Prop 2: An End to Teacher Tenure?

Certification requirements could also be ignored

Proposal 2, a ballot measure that Michigan voters will consider on Nov. 6, would allow collective bargaining agreements reached by teachers and school officials to override existing and future state laws.

If teachers unions hold sway at the bargaining table, the passage of Proposal 2 would likely result in a rollback of state reforms designed to address sprawling pension and health care costs.

But it appears that these same powers could also be used to negotiate away teacher tenure and certification requirements.

State law is what allows Michigan teachers to achieve tenure. Michigan state law is also what limits the hiring of teachers who are not certified by the state. Furthermore, state law also limits how school districts can fire or demote tenured teachers.

If Proposal 2 passes, school officials and unions could create contracts that do away with teacher tenure and certification requirements. There is a good reason why administrators and school boards might try to remove these limitations — teacher tenure and certification requirements make running a school district more expensive. 

There does not appear to be any language in Proposal 2 that would limit a school district from negotiating for its teachers to serve as at-will employees. Indeed, in his list of state laws "abrogated in whole or in part" by Proposal 2, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette included large swaths of Michigan laws that govern teacher retention policies.

The Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, in its analysis of Proposal 2, states that “Conditions of employment currently dictated by the Tenure Act would likely be abolished in favor of locally bargained contract terms.”

When asked how many laws Proposal 2 would change, Andrew Nickelhoff, attorney for the proposal, responded: “We can guess at how [Prop 2] might affect existing legislation and we could spend all day doing that, but in the end, it’s just going to have to be decided (in the courts) on a case-by-case basis.”

Whether one of Michigan's 549 school districts would reach such an agreement to do away with tenure is another question entirely. But Proposal 2 is broad and sweeping enough that such an agreement is possible.