CTA opposition stalls bills

Amid concerted opposition from the California Teachers Association, the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday delayed acting on two bills that would make it easier and quicker to dismiss teachers for misconduct.

Both SB 1530 and SB 1059, along with an identical bill, AB 2028, introduced in the Assembly, are in response to criminal charges of sexual abuse against students by three former teachers at Miramonte Elementary in Los Angeles Unified. In two of the cases, the district failed to document and follow up on earlier investigations of suspected illegal acts.

SB 1530, sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from Los Angeles, would give school boards the final say over firing teachers facing  sexual, drug, and other serious misconduct charges. A current three-person appeals board would be replaced by an administrative judge who’d be issuing only advisory opinions. The bill also would give districts the option of suspending a teacher suspected of serious misconduct without pay, and would eliminate the 45-day notice to teachers facing disciplinary action. The provisions closely parallel recommendations of the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

SB 1059, by Republican Senate Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, would also quicken the firing process and would go further to also give school boards the final say over firing for unsatisfactory performance as well as misconduct. It, like Padilla’s bill, would remove a 4-year statute of limitations on keeping misconduct investigations in a teacher’s file.

But in an Action Alert on its website, urging CTA members to contact Education Committee members, the CTA condemned what it called “Legislation by Headline” by “apologists for the Los Angeles Unified School District management’s failure to follow existing law to protect students from abuse.”

CTA criticized the bills for “short cuts” on due process rights of teachers. It said that since the Education Code already gives districts discretion in defining unprofessional misconduct, “teachers could immediately be suspended without pay for excessive tardiness or yelling at a student.”

CTA has contacted Huff and Padilla, but neither has received any proposed amendments yet. Padilla said he would consider changes to the bill, but his bottom line is clear: School boards should be able to immediately remove teachers from the classroom once there is sufficient evidence to warrant dismissal, and, as elected officials, school boards “should be empowered with the final decisions.”

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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