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Union mutual consent lawsuit filed

Updated Jan. 29 – The Denver Classroom Teachers Association filed suit Wednesday in Denver District Court, challenging the “mutual consent” provision of Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark educator evaluation law.

That provision has been controversial — and a lawsuit has been expected — for nearly four years.

The Colorado Education Association, the DCTA’s statewide parent, has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Wednesday to formally announce the lawsuit’s filing and “and legislative action to correct proven flaws in the mutual consent provision.”

CEA officials declined to provide details of the possible “legislative action” ahead of the news conference. But the general outline of claims that the union is likely to make in the lawsuit is generally known, given a long-running and public fight between the DCTA and the Denver Public Schools.

The major elements of SB 10-191 are requirements for annual evaluations of principals and teachers, basing 50 percent of evaluations on student academic growth and the provision that teachers who have two consecutive ineffective or partially effective ratings lose their non-probationary status (commonly called tenure). All of those provisions don’t fully go into effect until the 2014-15 school year, although they are being tested statewide this year.

However, the mutual consent provision of the law went into effect in May 2010. It requires that both a teacher and a principal agree to the teacher’s placement in a school. (That effectively gives the principal veto power.) Backers of SB 10-191 argued that the provision was needed to prevent ineffective teachers from being shuttled from school to school.

The DCTA has argued that DPS has misused the mutual consent provision to discharge teachers without cause, violating both state law and the state constitution. Those arguments are expected to be at the center of the lawsuit’s claims.

At one point the union and the district went to arbitration over the issue. An arbitrator sided with the DCTA, which claims DPS has ignored that opinion.

Individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit faced a filing deadline that was due to expire last summer. But the two unions, DPS and the State Board of Education agreed last August to extend the deadline for filing a suit until Feb. 1 – Saturday.

That delay later become a side issue in the Amendment 66 campaign, with some amendment opponents claiming the delay was an effort by supporters (specifically the CEA) to avoid distracting publicity during the campaign. Later, business leaders, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the SBE called on the union to promise not to file a lawsuit.

That flap died away quickly, and voters defeated A66 by a wide margin. (Learn more in this story.)

Background on the issue from Chalkbeat:

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