- Associated Press - Friday, December 14, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Board of Education will decide next week on proposals to waive employment protection laws in the Little Rock and Pine Bluff school districts.

The board plans to hold a special meeting Thursday to consider possible waivers of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and the Public Employee Fair Hearing Act in the two districts, which operate under state control, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The laws establish procedures to evaluate and try to help employees improve before they’re fired for incompetence.

The state education board has the authority to waive school employee protection laws and take several other steps when districts are classified as being in need of intensive support.

Some Little Rock schools recently earned letter grades of Ds and Fs, and waiving the laws would make it easier for the district to get rid of ineffective employees.

Board members said on Thursday that the same action is needed in the financially and academically struggling Pine Bluff district, which is overstaffed because of student enrollment declines.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key has said that waiving employee protection laws in Pine Bluff could serve as a way to reduce the district’s staff while improving educational instruction.

Key said the laws would only be waived in the two districts for the 2019-2020 school year.

But opponents have criticized the move, saying it would erode public trust and make it harder to recruit quality teachers.

Little Rock parent Ali Noland asked the board on Thursday not to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.

“Teachers are not paid enough. Their job is challenging,” Noland said. “We don’t need to take away some small measure of job security and due process and make it harder for us to compete with surrounding districts to attract good teachers.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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