Teacher tenure ‘juggernaut’ bill clears Senate, faces tougher battle in House

SB 191, the teacher tenure bill that has divided traditional political allies and made for strange-bedfellows in the State Legislature this session, passed on second reading in the Senate late Thursday and is headed to the House Education Committee Monday.

“The bill’s a juggernaut,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who serves on the Senate Education Committee that approved the measure by a 7-1 margin April 23.

Co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, SB 191 (pdf) links teacher tenure, a key issue for the Colorado Education Association, to academic achievement and student growth. The bill is likely to face tougher debate in the House.

“There are strong arguments on both sides of the bill,” Steadman told the Colorado Independent. “There are strong constituencies on both sides of the bill. And so it’s high stakes all the way around.”

Democrats usually back the unions on tenure issues, while Republicans have pushed performance-based evaluations.

“This is one of those right-side-of-history votes,” Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said, according to the Denver Post. “I want to commend the senators who have had the courage on the Democratic side to stand up and do the right thing.”

Johnston is a results-based educator and reformer who served as a campaign adviser to the Obama administration on education issues.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, who was the sole dissenting vote on the Senate Education Committee, was thwarted Thursday in her efforts to make more changes to the bill that would have made it more palatable to the CEA.

On her website, Hudak calls the bill “the biggest ‘hot potato’ in the education community since Gov. [Bill] Owens’ SB 186 (which mandated CSAPs every year from grades 3 to 10 and used the tests to rate schools on the SAR, School Accountability Report – causing widespread dread and loathing of CSAP).”

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