TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — An administrative law judge has sided with the Florida Board of Education in a dispute about new requirements that could make it harder for faculty members to get — and keep — tenure-like contracts at state colleges.
The United Faculty of Florida in June challenged a rule that set new guidelines for "continuing" contracts at state colleges, including a requirement that colleges consider measures of student success in awarding the contracts. The state college system was long known as the community-college system.
But Administrative Law Judge June C. McKinney rejected the faculty group's arguments that the Board of Education had overstepped its legal authority in approving the rule early this year.
"(The) state board has adequate rulemaking authority and has complied with its statutory directive … to focus on high-level policy decisions for personnel and contracting guidelines,'' McKinney wrote in a 30-page ruling Monday.
The rule directed boards of trustees at state colleges to develop policies for continuing contracts, which are like tenure. But it also included requirements that would have to be included in the policies.
Among other things, the United Faculty of Florida challenged part of the rule that increased the required period of time for instructors to qualify for the tenure-like contracts from three to five years of service. Also, the faculty group questioned part of the rule that called for performance reviews that could lead to instructors losing their continuing contracts.
Another disputed issue centered on measures of student success that the Board of Education said should be used in determining whether faculty members receive or keep the contracts. While college trustees would determine the criteria, the rule said the measures could involve such things as learning gains, graduation rates and job placements.
"Apart from all of this rule’s other obvious flaws, the SBE (State Board of Education) most directly and egregiously exceeds its rule authority … where it obligates all colleges to determine ways to measure student success, and to use such student success measures as an essential criteria for both granting and removing tenure,'' the United Faculty of Florida argued in its petition filed in June. "Without doubt, this part of the rule blatantly enlarges the provisions of … the laws allegedly being implemented by this rule, neither of which says anything about student success being used by colleges as tenure granting/removal criteria, unlike the statutes governing K-12 education which do so in great detail.''
But attorneys for the Board of Education argued that state law gave the board the legal authority to adopt the rule.
"Requiring satisfactory service for a period of time, successful performance of duties, and demonstration of professional competence are all minimum standards addressing personnel,'' the Board of Education said in a document filed in October. "These are factors which should be addressed in a rule governing contracts for persons employed in an instructional capacity."