The Senate will take up the so-called “Last In, First Out” K-12 education bill Monday, and a top Senate DFLer said Friday she expects the bill to pass and head to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk.
The House passed its version of the bill — which has drawn criticism from DFLers and teachers as an attack on tenure — by a nearly party-line vote of 68-61 last week. DFL Rep. Kate Knuth was the lone Democrat to break party lines and vote for the bill, carried by first-term Rep. Branden Petersen.
On Friday, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Terri Bonoff predicted an easier road for the bill in the Senate, and she said she herself would support it as well. But the divisions within the DFL were on display as House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, who joined Bonoff at a weekly media briefing, detailed his own opposition to the move.
“I know there is controversy around this,” Bonoff allowed, saying that she’s not sure where Dayton might come down once the bill reaches his desk. She did add that she’s been actively working to gain the governor’s support. Petersen has said he’s met with Dayton on the measure as well.
The bill stems from an effort last session to implement a teacher evaluation system, which would be put to use when layoffs are necessary if the “Last In, First Out,” bill were to become law. In effect, it would mean school districts forced to lay off teachers would have those evaluations at the top of their criteria, with seniority relegated to a more secondary consideration.
Some critics say it’s irresponsible to move ahead with such a policy until the teacher evaluation policy is fully implemented and understood, which is what Thissen argued Friday. Bonoff, meanwhile, dismissed those concerns.
“This is about making sure we manage our personnel with an eye toward effectiveness first and seniority second,” she said.
For Republicans, the bill is top K-12 policy initiative this session, and House K-12 Finance Chairman Pat Garofalo has been particularly vocal in his support of the bill that he says puts “kids ahead of adults” in education policy.
When the House passed its bill, Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher said it would only allow districts to shed more experienced teachers for their less-expensive and inexperienced counterparts.
“It’s disappointing the House has passed this bill,” Dooher’s statement said at the time, “which does nothing to address the real challenges facing our schools.”