The 97th Missouri General Assembly did nothing about school choice. However, the legislature was not completely inactive regarding education issues. On the topic of teacher tenure reform, for instance, the legislative body looked much like Bill Murray’s character in the 1991 film, “What About Bob?”— taking baby steps.
As Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfus’ character) tells Bob about baby steps, “It means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time, one tiny step at a time — doable, accomplishable goals.”
Bringing Saint Louis’ tenure laws in line with the rest of the state was a very “doable, accomplishable goal.”
As we have documented, the laws governing teacher tenure were much more restrictive in Saint Louis than they were in the rest of the state. In a presentation at the Show-Me Institute, Saint Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said it took 100 days to remove a low-performing teacher. Throughout the rest of the state, administrators only have to provide teachers 30 days to improve.
I am glad that the legislature was able to achieve this baby step in the right direction. As a result, ineffective teachers will be removed from Saint Louis classrooms more rapidly. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, this is a very modest improvement, especially when much more could have been accomplished.
Twice, teacher tenure reform bills were defeated on the House floor. In my opinion, the bills simply went too far —replacing the current teacher tenure mandates with new prescriptive mandates for teacher evaluations.
We do not need overly prescribed teacher evaluations any more than we need antiquated tenure laws. What we need are school leaders who actually have the power to lead.
So instead of celebrating true tenure reform, we are left to celebrate the baby step of Saint Louis teacher tenure laws falling in line with the rest of the state. Baby Steps.