Both Houses Vote to End Trial de Novo; OEA Promotes Alternative

Post date: Mar 10, 2011 10:33:24 PM

State Senator Ford's Senate Bill 1 and the separate House Bill 1380 have been passed by the Senate and House respectively. Each strips teachers of the right to appeal a firing or non-renewal by the local board of education to district court (trial de novo). It is a virtual certainty the houses will pass out one or the other version of the change and that it will be signed by the governor.

While Senator Ford and others supporting the move want the school board to be the final arbiter of employment, the OEA supports having an independent third party review the evidence to decide on a teacher's fate. School boards are political bodies and in the past teachers have faced unfair reprisals from board members, especially in smaller districts. District courts have overturned past school board firing decisions, finding the decisions to have been biased or unsupported.

OEA lawyers report that state teachers have had recourse to an independent third party since at least 1943.

Before trial de novo was implemented by the big education reform law of 1990, House Bill 1017, teachers could appeal a firing or non-reemployment to a three-member board of attorneys.

There is another House Bill awaiting action, HB 1457, which would allow teachers to appeal a school board decision to a three-member independent panel of attorneys selected by the state department of education. OEA urges its members to contact legislators in support of this alternative.

In separate action, the Senate has passed Senator Ford's SB 534, which adds reasons for teacher terminations. The passed version included one change which Senator Ford agreed to make to reduce some of the ambiguity:

Introduced Version:

9.  Insubordination including, but not limited to, failure to comply with a reasonable directive from administration of the school district of which the teacher is aware;

Engrossed Version:

9.  Insubordination including failure to comply with a reasonable directive from administration of the school district of which the teacher is aware;

Senate Bill 534 now goes to the House for consideration.