School districts might be able to save some money next year, but at the expense of teacher’s paychecks, which could end up cut thanks to sweeping changes to rules that govern their employment. The legislation was included in the K-12 budget bill passed by GOP lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The changes eliminate the historic seniority protection teachers have enjoyed when it comes to laying off or re-hiring teachers; allows for arbitrary pay cuts and speeds up the firing process.

House Bill 2011 – K-12 Budget Bill[School Personnel] • Prohibits school districts and charter schools from adopting policies that give employment retention priority to teachers based on tenure or seniority.• Removes statutory deadlines by which a school district must offer a teaching contract or give notice of a general salary reduction.• Eliminates the current prohibition against the salary reduction of a tenured teacher except under a general salary reduction applied equitably to all tenured teachers.• Deletes the requirement for a school district to give a preferred right of reappointment to teachers in the order of original employment.• Changes the effective date for dismissal or suspension without pay of a teacher from 30 days to 10 days after giving notice of the intent to dismiss or suspend.• Reduces the amount of time given for a teacher to file a written request for a hearing regarding their dismissal or suspension without pay from 30 days to 10 days after receiving notice of the intent to dismiss or suspend.Source: Arizona Legislature “I was shocked out of my shoes,” said Mary Francis Lewis, who served 25 years on the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board. “I thought we all worked together. But this almost puts people in a situation where you’re here today but you could be gone tomorrow.”

John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, called the changes “retribution” for educators lobbying hard against budget cuts.

“It’s very clearly a frontal attack on the AEA, the local education associations and the education leaders” for lobbying against budget cuts during the legislative session, said Wright. “It has nothing to do with the budget, it has to do with retribution.”

But the Arizona School Boards Association, which supported some of the changes, said that they will add flexibility, in troubling economic times, for schools boards who have to juggle financial concerns with educations expectations.

“I really see this as a positive and that the flexibility is looked upon as a good thing, and not an axe to hang over them,” said Janice Palmer, the school board association’s director for government relations.

But that is exactly what some teachers think, which may be why several refused to speak on the record for this story.

Before the passage of House Bill 2011, favoritism, bias and preferential treatment was eliminated by sticking to a strict pay schedule that was based upon experience and education.

In the case of the Tempe district, as teachers add years of classroom experience and additional education they move to the right and down on the pay schedule. But under the provisions in HB 2011 a teacher’s pay can be cut even if there isn’t a district-wide pay cut in effect.

“Is that saying, once it kicks in, we’re free to wipe out the lower right (highest pay) corner and only deal with the upper left” pay scale for the teachers with the least amount of experience and education, Lewis wondered.

“A personality clash could destroy somebody’s career,” Lewis said.

Palmer said she has heard those concerns, but pointed out that the new rules just mean that teachers and administrators will have to work together to achieve the educational goals and that the annual evaluations for teachers will now become more important.

The new law takes effect in early December, but probably won’t have much impact on teachers this year since contracts outlining the previous legal rights have already been signed.

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