Thursday, April 25, 2013


By Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report.

Thursday, April 25, 2013  ::  Efforts to rewrite longstanding rules surrounding teacher evaluations and educator staffing laws fell badly short of success Wednesday before a key Senate panel.

First, lawmakers killed a bill that would have given school districts the ability to make teacher staffing decisions based on performance evaluations. Then, members of the Senate Education Committee became badly spilt over legislation that would have imposed new requirements of how and when teachers are evaluated – but in the end killed that bill too.

Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, called his SB 441 a ‘modest bill’ that would require districts to use multiple measurements in performing evaluations at least every three years for veteran personnel. But critics, which included most of the state’s teacher unions, put up strong arguments in opposition mostly around concerns that the measure would undermine collective bargaining rights.

Calderon’s bill, which comes a year after lawmakers killed another teacher evaluation bill by a Democrat, did not attract enough votes for passage out of the committee.

“California public school students – our children – were the losers today,” said Calderon in a statement. “Those defending the status quo won the day and while I am disappointed I am hopeful that at some point the Legislature will show the leadership necessary to guarantee our children have the best teachers possible.”

The day-long hearing, which included review of nearly two dozen other bills, was representative of the challenge lawmakers face in taking on complex, sometimes emotionally charged issues dealing with teachers and classrooms.

At one point during the discussion of SB 441, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara said that while she was “anxious to move this bill along,” she said the bill “isn’t cooked yet.” She worried about how teachers might be stigmatized by a negative evaluation and what plans the state had for offering support and training.

“On the other hand,” she said, “I do think we need to keep this debate going.”

To which Sen. Calderon responded: “We can’t sit here and say, ‘we’ve got to get something going and then say, ‘well, I’m not going to support this bill – how can we do that?”

Unlike legislation last summer that would have at one point required student test scores be among the performance indicators – Calderon’s bill would require governing board of school districts to regularly “evaluate and assess the performance of certificated staff using multiple measures, including a minimum of four rating levels.”

The bill would give the school board authority to define each rating level used.

Opponents, which include the California Teachers Association, have argued the bill could result in requiring districts to bargain aspects of the system, evaluation criteria – for instance – which could intrude on the school districts rights to exercise managerial prerogatives, according to staff analysis.

Meanwhile, SB 453 by state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, was rejected outright – the third time his proposal failed to win support of majority Democrats. His proposal would have would have allowed districts to make staffing decisions based on performance evaluations and factors other than a teacher’s simple date of hire.

“We have an education system that is depriving students of the education they deserve,” he said in a statement. “We spend over half our state budget on education and yet we throw money at it without adopting the reforms we need to make it effective. I’ve tried to negotiate with the school employee unions who oppose this bill, but we’re just not going to come to an agreement. They represent the adults in the system. I’m representing the best interests of California students.”

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