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Senate panel OKs controversial education measure

A state Senate panel has approved a measure that would allow school districts to hire teachers through private companies. The proposal is part of a controversial education-overhaul package.

“It’s something they can do as a tool to contain costs, if that’s what they want, if they want to take a different approach to how they hire their instructional service, they have that opportunity. It’s not a mandate, it just makes it permissive,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov.

Critics say there's no research to suggest that outsourcing teachers would lead to higher quality teaching staff or higher student achievement.

Louise Somalski of the American Federation of Teachers says the change would mean higher staff turnover, which translates to lower student achievement. She says it would also mean pulling teachers out of the system that pays for teacher retirement, which she says would be “devastating.”

And it's not just unions that are critical of the legislation.

 “I know that you are moving quickly because that’s the pace that’s been set for you, and I know it’s hard to do your homework when you’ve been moving so quickly," Oakland Public Schools' Vicki Markavitch told the committee, "but I also know something about living in dog years. Living in dog years results in a short life, not necessarily a better one.”

The measure was approved along party lines. The panel is expected to vote soon on a bill that would require schools to open their doors to students from other districts.