In a notable break from the past, the president of the nation’s second largest teachers union has committed to changing laws that drag out procedures for firing teachers charged with incompetence or misconduct.
On Tuesday, the same day that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made that promise in a Washington, D.C., speech, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles ordered the immediate firing of an LA Unified teacher whose case offers the most egregious example of what needs fixing.
In 2002, the district started moving to fire special education teacher Matthew Kim, whom it charged with making inappropriate comments and advances to students. For seven years, the district has paid Kim’s $68,000 pay while he’s been suspended, and spent $2 million in legal fees to oust him as the case crawled through the Commission on Professional Competence.
Last week, Gov. Schwarzenegger called for the abolishment of the commission, which hears appeals from teachers fired by school boards. He wants districts to have the final say.
Weingarten has asked attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw distribution of money of the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund and last year set the pay of executives of bailed-out national banks, to suggest ways to recommend changes to teachers’ due-process laws.
“We recognize that too often due process can become glacial process. We intend to change that,” she said. But she also said that districts must establish better teacher evaluations and create ways for struggling teachers to improve.
Kim is a member of the United Teachers Los Angeles, which is affiliated with both the AFT and the National Education Assn. Earlier this year, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that 160 district employees had been suspended with pay and told to report daily with nothing to do while their cases dragged on.