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Originally published Monday, April 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM

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Editorial: Give principals more of a voice in teacher placements

Principals need more of a say over teacher placements to ensure every student has an effective teacher.

Seattle Times Editorial

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PRINCIPALS need more of a say over teacher placements to ensure every student has an effective teacher.

That value is the foundation of Substitute Senate Bill 5242, which would require principals and teachers to mutually agree to teacher placements. The bill passed the state Senate. Opposition dominates the House Education Committee, where teachers lined up at a recent public hearing to argue against it.

Chairwoman Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, is unlikely to call for a vote before Wednesday’s legislative cutoff. The bill is a priority for the Senate Majority Coalition and ought to be included in its budget negotiations with the House.

Teacher placements largely rely on seniority, rather than finding the best person for the job. Principals are often forced to select teachers other principals have passed on, essentially advised to “take one for the team.” In schools where teachers and administrators work as a hiring team, their choices can be overruled in favor of a forced placement.

Some districts have gotten around the dilemma, giving principals in struggling schools latitude to reject placements.

Six Seattle schools designated as innovative Creative Approach Schools are exempt from union rules that would have forced them to accept teachers they did not want.

Good for those schools. It is hard to hold principals accountable for school performance if they are not given the authority to make staffing decisions.

SSB 5242 changes collective-bargaining rules around hiring. But school districts, along with local union contracts, would still determine if a teaching position is cut and how and when.

The proposed law would kick in after those decisions are made. A teacher and principal would have to mutually agree on the new placement.

Teachers should not be threatened. A teaching position is not a job for life.

The bill gives teachers eight months of paid time to search for a new placement. They can substitute teach during that time. If teachers do not find a placement, districts could keep them or end their contracts.

Either option leaves intact all due-process rights, including the hearings and appeals teachers have always used to challenge dismissals.

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