Teacher accountability advanced

Governor Mary Fallin Tuesday signed into law House Bill 1380, an education reform measure that makes it easier to dismiss underperforming teachers.

Under the current system, tenured teachers who are dismissed by local school boards can appeal that decision in district court. The appeals process, known as “trial de novo,” assures that dismissing underperforming teachers is both a lengthy and expensive process for schools. HB 1380 eliminates “trial de novo” and reforms the system to allow locally elected school boards to let teachers go without a long and costly appeals process.

Fallin said the bill is the first step in a series of education reform measures she is asking the legislature to send to her desk. Fallin had earlier identified the elimination of “trial de novo” as a priority in her State of the State address.

“This is an important measure that brings more accountability to our school system,” Fallin said. “The vast majority of school teachers are quality educators who deserve our appreciation and our thanks. In the limited instances where a teacher is not performing at a sufficiently high level, however, school boards must be given the power to seek a replacement without the fear of an expensive and lengthy legal battle. We owe it to our children and to taxpayers not to throw up legal blockades that keep ineffective teachers on staff.”

“Education studies have shown that a key factor in student performance is the quality and effectiveness of our teachers. Eliminating ‘trial de novo’ will help to ensure that every teacher in the classroom belongs there. This is a great first step as we continue to look at ways to work with parents, teachers and administrators to hold our schools accountable, raise the bar in education and increase student performance. I am extremely hopeful that our lawmakers will continue to send bills to my desk that achieve those results, including legislation to end social promotion and to establish an ‘A-F’ grading system for our schools.”