissal based on their political ideologies. Tenure’s critics, however, worry that tenure programs foster complacency and laziness among veteran teachers who no longer need to worry about layoffs.

Minnesota’s Republican Party has long stood among such critics. When they controlled the Legislature in 2012, Republicans passed a bill to eliminate tenure. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the measure, expressing doubt that the state had a meaningful way to evaluate teachers’ performances in the absence of tenure.

Since 2012, Minnesota has addressed those doubts and implemented a standardized teacher evaluation system in classrooms across the state. Among other factors, the evaluations examine students’ test scores, which account for 35 percent of a teacher’s overall rating. On Friday, Dayton publicly announced that he’s “open to [consider]” the bill to end teacher tenure.

We believe that K-12 teachers should be held accountable for their job performance just as workers in other professions are. While it is important to continue discussions about teacher evaluations and how to protect teachers from ideological persecution, we encourage Dayton and the DFL to overlook traditional party lines and consider ending teacher tenure.