Detroit Teachers' Union Threatens Lawsuit Over District Policies

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Under Michigan's new teacher tenure law, teachers in Detroit Public Schools were sent layoff notices and must go through a rehiring process. But that process violates contracts within the Detroit Federation of Teachers, so the union might file a lawsuit, Michigan Radio reports.

* In July, according a release from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's office, the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act abolished deciding employment issues based on seniority. Administrators use a merit system based on effectiveness evaluations.

* The DFT lists several concerns related to DPS administrators' handling of the new law. Objections include failure to create a comprehensive evaluation process.

* DFT President Keith Johnson told Michigan Radio the DPS and DFT agreed in the 2009 contract to collaborate on an evaluation tool.

* The DFT website says DPS administrators haven't developed a staff attendance standard to be incorporated in teacher evaluations.

* DPS administrators haven't outlined clear teacher disciplinary standards nor have they addressed standards for teacher professional development participation, the DFT says.

* Teacher effectiveness evaluations control most aspects of employment. They determine tenure, which takes five years to earn. Teachers with higher ratings can earn tenure more quickly, the governor's office news release says.

* In the probationary phase, an educator can be let go at any time. Even after earning tenure, teachers must continue earning effective ratings or they lose tenure.

* Layoffs and employee discipline aren't subject to union negotiation. Educators are protected from "arbitrary or capricious" dismissal, the governor's office news release says.

* Johnson claims seniority should be factored into rehiring. If the district overlooks seniority, the DFT will take legal action, Michigan Radio reports.

* A spokesman for DPS says the district is in compliance with the law and also with its collective bargaining agreements.

Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about people, places events and issues in her home state of "Pure Michigan."

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