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Sparked by teacher complaints, Colorado bill to tweak teacher tenure rules abandoned

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DENVER — A dispute over new teacher tenure rules intensified Monday, when a bill to change the regulations was axed and both sides threw up their hands in frustration over the legislative effort to resolve their differences.

At issue is a 2010 teacher-tenure measure taking effect statewide this year. The law includes a provision known as "mutual consent" that allows school districts to place some educators on permanent unpaid leave if no principal wants to hire them.

That provision is the subject of a lawsuit filed against Denver Public Schools by a teachers union that says 57 highly rated teachers have been wrongly placed on unpaid leave.

The sponsor of the current bill, Democratic Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, used a legislative maneuver Monday to shelve it in the House Education Committee.

Salazar called the tenure negotiations a "ridiculous circus" and argued that the teachers placed on unpaid leave by the school district are disproportionately minorities or older than 50.

"They just absolutely were not receptive to working this through the democratic process," Salazar said of the school district after shelving his bill.

Denver's superintendent told reporters the district would fight to retain use of the permanent unpaid leave provision. A hearing on the lawsuit is set in Denver.

"Imagine if you were a parent who was told, 'This teacher does not belong in this position, but we had to place them there.' That's not something any parent wants to hear," Superintendent Tom Boasberg said after the bill was shelved.

The teachers union wasn't backing down, either. It says the "mutual consent' provision gives administrators too much power to oust a teacher with high ratings and strong student test scores.

"They've been dismissing good, quality teachers from the classroom," said Kerrie Dallman, head of the Colorado Education Association. "It's clear that the only avenue for us is to go to the courts."

The union believes Denver is the only school district using the unpaid leave feature for teachers that no principal wants to hire.

Salazar blasted the school district, but fellow Democrats on the Education Committee seemed more sanguine about trying again to resolve the dispute next year.

"Nothing we do here is perfect the first time," said Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, "especially something as complex as this."


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt


House Bill 1268: http://bit.ly/1lGqwen

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