By Reid Murphy
Capital News Service
The Senate will consider a bill that could extend the amount of time it takes for public school teachers to receive long-term contracts.
Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, introduced House Bill 9, which advanced on a 52-47 vote. The companion bill introduced by Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Lynchburg, was passed by indefinitely in a Senate subcommittee this week.
The legislation would roll back some job security protections for public school teachers, which lawmakers initiated in 2020. Supporters argue that the measure could help combat a shortage of teachers.
New teachers in Virginia work on a year-to-year basis for three years. School boards evaluate their performance after those three years before offering a long-term continuing contract that is in place until either the teacher resigns or the school board decides to terminate.
The bills would allow school boards to extend the time from three years to five years that it takes for new teachers to receive a long-term contract.
The bills would also eliminate the option of a three-person panel for termination hearings and reduce the written notice of the time and place of a hearing from 10 days to five. A definition of “incompetency” would be added to include “consistent failure to meet the endorsement requirements for the position of one or more unsatisfactory performance evaluations.”
The Virginia Education Association, which represents over 40,000 teachers and school support staff, strongly opposes both bills. The organization stated that eliminating the hearing panel could create opportunities for school boards to quickly and unfairly fire teachers.
Shane Riddle, VEA director of government relations and research, said that it is unfair to eliminate the hearing panel, but the organization is most concerned with the accelerated timeline for termination notice.
“I believe that if you ask some of the attorneys for the school boards, they will agree that those timelines are very, very short in the bill,” Riddle said. “You really need 10 days to even counsel the teacher and work through possible solutions, or get ready for a hearing.”
The VEA said extending the probationary period from three to five years will only increase the state’s trouble with recruiting and retaining teachers.
The bills’ supporters contend that new teachers need more than three years to develop as professionals and complete their training, according to Riddle. The VEA doesn’t support that argument.
“Even if a teacher is granted continuous contract and due process rights after three years, they still have an opportunity to complete [their trainings],” Riddle said. “They’re still mandated to do cultural policy training and more.”
Ware and other supporters of HB 9 said the changes are necessary to combat the state’s recent teacher shortage. Jeremy Raley, superintendent of Goochland County Public Schools, stated in a letter of support that all school districts will face a shortage of teachers, and the proposed bill might keep the educator pipeline from drying up. Raley proposed the legislation with support of the Goochland School Board, according to Ware.
“As divisions strive to hire teachers and support them with the needed credentials to become fully licensed, the additional time proposed in House Bill 9 will certainly be beneficial,” Raley stated.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.