End to 'last-in, first-out' teacher tenure clears Minnesota House

Minnesota lawmakers have passed a measure that would change the way teachers are hired and fired. Late Thursday night, the House passed a Republican-sponsored bill to end the so-called "last in, first out" layoff system for Minnesota teachers.

The reform has long been a cause near and dear to Republicans, but this session, there's a twist -- the Senate version of the bill was actually authored by a Democrat, Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka.

Backstory -- Bill to end 'last-in, first-out' teacher tenure protections authored by DFL senator

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a similar bill two years ago, but said in January he's "open" to Bonoff's version of the bill. But during comments made to reporters Thursday, the governor suggested Minnesota students might be better served if Republicans invested their energies in other educational initiatives.

"I hope they'll give as much time and attention [to] how are we going to recruit and retain the best young teachers," Dayton said. "Get beyond the rhetoric and the ideology and really get to why are these teachers [are] trying this out as a career and deciding they don't want to continue."

Earlier this year, House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said of tenure reform, "I don't think this is the magic answer that's going to make a huge difference."

Teacher layoff changes

The plan would do away with the long-standing tradition of basing layoffs on seniority, instead basing those decisions on merit. Supporters say it would make sure the best teachers are retained, while opponents argue it pits teachers against each other.

"If you can't keep all of your teachers, how do you decide which teachers to keep?" said Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie). "Every parent wants to know that you're keeping the best possible teachers."

The bill would require districts to use teacher performance as a factor when they have to lay off teachers, minimizing the role of seniority. Democrats strongly argue the bill will weaken teaching standards in Minnesota.

Teacher licensing changes

The state's teachers union, Education Minnesota, opposes it, but the bill's author says she's trying to give schools more flexibility in hiring and recruiting teachers. It would also force the board of teachers to grant certification to licensed teachers from out of state, and allow schools to hire "non-licensed community experts" if no other certified teachers are available.

Fox 9 reporters Bill Keller and Tim Blotz contributed to this report