Protestors march near Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012. Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy informed parents at a community meeting that the district is replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in the wake of the arrests last week of two teachers on lewd conduct charges.
The process of firing a public school teacher can take anywhere from a couple years to nearly a decade. All the while, the teacher collects a paycheck.
Senator Alex Padilla’s bill would get teachers who violate students out of the classroom and off they payroll faster, but the San Fernando Valley Democrat says his legislation also protects teachers who’ve done nothing egregious.
“To the concerns that this new process could be abused for teachers who are absent too much or tardy, or don’t submit their grades on time. I think it’s clearly distinguished in this bill.” Padilla told the Senate Education Committee Monday. “We’re speaking to crimes of sex, drugs and violence against children.”
Senate Minority leader Bob Huff questions that narrow focus. His bill would have also expedited the dismissal timeline for unprofessional conduct, everything from verbal or emotional abuse to poor performance.
The Diamond Bar Republican says it should be easier to dismiss any teacher who fails their students in significant ways.
“This expensive, tortured process and Miramonte underscore how we have put adult interests over the children’s interest.” Says Huff.
Senator Huff reminded the committee this isn’t the first time the Los Angeles Unified District has tried to get state lawmakers to make it easier to get rid of bad apples. Three years ago, Huff sponsored a bill that would have done that – but the measure was put on ice. His second attempt could end up the same way. Huff blames the influence of teacher unions.
Patricia Rucker with the California Teachers Association testified against the bills.
“Current law gives LA USD full leverage and full power.” Rucker says and she insists that law strikes the right balance between protecting students and protecting teachers.
“When somebody walks into your office and says we’re going to have to let you go, you have the right to be told why and you have the right to respond to that.” Rucker says.
The Senate Education Committee approved Padilla’s bill, but voted against Huff’s.
LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who supports both bills, says he’s grateful one is moving forward.
“I don’t think it’s too dramatic a statement to say that this is groundbreaking for us to actually decide that we’re going to put a stake in the ground and say that teachers who have egregiously harmed students, the system has a faster way for remove you from harming students again.” Deasy says.
Deasy says that’s a significant and long overdue change in California. He says that if you look at the numbers, you'll see that in the last nine years California school districts have initiated dismissals against more than 2,600 teachers, but only 83 have been let go so far.
Senator Padilla's bill SB 1530 would, In cases involving sex, violence or drug offenses:
- Allow school boards to place an employee on unpaid leave after a motion of dismissal
- Require appeal hearings be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge whose decision would be advisory to the school board
- Allow evidence older than 4 years to be considered
- Eliminate prohibition of dismissals during the summer months
- Empower school boards to make the final decision on dismissal