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Teacher probation bill heads to governor

RICHMOND — A key provision of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s school reform package is heading to the governor for his signature, as the Senate passed a bill Monday that will make it easier to dismiss under-performing teachers.

With a bipartisan 32-to-8 vote, the Senate approved the House version of McDonnell(R)’s “Educator Fairness Act.”

The legislation extends the probationary period for new teachers to five years, up from the current three, before they can receive “continuing contract” status — a form of job protection akin to, but less binding than, tenure. The bill also streamlines grievance procedures.

The House and Senate had each passed its own version of the bill earlier in the session. Now that one version has cleared both chambers, it goes to McDonnell, who has championed the measure as a way to hold teachers more accountable.

“The vote in the Senate today shows what can happen when members of both parties set aside their differences in order to improve the overall learning environment for all students in the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a prepared statement. “These reforms will result in teacher contracts that are fairer, clearer and will result in giving our students more capable and better-trained educators in the classroom.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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