February 7, 2014 Updated: February 8, 2014 at 7:04 am
DENVER - A bill was introduced this week that teachers unions say would protect tenured teachers from being unfairly fired, while a cadre of Republicans and Democrats have responded it would gut the state's most meaningful education reform.
House Bill 1268 is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Thornton, and Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. The bill changes provisions that were put in place by Senate Bill 191 in 2010 and subsequently used to fire 100 teachers from Denver Public Schools.
Under SB191, teachers who were removed from a position due to cuts or reductions were given a year to find employment elsewhere in the district under a "mutual consent" provision that required the principal and the teacher to agree the placement was a good fit. If teachers can't find consent at any schools after a year, they are terminated.
Before the 2010 reforms were put into place, school district's operated under "forced placement," a policy that required tenured teachers to be given jobs in schools as they came available with no regard for the principal's opinion on the matter.
Todd said the new law requiring mutual consent violates tenured teachers' guarantee to due process before they are fired. HB1268 reinstates that after a year of searching for work unsuccessfully a teacher can only be dismissed with due process - a series of hearings that requires the district to prove cause for termination.
In Colorado a teacher earns tenure - or nonprobationary status - after three years of employment.
The law only would apply to teachers who had nonprobationary status by March 2010. It appears teachers who were hired after that date would operate under SB191 rules.
The bill is likely to spark debate when it is heard in committee. Teachers unions are some of the largest contributors to campaign funds in state politics, particularly among Democrats. However, many Democrats were huge advocates of SB191 and the education reforms put into place.
Also, the Colorado Education Association has filed a lawsuit to resolve the issue in courts.