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Union Lawsuit in Denver Attacks 'Mutual Consent' Hiring

Colorado's Denver district faces a class-action lawsuit alleging teachers have been dismissed without just cause as a byproduct of the contested practice of "mutual consent" hiring, the Denver Post reports.

Colorado's SB 191 legislation, signed into law in 2010, revamped teacher tenure and evaluation in the state, and it also curbed the practice of forced placements. Under the policy, tenured teachers "excessed" from their schools—usually for budgetary reasons—get one year with full pay and benefits while seeking a position in different school. After that, they're put on leave without pay. The policy eliminates what's called forced placements, in which such teachers are slotted into schools with vacancies by the central office, as is typically the practice.

The goal of that was to allow schools to choose their own teachers by "mutual consent," rather than having to accept whomever the district assigned. Critics of forced placement contended that excessed teachers are often poor performing ones that principals are trying to unload, and that such teachers are often placed in schools serving large numbers of disadvantaged students.  (Read more about the complicated issue in this Education Week story from a few years back, and this story from Chalkbeat Colorado for background on the Denver situation.) 

But the lawsuit, filed by the Colorado Education Association on behalf of the Denver Classroom Teachers' Assocation, charges that principals are using the policy to effectively dismiss teachers, even those with effective evaluations, in a violation of state statutes governing teacher dismissal and teachers' constitutionally protected due-process rights.

Two of the CEA's legislative allies have also introduced bills in their respective chambers to require a hearing before such teachers can be put on unpaid leave.

CEA President Kerrie Dallman said during a press conference that the union was not trying to undo the evaluation sections of SB 191, calling the lawsuit and the legislative proposals a "surgical challenge" only focused on the forced-placement issue,  the newspaper reported.

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