DFLer Bonoff proposes bill to end teacher seniority

DFL Sen. Terri BonoffMinnPost file photo by James NordDFL Sen. Terri Bonoff

This one will attract a crowd. Stribber Ricardo Lopez writes, “A Minnetonka DFL senator broke with her party Thursday to take on some its most powerful allies with a measure that could end the long-standing practice of teacher tenure, which makes job seniority the prime consideration during layoffs. Eliminating so-called last-in, first-out protections has been a goal of Republicans, but opposed by many DFLers, who count the teachers’ union Education Minnesota among its staunchest allies and who say there is value in keeping experienced teachers in the system.”

How many more reports do we need on this subject? The Forum News Service’s Don Davis writes, “Many Minnesota public safety workers say they are not prepared to deal with an oil train or pipeline accident. They told the state Public Safety Department they are not adequately trained and some did not know what type of equipment they need to fight an oil fire, the department said in a report released Thursday. Public safety workers also lack knowledge about what railroad and pipeline company and other resources are available in case of an accident. ‘As a whole, first responders surveyed for this study rated their area’s preparedness for an oil transportation incident as below moderate (2.6 on a 1 to 5 scale),’ the report indicated. ‘None of the responders rated their area’s preparedness as excellent.’”

A report called “The State of Rural Minnesota” points out both distinctions and similarities between city folks and their country brethren. Don Davis (again) says,  “North-central Minnesota’s population is poorer than most of the state, with lower income and more school students on government-subsidized free lunch than much of the state. A few other deep rural areas joined the north-central area on those marks. The state’s two biggest cities also had a high free-lunch rate, but median household income was far better than north-central Minnesota in demographics presented to a state House committee Thursday by Executive Director Brad Finstad of the Center for Rural Policy and Development. … In many ways, greater Minnesota is a contrast. The areas doing best generally are in a corridor from St. Cloud, through the Twin Cities to Rochester. That is where much of the population growth has occurred, but counties north of the Twin Cities and St. Cloud also are growing.”

Coincidentally related. The AP says, “A monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy will remain weak in rural parts of 10 Midwestern and Western states because of low grain and oil prices. The region’s overall economic index improved slightly to 50.9 in January from December’s neutral score of 50. The index ranges from 0 to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says growth is being restrained in rural areas because of low corn and fuel prices. But bankers say ethanol plants haven’t slowed production much.”

So what do we make of this? Jennifer Brooks in the Strib says, “Just nine of Minnesota’s 87 counties have seen their economies recover to pre-recession levels, or better. But that puts Minnesota in a stronger recovery than almost anywhere else in the country. A new report by the National Association of Counties ranks Minnesota third in the nation in county-level economic recovery. All nine of the counties that have bounced back are in the outstate: Clay, Marshall, Pennington and Polk in the northwest; Pope, Stevens and Wilkin in west central Minnesota and Jackson and Murray in the southwest corner of the state.” It’s not a coincidence that the GOP Congress owes its strength to lagging economies in such areas.

No vote requires less bravery. Another AP story says, “The Minnesota House voted unanimously Thursday to approve about $20 million in extra tax credits and deductions that people could claim when filing forms this winter and spring.    The vote comes less than 10 days into session, a quick turnaround made necessary by next week’s start of income tax filing season. The bill adapts Minnesota’s tax code to recent federal changes.”

Yet another outrageous assault on a fine American’s precious Second Amendment rights! Tom Olsen of the Duluth News Tribune reports, “When authorities seized three firearms from the International Falls home of Tommy Salyers III in September 2012, there was no concrete evidence that the convicted felon actually had physically possessed the weapons. Deputies found a key that fit the safe, but it would not turn the lock. And a woman who had moved out of the home days earlier claimed that she owned one of the guns, as well as the safe itself. … The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction. The guns were found inside Salyers’ bedroom, he lived alone, and no one else had access to the safe, Justice Alan Page wrote in the court’s opinion.” Wayne Lapierre’s red phone is melting down.

The AP story says, “A 51-year-old White Bear Lake housekeeper is accused of stealing a wallet and checkbook from a client to pay for more than $14,000 in plastic surgery procedures. Darla Jean Tyler is charged with four counts of felony check forgery. A criminal complaint alleges she stole a wallet, checkbook, $700 cash and bank statements belonging to an 83-year-old White Bear Lake man.

I want one that talks to visitors. Something like, “Get off my lawn!” Anna Polta of the Forum News Service tells us, “Down through the ages, the cemetery headstone has gone virtually unchanged — until now, with a venture by a pair of young business partners that uses QR code technology to unlock the life stories of the departed. Eternal Legacy LLC’s anodized aluminum plaques can easily be placed on a gravestone and a scan of the embedded QR code will take a person to an online tribute page personalized by family and friends with photos, stories, reminiscences and more.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/16/2015 - 06:41 am.

    Teacher tenure

    “…a measure that could end the long-standing practice of teacher tenure, which makes job seniority the prime consideration during layoffs….”

    Never having taught in Minnesota, the above may be true here, but it was not true in the state where I DID teach. “Teacher tenure” is not the same thing as “last in, first out,” though they may be related. At least in the state where I taught, tenure simply meant that a teacher could not be fired without cause, and was legally entitled to due process as part of that firing.

    That “due process” part, of course, drives Republicans crazy, but in most civilized countries, the notion that an actual reason might be necessary to justify firing someone seems like common sense, and especially so in an occupation where practitioners are exposed to public criticism on a level unknown to most citizens.

    They may not call it by the same name, but many police departments operate in much the same manner, and for the same reason. Cops are routinely exposed to levels of public criticism that most citizens are not, and wouldn’t put up with if they were, and as a consequence, most police “associations” (read: unions) have negotiated contracts and work rules that are similar to tenure.

    Tenured teachers get fired all the time for poor performance, but what those who like to call themselves “conservative” don’t like, apparently, is that a formal procedure has to be completed in order to do so, and a reason for the dismissal has to be part of the public record. Some minor-league martinet can’t simply decide on a whim, “You’re fired,” as is the case in states where “employment at will” has been written into state law by legislatures hostile to workers.

    At least in the state where I taught, seniority was certainly a factor in whether or not someone would be retained or let go when enrollments dropped or some other district issue came to the forefront, but it was only one of several factors used to decide who remained employed and who did not.

    • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 01/16/2015 - 09:50 am.

      Minnesota is different

      Under current Minnesota law, only seniority can be considered during layoffs of teachers. This proposal is to change the system so that performance can be included along with seniority. It’s a more balanced and rational way to do it.

      I come from the private sector where it’s just the opposite. Despite being illegal, older workers are typically targeted during layoffs.

  2. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 01/16/2015 - 07:53 am.

    Is Terri Bonoff Credible ?

    Terri Bonoff has repeatedly claimed in the past that she was a “business executive” at Tonka Toys and then Navarre.

    During her run for congress she was repeatedly challenged to prove her claims of being an executive especially at Tonka Toys. She could not.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/16/2015 - 08:30 am.

      With 20 years in business

      working in competitive industries, you have to wonder why she considers herself a democrat.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 01/16/2015 - 08:43 am.


        She never was an “executive” at Tonka Toys. I guess fudging ones resume doesn’t count against you in republican circles !!!

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/16/2015 - 10:56 am.


        Given that the economy performs so much better with Democrats in charge, the better question is why anyone running a business would vote Republican.

      • Submitted by Leon Webster on 01/16/2015 - 11:46 am.

        I spent 40+ years in business and I am a Democrat

        I worked in private industry for 40 + years, many of those owning my own small (1 person) business. And I am definitely a Democrat. It doesn’t take long to realize that business doesn’t thrive if the community isn’t thriving, and communities seem to do better under Democrats.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 01/16/2015 - 02:57 pm.

          30 years working national accounts

          in the private sector and running a small business of my own and I’ve managed to be pretty successful as a Democrat. My father…25 year man in the Air Force..Democrat. I have uncles who are ranchers, carpenters, architects, factory workers and law enforcement…all Democrats, and in Wisconsin no less.

  3. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 01/16/2015 - 08:36 am.

    Seniority should not count for everything, but it should count for something. It fosters continuity at a school, less turnover, and provides some security. Most jobs have some way of rewarding seniority, why not teachers?

    I assume this means a follow-up bill, that removes any perks for more senior lawmakers, is next on her agenda? Why reward senior legislators with good committee slots and nicer offices if all they’ve done is serve longer than their colleagues?

  4. Submitted by Crystal Brakke on 01/16/2015 - 09:16 am.

    Thank you!

    So glad you raised these points. Teacher tenure is not the same thing as LIFO, and this bill (as I understand it from today’s story) is focused on changing LIFO. There are many different components to, and benefits of, tenure.

    I also taught in another state, and it is very challenging to keep track of all of the policy differences once you cross state lines, and even district lines.

    As I understand it, Minnesota’s law is that the default policy statewide is that seniority is the only factor that can be taken into consideration during teacher layoffs. Local districts can negotiate to have a different policy that may include other factors; I think this bill is just aiming to change that statewide default to also include other factors.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 01/16/2015 - 10:00 pm.

    I am a Progressive,

    a former teacher, a former coach, and a former high school administrator. With my 32 years of experience in education, I always have and still support the revision of the archaic Last In First Out.

  6. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 01/17/2015 - 09:07 pm.

    Why is this education reform the top priority?

    There is zero negative correlation between districts with seniority and student achievement. All of these reformers claim to be data driven, but there is zero data to support this move. If they truly wanted to improve education, you think they would address things that are correlated to negative achievement. This has nothing to do with student achievement.

    Maybe if they tackle very thing that is actually correlated to poor achievement first, instead of last, people might actually believe this is about the kids.

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