Everyone who said in Friday’s Poll Position that the Legislature should work on education during the 2012 session got their wish on Day One. Before lunchtime, the Senate passed a measure held over from last year to prohibit school boards from using seniority as the primary consideration when deciding which teachers to lay off.
SB 184 now heads to the governor’s desk, as the senators agreed to changes in the bill made last year by the House. Democrats argued that the bill takes away local control from school boards; Republicans argued that it prevents situations in which good teachers are fired simply because they have been in their jobs for less time than others. Sen. Chip Rogers added that, because less-tenured teachers are paid less, local boards may end up firing more teachers to meet budget-cut targets if they go with a “last in, first out” approach.
The Senate also passed a relatively minor bill allowing State Schools Superintendent John Barge to hire some of his own staff, putting him on par with other constitutional officers.
If you’re looking for an explanation as to why the Senate hit the ground running rather than, as the House did today and tradition would have it, going with a mostly ceremonial first day, you could do worse than look to the on-going power struggle between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Republican senators. The Barge bill was brought up by Rogers, the Senate majority leader, and SB 184 was brought up by Tommie Williams, the Senate president pro tempore — that is, the men at the top of the anti-Cagle faction. The knock on their “experiment” in leadership last year (Speaker David Ralston’s word) was that it led to dysfunction in their chamber. It wasn’t too hard to see that they were trying to get off to a fast start this year to forestall such claims.
If there’s to be a Cagle restoration, so to speak, look for it to happen in the first few days of the session.
– By Kyle Wingfield