A joint Missouri House/Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on whether the state's teacher tenure system is working.
Among those testifying was Mark Van Zandt, General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He says tenured teachers can be held accountable under the current system.
"There are procedures in place, if a teacher is not meeting the standards that are expected of them, in terms of instruction," Van Zandt said. "There can be consequences."
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat from St. Louis, sits on the joint committee. She says there are still too many bad teachers with tenure, and that they are harming student performance.
"If we don't educate (the students), we're gonna incarcerate them," Nasheed told reporters afterwards. "We're gonna spend more money incarcerating those kids that we're not educating."
Nasheed also says tenure should be performance-based.
"If (tenured teachers are) not performing in a manner in which they need to be performing, then they should be fired immediately," Nasheed said. "It shouldn't take five years to get rid of a bad teacher, because we don't have five years for that kid to catch up. When they're not performing, many of them drop out because they're not where they need to be."
Nasheed successfully sponsored a new law this year that allows tenured teachers in St. Louis to be fired for incompetency.
Meanwhile, fellow committee member, State Rep. Genise Montecillo, also a Democrat from St. Louis, says there are more important needs that should be addressed first, namely, making sure that school children in Missouri don't go hungry and have a home.
The joint committee is expected to make recommendations for new bills for next year's legislative session.