Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a teacher firing bill. Fine. But now he should take the lead on this thorny issue.
By The LA Times editorial board - latimes.com http://lat.ms/194OmrS
October 15, 2013 :: Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to streamline the process for firing teachers, saying that he agreed with its goal but calling it an "imperfect solution." Now he should follow up, taking the lead on this important but contentious issue much as he did when he revamped the way schools are funded.
Existing state law makes it enormously difficult, expensive and time-consuming for school districts to fire teachers who are doing a truly bad job. Previous attempts to reform the system have been immediately squashed under fierce lobbying by the California Teachers Assn. This year, AB 375, by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), tinkered around the edges of the existing process, which involves creating a special appeals panel each time a district wants to fire a teacher. School administrators opposed the bill, objecting mostly to the shorter timeline for gathering evidence. We believe the bill would have improved the process, though only modestly.
But perhaps the demise of AB 375 can become an opportunity to pass something better — to make more significant changes in a system that provides extraordinary levels of protection even for teachers who mistreat students or who sit in the back of the classroom reading newspapers while their students are kept busy watching movies, and not even educational movies.
School districts would prefer, at least in the case of teachers accused of molesting or otherwise abusing students, to have the power to fire unilaterally, with no independent appeals process. But there are enough managerial abuses within schools to make this problematic, and teachers unions voice a legitimate concern that once school districts have this power over possibly abusive teachers, they will seek it for all teachers — and possibly even use it to fire more experienced staff members in order to hire younger ones at lower salaries.
One state that might be viewed as a model is New Jersey, where a law passed last year allows tenured teachers to be dismissed after two unsatisfactory job evaluations. Any disputes over a firing are resolved through binding arbitration, with limits placed on the length and time it may take to complete the arbitration.
At the very least, California should look to its own past, specifically 2005. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, frustrated by a do-nothing Legislature, pushed for Proposition 74, which would have extended the probationary period for teachers to five years instead of two, giving principals a better chance to weed out unsatisfactory performers before granting tenure. The California Teachers Assn. imposed a surcharge of $60 on its members, which it spent on a successful $8-million campaign against the measure. Nearly a decade later, Brown could do schools a favor by using his cannier negotiating skills to achieve the same result.
- There is a strategy for removing child abusers from the classroom; it’s called the legal system. There are police and courts and judges and juries, jails and prisons and secure mental hospitals. Schools and school districts shouldn’t be in the business of adjudicating child abuse – the voters and taxpayers must insist that district attorneys prosecute alleged criminal behavior. It’s not about getting a good conviction-to-prosecution ratio and assuring your Mickey-Mouse reelection – its about protecting the youngest and most vulnerable members of society! Comparing teachers who don’t get good test scores (or even really aren’t good teachers) with pederasts is comparing jay-walkers with murderers. Or worse …not getting good scores isn’t even an infraction of the law!
- The argument against teachers unions spending money to defeat Prop 74 is bogus; it isn’t like the forces supporting Prop 74 didn’t spend millions to support their position! And the voters spoke, Prop 74 was defeated - Not-Prop 74 is the law – in essense confirming+ratifying the current ed code provisions about teacher dismissal.