This week, California teachers unions defeated a bill that attempted to address the process by which teachers are retained and fired in the state.
Assembly Bill 934, introduced by former teacher Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Cncord), fell short of the five votes needed for approval to pass out of committee. The measure, in its original form, would have provided school officials with more time to assess less competent teachers prior to giving them full job protections, or tenure. The legislation would have also accelerated the termination process for teachers who were referred for professional support to improve their skills, yet failed to do so.
The bill, which highlighted concerns in the Vergara v. California teacher tenure case, fell prey to a battle between the state’s teachers unions and education reform groups – two powerful special interests, reports East County Today.
“It is frustrating when two opposing sides are not only unwilling to compromise, but are vehemently reluctant to work together to achieve the mutual goal of providing a high quality education for all California students,” Bonilla said. “While I am disappointed in the end result, I am proud of the journey and work we have been able to accomplish, providing a platform to discuss the necessary and overdue changes that must be addressed within our education system.”
The issues surrounding the bill highlight the battle for control of public education between teachers unions and school choice advocates.
Responding to union demands, Bonilla amended the measure prior to its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee, but ended up losing union support over a change that would have created a blanket extension of the tenure evaluation period for all teachers to three years.
Education reform and school choice proponents, however, said the changes made weakened the measure. They rejected the amended proposal, which now contained only a voluntary expedited dismissal procedure and the removal of a layoff provision, claiming the legislation was now a “mere shell of its former self,” reports the Sacramento Bee.
“This bill isn’t fully baked, even though it’s 100 degrees,” Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, said at a hearing on the bill.
“PTA would like to thank the Assemblywoman for her fearless leadership and measured efforts on this very reasonable bill, which would have helped so many students across our state,” said Justine Fischer, president of the California State Parent Teacher Association. “While we are certainly disappointed with the outcome of today’s hearing, AB 934 shined light on an ongoing problem that will hopefully be revisited next year.”
“We are disappointed that the Senate Education Committee voted to once again avoid confronting some of the difficult issues addressed in this bill,” said Edgar Zazueta, director of policy and governmental relations for the Association of California School Administrators. “ACSA continues to believe that there needs to be changes to the Education Code governing issues such as the probationary period and teacher dismissals.”