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Legislation would cut job security for new teachers

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's school districts would be able to try out new teachers longer and the teachers would have less job security under legislation a House committee approved Tuesday.

New teachers now have a one-year induction contract that requires them to show they meet state standards. The legislation unanimously sent to the House for debate lengthens the contract to three years. The bill leaves it up to school districts to decide how they will help teachers meet evaluation standards and provide mentoring.

School districts support the longer look at new teachers, said Scott Price, the general counsel for the South Carolina School Boards Association.

"It kind of gives them an opportunity to get the measure of the teachers without having to commit to a continuing contract," Price said.

But it's less job security for new teachers, said Kathy Maness, the Palmetto State Teachers Association's executive director.

The induction contracts offer the least protection of the three types of employment deals teachers can have with school districts, which also include annual contracts and continuing contracts. The change "will lengthen the amount of time that teachers are given to get an annual contract, which provides them a little more due process rights," Maness said. Teachers typically move from annual contracts to the next step, continuing contracts, after about three years.

The state's Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement has been monitoring the bill. Gayle B. Sawyer, the center's executive director, said she hoped the change wouldn't lead school districts to discard teachers after a year.

Price said districts need the ability to decide whether teachers are ready to move to annual contracts. With the one-year induction contract, districts are more likely not to offer annual contracts to teachers they're not confident in, he said.

Maness hopes the lengthier induction contracts will prompt districts to give new teachers more time to meet the standards that are now packed into a year. She also would like to see longer engagements for mentors to work with the new teachers.

Price said those concerns merit more discussion.


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