Senator Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, has introduced a series of bills focused on teacher performance. The one most likely to get to a vote this session requires a written policy for layoffs, and he wants to see seniority taken out of the equation.
His bill, S. 1144, requires that, ”Teacher effectiveness, as demonstrated through summative performance ratings, shall be the most significant factor in district reduction in force policies.” The measure has moved to the full Senate, but he says the bill was “watered down” in a recent committee session to include some mention of seniority in considering what teachers might be laid off in tough budget times.
“Do you take what you can get or do you fight like crazy on this issue that seniority shouldn’t be considered at all. At the end of the day, we are moving the bill forward and it’s still going to be in the discussion,” Thurmond told South Carolina Radio Network.
But the South Carolina Education Association, the teachers advocacy group, questions the need for the bill. The group’s president Jackie Hicks says this policy is already in place:
“Each year we look at these issues, but not from a mandate from the Legislature. We do that within the school system,” Hicks said. “You’re also taking away local control.”
Hicks says it should be up to local districts’ measurements and reduction in force (RIF) policies which she says do not rely on seniority.
Hicks, an educator herself, says he helped formulate RIF policies for different districts.
“We looked at the district needs and what their vision for the students was to be, and finally you look at seniority. All other things being level, then that was the last thing we looked at,” Hicks argued.
The bill is likely to face further debate in the Senate in the next two weeks.