New Bill Mandates ‘Merit’-based Staffing Decisions

In the Oregon state legislature, a new bill has been introduced that forces schools to use a merit-based system when making staffing reductions. This is, however, unless said merit-based system interferes with a school’s “diversity ratio.”

As we see in the text of the bill, any school district that is planning on making a reduction in education staff positions must keep teachers with “less seniority” if that teacher has more “merit” and “if retention of [the] teacher is necessary to maintain [the] school district’s diversity ratio.”

This seems understandable until continued reading of the bill shows that it redefines “merit.” The new bill alludes “merit” to mean teachers that have been part of “anti-bias” and other diversity, equity, and inclusion training. The new bill directly defines Merit as “the measurement of the ability and effectiveness of one teacher, as measured against the ability and effectiveness of another teacher based on consideration of any of the following factors … Training received by the teacher related to anti-bias, diversity, equity, inclusion, culturally responsive practices or restorative justice practices.”

The bill speaks of other factors such as speaking languages other than English and years of experience dealing with and teaching at a school where at least 25% of the students are considered “diverse.”

Along with redefining “merit,” the bill also redefines the word “competence.” According to the bill, a competent employee must be willing to take part in additional anti-bias training. it directly changes the meaning of competence to be defined as “the ability of a teacher to teach a subject or grade level based on consideration of any of the following … The teacher’s willingness to undergo additional training or pursue additional education.”

This bill was initially intended to create new provisions for the state’s already passed Minority Teacher Act of 1991, which was created “in recognition of the disparity between the state’s diverse student population and this state’s predominately white teacher workforce.”

The original goal of the Minority Teacher Act was to see that the “number of minority teachers, including administrators, employed by school districts and education service districts [to] be approximately proportion[al] to the number of minority children enrolled in the public schools in this state” by 2001.

The new bill makes the claim that there was “some progress” on that goal, but the teacher workforce is still “significantly less diverse than this state’s student population.”

Further along in the text, it is acknowledged that the stated has reported adding “nonwhite and multilingual teachers at almost four times the rate that the schools were hiring monolingual, white teachers in an effort to meet the state goal of an educator workforce that reflects the diversity of students in public schools.”

There are many who have spoken about the proposal stating that it is a form of racism that has disguised itself as social and racial change.


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