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Originally published Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 4:38 PM

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Editorial: Yes on ‘mutual consent’ bill to end forced placement of teachers

The needs of public-school students justify Washington state Sen. Steve Litzow’s “mutual consent” bill, which would prevent forced placement of teachers in schools without the principal’s agreement.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE quality of teachers is a critical ingredient of a quality education. To that end, it is imperative that the Legislature pass Senate Bill 5242, the “mutual consent” measure.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, the bill says a teacher may not be permanently assigned to a public school without the consent of the principal. Its aim is to end the practice of sending teachers to schools in “forced placements.”

Under the bill, the district office could forcibly place a teacher for one year only. The teacher would have that time to persuade that principal, or any other principal in the district, to provide a permanent job. Failure would be grounds for termination at the district’s option.

The Washington Education Association portrays this as an attack on teachers. It is not. “Mutual consent” is the general rule of professional work. A high-quality system should retain and reward the successful teachers and let go the persistently underperforming ones. There won’t be that many of them, but for the sake of the students it has to be done.

Most teachers understand this. Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, a language-arts teacher at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle and an officer of Teachers United, said in the hearings at the state Senate, “This bill expects teachers to be hirable. I think great teachers will not have a hard time finding a position.”

In Olympia, the Association of Washington School Principals testified against the bill. Litzow believes they are intimidated by the union. He says: “Principals are coming to me privately, saying, ‘If you’re going to hold me accountable, you’ve got to let me build my own team.’ ”

And that’s right.

Litzow’s bill passed the Senate 27-22. It should be passed in the House and sent to Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor has said he opposes the concept. The WEA and its national union spent $1.5 million to elect him.

Lawmakers who want to ensure teachers of high quality are in classrooms should make this bill a priority and negotiate its passage and the governor’s support.

For the sake of the students, it is time to get this done.

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