Ben Davis is a School Reform Blogging Fellow.

In his first contributing post as a MinnCAN blogging fellow, Ben Davis, a senior at Sartell High School, weighs in the recently vetoed H.F. 1870, a measure that would have reformed Minnesota’s teacher layoff model to consider performance and seniority in layoffs versus seniority alone.

A variety of teachers have shaped my public schools experience: many who were amazing, a handful who needed support, and some who failed to connect with my classmates and me and help us thrive. Regardless of your background or where you attend – or attended – school, you can agree that a teacher’s role in getting up-and-coming Minnesotans prepared for the future is critical.

In school, whether studying history, literature or economics, we hear a lot about the American Dream. Our nation was built in part on the belief that hard work should be recognized, and many people have been able to become working professionals and establish a home and family in our country because of it.

I’m disappointed that Governor Dayton recently vetoed H.F. 1870, a measure that would have improved school layoff decisions by considering teacher performance. His veto signals to the teaching profession that their skill and craft is not as important as the number of years they’ve been on the job. It also contradicts Minnesotans’ values.

Each morning, talented educators head to work with a desire to make a difference and accelerate student learning in their classrooms. Despite their effectiveness, great teachers can also be the first teachers eliminated when a district makes budget cuts or student enrollment declines if they haven’t taught longer than their colleagues. This illogical system hurts the teaching profession and Minnesota students.

Last year I had an untenured teacher exemplify the value of nascent educators. His interest in students was above and beyond, particularly in our extracurricular activities. We always counted on him to inquire about the outcome and lessons learned from a game or event, and how those activities related to the classroom. His ability to motivate, coupled with his natural ability to relate to students, proved to me the importance of retaining teachers who excel at helping students thrive inside and outside of school, regardless of their length of service.

Governor Dayton had the chance to make educational quality a priority this legislative session. His veto of a commonsense effort to end quality-blind teacher layoffs only defends the status quo, which is not serving Minnesota kids well.

When I meet someone for the first time, my guiding principle, “start with respect,” ensures that I give everyone a fair shot from the get-go, no matter the differences between us. To make sure that every Minnesota student gets a fair shot, we must give all Minnesota teachers a fair shot.

We must switch from a policy mired in a fear of change to one of student advancement and teacher respect. It is time that we “start with respect” for all Minnesota teachers by proving that the quality of their skills count, too – not just their years in the classroom.

In my next blog post, I’ll evaluate the question: “As the world becomes hyper-communicative, what is the proper role of technology in the classroom?” What are your thoughts?



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