LANSING -- The Republican-led Michigan Legislature yesterday approved changes to the state's teacher tenure system that supporters say would make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.
Two bills passed the Senate by 25-13, mostly party-line votes. Other votes were closer.
The House agreed with Senate changes and sent the legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder.
Current Michigan law places teachers on probation for four school years. The legislation would lengthen that to five years and teachers would need an "effective" or better rating for at least three of those years. Teachers with "highly effective" ratings could be fast-tracked and get tenure quicker.
Supporters say the legislation makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs and workforce reductions within a district.
Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won't improve the state's schools.
"This package does not make sense for our educators and our children," said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a Democrat from Taylor.
Sen. John Gleason, a Democrat from Flushing, said the package "maligned" the teaching profession.
The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, has said the provisions would "dismantle" tenure.
Teachers already are reeling from state budget cuts to education that could force layoffs in many districts headed into the next academic year. Republicans also are working on legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.
Some teachers have opposed the new measures, saying they could spark harsh reviews and firings from administrators who don't like them personally.