House passes evaluation-based teacher layoff plan


When districts need to lay off teachers, they apply the “last in, first out” policy. That means new teachers lose their jobs before more senior ones.

HF1870, sponsored by Rep. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), would change that. It would provide that school administrators examine evaluations when making a decision to demote or discharge a teacher, or place him or her on an unrequested leave of absence.

Passed 68-61 by the House, the bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Pam Wolf (R-Spring Lake Park) is the sponsor.

The bill sparked intense debate, almost completely along party lines. DFLers argued that the bill could have grave unintended consequences, as the standards of the teacher evaluation are not yet established. They also worried the bill could result in costly litigation for districts, a claim Republicans denied.

While several DFLers acknowledged the need to address seniority-only based layoffs, they urged members to take more time to consider the bill. Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna) unsuccessfully moved to send the bill back to the House Education Reform Committee for further review.

Kath said, “The committee, moving forward on this, has had more questions than answers. … It’s not about getting it done. It’s about getting it done right.”

House Republicans countered this viewpoint, citing an urgent need for improvement in Minnesota schools. They believe the bill will foster an academic environment based on merit and accountability.

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said, “We have students who are waiting for an answer as to why they are not learning at the level they should.”

Peterson insisted that he has reached out to DFLers, whom he claims have not taken the lead on education reform. He added that the debate was far from over, saying, “I am open to working with all comers on the issue.”