A bill to make school bus drivers who start work after June 30 ineligible for tenure breezed through the Louisiana Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
The proposal, which has already won House approval, faces action on the Senate floor. If approved without changes it would be sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
State Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napleonville, the sponsor of the bill, called it a common sense measure.
“We are the only state in the nation that has tenure for school bus drivers,” said Harrison, a former Assumption Parish School Board member.
The state has 13,729 school bus drivers, according to the state Department of Education.
Their tenure rights would not be affected if the bill is approved.
Backers of the bill included the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Council for a Better Louisiana.
Tenure for part-time employees is at odds with a legislative session devoted in part to improving student achievement in public schools, according to Brigitte Nieland, a LABI vice president who specializes in education issues.
Many superintendents consider tenure for school bus drivers a problem, according to Stephanie Desselle, an education specialist with CABL.
“It costs money,” Desselle said.
Future school bus drivers would continue to enjoy other job protections, she said.
The legislative director for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Mary Patricia Wray, criticized the bill.
Numerous bus drivers are owner/operators, Wray said, which saves school districts money but also forces drivers to seek loans to buy a bus.
The financial sacrifice and service to students warrant job protections “to make sure they are terminated for the right reason,” she said.
Tenure is a form of job protection, created to prevent employees from arbitrary firings. The tenure law has been on the books since 1944.
Harrison’s proposal, which is House Bill 293, cleared the Senate committee without objection. The state House approved it 61-39 on May 9.
Earlier this year the Legislature approved a bill that will make it harder for public-school teachers to earn and retain tenure.