by Chris Megerian, LA Times | http://lat.ms/IiLGrZ
April 11, 2012 | 9:22 am | Sacramento :: The powerful California Teachers Assn. is opposing two bills, drafted in the wake of the school sex abuse scandal in Los Angeles, that would make it easier to discipline teachers.
The legislation “eliminates employer obligations for due process and erodes the integrity of the teacher dismissal process,” according to two letters sent to Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), who is sponsoring one of the bills.
The letters said the legislation would “not address the cascading failures of leadership in the Los Angeles Unified School District” and “would make education an incredibly insecure profession.”
School district officials and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are seeking laws allowing faster punishment of teachers accused of misconduct. The renewed push comes after a Miramonte Elementary teacher was arrested in January on charges of abusing students.
Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Assn., accused lawmakers of "legislation by headline" and said new laws aren't necessary to protect students.
"We are making very broad changes that aren't remotely related to what the predicament is," he said.
Huff’s bill (SB1059) would strip abusive teachers of their pensions and health benefits and prevent disciplinary records from being removed from personnel files after any length of time. It would also require teachers to be removed from the classroom if officials believe they're under investigation by law enforcement.
Asked about opposition from the teachers union, Huff pointed out that they're one of the biggest political donors in Sacramento. "That's why you have these egregious rules in the first place," he said.
The second bill (SB1530), sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), would give school boards more authority when firing teachers. It would also eliminate requirements to notify teachers about disciplinary charges before removing them from the classroom on allegations related to sex abuse, drugs or violence.
Padilla said his bill is more focused than the broader Republican proposal and he's in discussions with the teachers union.
“We’ve been talking with them," he said. "We’ll continue to work with them.”
Photo: Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, speaking in front of Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles in February. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times