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Originally published Monday, May 16, 2011 at 4:47 PM

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Gov. Gregoire: Don't veto teacher performance bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire's should not veto a bill to allow school districts to base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority.

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GOV. Chris Gregoire's plan to veto a bill allowing school districts to base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority sharply contradicts her rhetoric on teacher effectiveness.

The governor promised to link state policies with effective teaching practices, a vow greatly complicated by a sudden opposition to a proposed departure from the "last hired, first fired" rule. The bill headed to the governor's desk would allow districts undertaking layoffs to first choose teachers who received the lowest average ratings during their two latest evaluations.

It is a common-sense approach that bases tough decisions such as layoffs on teacher effectiveness, not years on the job.

Gregoire, who a few months ago was so impatient with the progress of educational improvements she threatened to eliminate the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, was thought to agree.

But the governor who said the key factor behind student outcomes rests with the teacher in front of the classroom appears to have changed her mind, perhaps helped by the standing ovations she garnered recently at the state teachers union convention.

It would be great to have the 82,000-strong union on the right side but not at a cost that would be borne by students betting their educational futures on the success of reforms. Requiring districts to take performance into account during layoffs represents a significant game changer. Layoffs are disruptive; robbing classrooms of good teachers is even more harmful.

Most teachers are good instructional leaders not threatened by accountability. Uncertainty about the shift is outweighed by the fairness and legitimacy promised from new teacher evaluations coming down the legislative pike. Some districts, including Seattle Public Schools, have adopted better evaluations.

The only employees left to fear performance-based layoffs are those who aren't performing. That's not who the governor should be protecting.

Governor: when the teacher performance bill reaches your desk, sign it.

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