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Mass Senate passes teacher eval bill

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Albany/HV: Mass Senate passes teacher eval bill
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The Massachusetts Senate passes a bill that makes sure hiring, firing and placement of teachers is determined by performance rather than seniority. As our Brandon Walker reports, the bill would replace a ballot question lawmakers say is downright disrespectful to teachers.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A glaring implication during this month’s Pittsfield school budget debate centered on the idea of the teacher's union relying less on seniority during budget talks and more on teacher performance. Under this bill that implication would become rule of law.

"We need to determine who is effective and who is not," said State Senator Ben Downing.

State Senator Ben Downing voted in favor of the measure, which passed Thursday. It's a compromise between the state's leading teacher's union and a child advocacy group. The group had proposed a statewide ballot question that would have asked voters to decide on the matter. With the Senate's passage, that won't happen.

"I thought it went very far without having a lot of input from the people who would be asked to carry out that policy. The teachers. I felt that it would have undermine a lot of that collaborative spirit," Downing said.

The bill doesn't totally slam seniority or a union's collective bargaining rights. In fact, it retains collective bargaining rights, allowing seniority to come into play to determine a layoff involving two teachers with equal qualifications. School districts would set the standards to which it would hold teachers.

"To say that seniority in and of itself should not be the only determining factor it absolutely has a role to play and it's an important thing to be considered in those decisions, but it should not be determinative," Downing said.

The bill sets aside $13 million for districts to construct their own eval system.

"It's significant but I think it recognizes the importance of this initiative in getting it right," Downing said.

The performance evaluations would begin in 2016. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.

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