Teaching

School Boards Association rises to challenge, proposes teacher dismissal bill



Picking up pieces from two failed attempts to rewrite the law on teacher dismissals, the California School Boards Association will lead this year’s attempt to make it easier and less expensive to fire teachers accused of serious misconduct and sex crimes against children.

State Sen. Lou Correa discusses SB 843 at a Sacramento press conference on Wednesday.

State Sen. Lou Correa discusses SB 843 at a Sacramento press conference on Wednesday.

At a press conference Wednesday, the School Boards Association (CSBA) and Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, presented Senate Bill 843. It would shorten the time it would take to fire a teacher accused of “egregious” misconduct, including sex crimes, abuse and immoral conduct, and expand the ability to gather more evidence to support the allegations. It would also give an administrative law judge the sole authority to hear those cases instead of the current setup of a three-person hearing commission that includes an administrative law judge and two educators.

“Sadly our current process to dismiss such predators in the classroom is usually bogged down by complex requirements that are unfair to the victim and the public,” said Correa. “Yes, let’s keep due process but let’s not forget the victims, the children.”

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill (AB 375, by Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo) with some of the same provisions, calling it an “imperfect solution” with “procedural complexities” that could create “new problems.” Correa, the new bill’s author, and CSBA said they were responding to the governor’s invitation to pursue a better bill. Since CSBA had actually opposed AB 375 and lobbied Brown to kill it, it also has reshaped this year’s version more to its liking.

The California Teachers Association had supported AB 375 and vigorously and successfully fought a bill two years ago that CSBA backed. A spokesman on Wednesday said CTA had just seen the language of Correa’s bill and hadn’t yet taken a position. But the School Boards Association would appear to have extra leverage this year. Looming on the horizon is a possible initiative, now gathering signatures for the November ballot, sponsored by the nonprofit advocacy group EdVoice. Its key features are similar to Correa’s bill but the proposed “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act” has additional provisions that CTA won’t like. They include allowing school districts to pursue legal fees and most of the pay that teachers received while suspended from their jobs if districts subsequently win egregious-conduct cases.

CSBA will argue that, for teachers, the Correa bill is the better alternative. In a statement on Wednesday, Vernon Billy, CSBA executive director and CEO, said, “Let me be clear, SB 843 is not an anti-teacher bill but a pro-student safety measure that we hope the Legislature will embrace.”

Last year’s bill – which Buchanan, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, authored – was a broader measure that would have streamlined the process for all dismissals, including those for poor performance, which comprise most of the cases that go before the three-person appeals panel, the Commission on Professional Competence. The EdVoice initiative and School Board Association’s bill are focused on cases of serious misconduct that, as Dennis Myers, CSBA assistant executive director for government relations, put it, “rattle the public the most.”

There have been a number of those in the past few years. EdVoice’s initiative lists 10 cases, from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, Sacramento and the Inland Empire, of teachers facing accusations of sexual assault and molestation of students, some involving multiple victims and extending over years. The latest charges surfaced last week, when Los Angeles police arrested a 47-year-old teacher in Bell on charges of sexual assaults that occurred 15 years earlier when he taught high school in Los Angeles.

Among its provisions, Correa’s bill would:

  • Turn cases involving accusation of egregious, serious and immoral conduct over to an administrative law judge. A three-person commission, including two educators, one chosen by the district and one by the accused teacher, would continue to hear dismissal cases involving poor performance.
  • Require that the administrative law judge decide the case within 12 months. Buchanan’s bill actually set a 7-month deadline, but CSBA argued this was too short and would have led to extensions.
  • Allow the use of evidence of older charges of misconduct and abuse by eliminating the 4-year limit on maintaining information on past investigations in a teacher’s personnel file.
  • Permit districts to file dismissal motions in the summer and remove time limits on gathering evidence and amending charges.
  • Prohibit  districts from expunging from teachers’ personnel files credible complaints and proven accusations of egregious misconduct. Districts would  also have no leeway in notifying the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which has the power to revoke teaching permits, when a teacher is dismissed or suspended for egregious conduct. This provision would prevent districts from cutting a deal in which a teacher agrees to resign over accusations of misconduct, and then seeks a teaching job in an unsuspecting district,

 

John Fensterwald covers education policy. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @jfensterSign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.

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27 Responses to “School Boards Association rises to challenge, proposes teacher dismissal bill”

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  1. Floyd Thursby on March 4, 2014 at 2:37 am03/4/2014 2:37 am

    • 000

    Right Don, but kids don’t just achieve more because a teacher teaches in a different way. This is the myth we have built up. It all comes down to how important education is to kids and how they behave.

  2. Floyd Thursby on March 3, 2014 at 12:49 pm03/3/2014 12:49 pm

    • 000

    I’m not belittling the effort, I’m saying it’s a drop in the bucket. What is moral misconduct? I don’t care what they do outside of work, that should be their freedom, I don’t want to fire strippers or something like that. I could care less what their second job is as long as there is no crime with a victim, I consider victimless crime to be a mutually exclusive term and reason for the prison industrial complex. that being said, they have to perform well, as do all.

    Don, do you feel 19 performance-based terminations in a state with over half the population of the UK, France or Italy, nearly 40 million people, in 10 years is statistically too small to be possibly doing the job of guaranteeing teacher quality?

    It’s not homework, it’s hours studying and reading total, the key factor for child performance. You really should read ‘The Triple Package’ rather than just dismiss it sarcastically. Nothing is more key to character than that basic day-to-day moral decision, I have to study, I don’t feel like studying, you got the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, what are you going to do? Are you going to quit? Are you going to persevere?

    Sure, some are successful in artistic ways, but over 90% of the time kids don’t study isn’t them inventing Amazon. It’s mostly TV, games, hanging out, listening to music, clear wastes of time. Some sports and arts are good, but that moral decision is the crux of why we’re behind internationally. In South Korea and Poland and Germany, the moral yes or no decision is more often made the moral way.

    Replies

    • el on March 4, 2014 at 7:58 am03/4/2014 7:58 am

      • 000

      Floyd, you’re obsessed with this number 19, but you’re totally ignoring the information that many people are giving you, which is that just like in the private sector, most people who aren’t working out aren’t fired by this process – they either get a non-reelect from their district or they see the writing on the wall and resign (or retire). The process is onerous for districts – but it is onerous for teachers too, and many choose not to fight a losing battle.

      You would make your point more effectively and more persuasively if you’d drop that misleading statistic, or at least restrict yourself to using it once a week.

  3. Don on March 3, 2014 at 7:28 am03/3/2014 7:28 am

    • 000

    What? Now you are belittling the effort to get a bill to protect children from molesters? Vergara V. California doesn’t fast-track the removal of a pedophile from the classroom. Vergara isn’t legislation. It may strike down law, but doesn’t create it. This bill actually puts a process in place to deal with specific cases of sexual and moral misconduct. It is a tough one because everyone deserves a fair trial and teacher’s are sometimes unfairly accused by disgruntled students. That said, you are entirely missing the point here, Floyd. There is more going on in education than firing bad teacher’s, doing homework and Ivy League quotas.

  4. Floyd Thursby on February 28, 2014 at 8:38 pm02/28/2014 8:38 pm

    • 000

    Was it disgusting or disturbing? Both?

    John, what you’re failing ot mention is most school boards are made up of members who owe their election to endorsements by and donations from the union. This is why they can have a headline saying they rose to the challenge to make it easier to dismiss bad teachers, but 91 teachers have been fired in 10 years, and only 19 for performance. Call me cynical.

    Let’s all check in ten years and see if 19 and 91 become a more reasonable 2000 and 2100? Considering how many teachers there are, nearly 300,000 in the state, over ten years, this would be tiny. If it is 91 and 19 again, something is fishy. I believe they are just trying to create the illusion they are addressing this issue seriously. You are allowing them to create this illusion with your choice of words.

    You should write a separate article lamenting how difficult it is to dismiss ineffective teachers to show both sides. I don’t think this law will have a significant impact. Let’s track this.

    Replies

    • Don on March 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm03/2/2014 4:35 pm

      • 000

      Floyd, what is it you don’t understand about the article? The bill is not intended to address the whole teacher dismissal/tenure/LIFO system as set forth in the California Constitution. It is intended, as it states in the article, to “shorten the time it would take to fire a teacher accused of “egregious” misconduct, including sex crimes, abuse and immoral conduct, and expand the ability to gather more evidence to support the allegations.”

      The whole thrust of your voluminous argument is it isn’t the bill you want. It’s a different bill. Hum, that coffee smells good.

      • Floyd Thursby on March 2, 2014 at 8:25 pm03/2/2014 8:25 pm

        • 000

        This bill is a step in the right direction, but a very small step. It surely isn’t enough. We need Vergara and Davis for this. Big deal, it was the big headline. we can fire a child molester faster. It’s ridiculous we are even discussing this and it’s a big headline on the site, they rose to the challenge after blocking it from getting out of committee before. Give me a break.

  5. Leslie Ruben on February 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm02/28/2014 3:19 pm

    • 000

    That quote is disturbing. I agree, many teachers use personal days they don’t need just out of laziness and call in sick when they are not. In some cases, they are allowed to miss for any reason, but that doesn’t make it right. Awful. A union leader should encourage everyone to go to work if they can, knowing substitute costs take away from the budget for teacher salaries. It isn’t cheap either. If you reduced sick days from 7.5% to say, a more reasonable 3%, salaries would go up and kids would do better. I have had many years I didn’t miss a day. It makes me sad a union leader would joke about calling in sick. I see this in my jobs. The American work ethic is not what it used to be.

  6. Leslie Ruben on February 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm02/28/2014 3:18 pm

    • 000

    That quote is disgusting. I agree, many teachers use personal days they don’t need just out of laziness and call in sick when they are not. In some cases, they are allowed to miss for any reason, but that doesn’t make it right. Awful. A union leader should encourage everyone to go to work if they can, knowing substitute costs take away from the budget for teacher salaries. It isn’t cheap either. If you reduced sick days from 7.5% to say, a more reasonable 3%, salaries would go up and kids would do better. I have had many years I didn’t miss a day. It makes me sad a union leader would joke about calling in sick. I see this in my jobs. The American work ethic is not what it used to be.

  7. Floyd Thursby on February 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm02/28/2014 2:29 pm

    • 000

    This is a direct quote from Ken Tray. Should someone who brags about calling in sick when not sick be able to lead a union?

    Maybe so, but it has been hard to get anyone to listen. Tray has spoken up before and gotten lots grief. He’s not looking forward to the response from this interview.

    “Maybe,” he said, “I’ll call in sick tomorrow.”

  8. Manuel on February 27, 2014 at 9:08 am02/27/2014 9:08 am

    • 000

    John, your article does not use the word “challenge.” Thus, its use in its title is suspect and leaves an impression of a bias.

    Say it ain’t so…

    ;-)

    Having written that, perhaps what the head-line writer was referring to was the “challenge” made by Gov. Brown to Buchanan’s bill? If so, perhaps a line in the article could be changed to allow the headline to reflect this and not give the impression of bias or “something you feel we should be proud of,” as salmacis wrote.

    BTW, what exactly is the difference between Correa’s and Buchanan’s bills? (I could look them up, but I am sure that you have greater familiarity with their contents than me. And if you can, maybe you can contrast it to the Padilla bill, their predecessor. It is too bad that we need a “scorecard,” but it is what it is.)

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald on February 27, 2014 at 9:31 am02/27/2014 9:31 am

      • 000

      Having witnessed firsthand the pitched battles the past two years over attempts to change the dismissal bill — I was at the hearings and watched the arcimony — I would say it is an accurate use of the word “challenge” to characterize efforts to pass a bill. In addition, Brown did encourage the Legislature to come back with another version this year. BTW: Headlines don’t have to repeat a phrase in a story. In fact, while expedient, it can be lazy to do so. As a long-time headline writer, I was chastised by reporters who would say I stole their lead or turn of phrase by putting it in a headline.
      As for the differences: The main one is the use of an administrative law judge instead of the 3-person Commission. Districts find it hard to recruit administrators with the experience required by law to judge a teacher on trial. And you can certainly argue that when it comes to abuse, as opposed to dismissals for poor performance, you don’t need a language teacher to hear the case of an accused abuser who happens to teach French. There are some differences in evidence rules, limits on the numbers of witnesses and time limits for disposing the case. CSBA and EdVoice made a big deal about these issues last year; Buchanan had tried to reach a consensus and felt that CSBA’s lawyers were overstating the potential problems and being picky. In the end, CSBA persuaded Brown to veto the bill. He must have analyzed it himself and agreed, since CTA, Brown’s frequent ally, supported the bill.

      • Floyd Thursby on February 28, 2014 at 2:28 pm02/28/2014 2:28 pm

        • 000

        John, it’s still WAY too hard to dismiss ineffective teachers and this barely changes the failed status quo. 19 in 10 years for performance, 91 in the state, total? This won’t really change that. This is an effort to look like things are changing and maybe change a small thing, yes the next molester will be out faster and this will save a cost of an extra babysitter teacher and may save a kid or two from being abused, but it is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how difficult it is under present law, and how expensive, to dismiss ineffective teachers. It’s a shell game, a trick. The Vergara and/or Davis efforts will be far better. Even Davis doesn’t do enough.

      • navigio on March 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm03/1/2014 12:58 pm

        • 000

        Interesting. I also took the headline as biased, but I felt it indicated the writer’s desire to imply CSBA should be taking positions against those taken by teachers unions. FWIW.

        • Floyd Thursby on March 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm03/1/2014 1:25 pm

          • 000

          Navigio the teacher’s unions have become so extreme, hardly any rational people support their position outside of teachers. I spoke about how my son suffered due to a teacher working under 50 of 180 days and calling in sick for many reasons at a meeting and a union rep screamed at me and said I was defaming 6,000 educators who had given their lives for children. This teacher called in sick for 4 reasons and was seen at cafes by parents on days she called in sick. She also had a bad rep at her previous school, but we could only find out about this by talking to other parents from that school as the union hid this info and didn’t allow it to be public, their rules. They also disallow reference checking when teachers switch, only seniority.

          Very few rational people support the extreme union position and well under half support seniority being used to determine lay offs. When I say almost no one, I’m referring to the current practice where on average it costs over 100,000 dollars to dismiss an ineffective teacher and 19 in 10 years for performance. Very few rational people would argue that this is effective. Even the union changes the subject when you bring up these facts.

          I’ve never heard of another profession where a leader brags about calling in sick because someone argued with him.

          Imagine if LeBron James said “man, people keep saying I don’t shoot enough and should pass less especially that New York Times writer, when we go to New York to play the Knicks, I might be injured.” It would be a headline and America would be up in arms. He would never do that. He’s playing with a broken nose. We need that type of determination among teachers who set an example for children. You should only take a personal day or call in sick if it’s unavoidable by any reasonable efforts. Many teachers now count their sick and personal days and make sure to use them. That’s horrible for children as they learn very little when subs are there.

          • navigio on March 1, 2014 at 11:27 pm03/1/2014 11:27 pm

            • 000

            And all approved by the people we vote into office. But of course they have no fault.

            The things you mention are not what unions stand for. They are anomalies taking advantage of the system. Painting their behavior as the norm is a political statement which is then responded to in kind. That should not surprise you. There is no rationality on either side in those kinds of disputes.

            • Floyd Thursby on March 2, 2014 at 1:05 am03/2/2014 1:05 am

              • 000

              Yes but the point is anomalies shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the system. More police are fired than teachers. 19 in 10 years for quality and not an infraction and under 100 in ten years is not reasonable if a high priority is placed on providing high quality teachers to children. The union pressures us into creating a system bad teachers can take advantage of. It is my opinion that most teachers make less due to this. Localities are reluctant to vote in raises and taxes. If you look at states where teachers can be fired fairly easily, like Tennessee, Texas, and compare cost of living, teachers there earn far more on average. It creates a system which is good for the worst and bad for the mass of teachers who wouldn’t need a ridiculous system to keep their job. Teachers like to bring out paranoid scenarios, what if they fire teachers en masse to save money? That would never happen, the community would be outraged. Only bad teachers need worry, and if closing the achievement gap is to be a higher priority, they should. Any job should fire the bad. I’m not saying it’s the norm, but the majority of teachers who would never do such a thing protect the anomaly.

            • Don on March 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm03/2/2014 2:24 pm

              • 000

              Well, Navigio, after reading and rereading Floyd’s comment above, maybe you are right.

  9. CarolineSF on February 27, 2014 at 8:07 am02/27/2014 8:07 am

    • 000

    It’s my understanding that egregious administrative inaction led to LAUSD’s failure to deal with the horrible case at Miramonte Elementary and that the law would have allowed for swift action if the administration hadn’t dropped the ball. Can someone who’s familiar with the case clarify that? And in how many other cases was that the situation?

    “Floyd,” competent administrators can get ineffective teachers to leave the profession without out-and-out firing them (I’ve seen this a number of times), and employees tend to be responsive and make it look like a voluntary decision. For that reason, the “firing” figures are meaningless.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby on February 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm02/28/2014 2:25 pm

      • 000

      Caroline, these figures are not meaningless. Maybe this is true, but it is indicative of the fact that it is way too difficult to fire ineffective teachers and children suffer as a result. This doesn’t change that. Some of you mention more training or more time for tenure, but this would do nothing, you can teach for 30 years then become lazier or resist reforms or start showing up sick every day you possibly can. These are all issues. My son had a teacher who came fewer than 50 days of 180 and called in sick for 5 reasons but wouldn’t take a leave of absence. She basically put her income over 22 children’s education, in 1st grade. All 22 teachers were showing up wanting this teacher fired. The union didn’t care. When I tried to speak about this, a union rep started irrationally raving and accusing me of defaming 6,000 great educators who had given their lives to children. It made no sense, I talked of a couple teachers.

      It costs an average of over $100,000 to fire a bad teacher and tons of paperwork. We all know most will give up and not follow through and the standard is the teacher just has to become decent. Even if they are bad, they often survive. Your minimizing this is just what the union wants, the status quo, which is horrible for my kids and was for my son. 80% of SFUSD teachers are good, but some of the rest are awful and some are below average. During the lay offs, they based it on seniority, and ratings would have helped children. There are ways to rate teachers, and principals, parents, students and yes, test scores, show a lot of quality. Teachers can help motivate kids to work harder telling them the difference it makes in their life.

      It cost 40k to fire the child molester. That was really ridiculous.

      19 being fired for performance in 10 years shows performance isn’t anywhere near the priority job security is to the powers that be. This is wrong and hurts children.

      Caroline, if you are in SF you read the Examiner article that 12% of teachers called in sick the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. They should have been investigating. We lose so much money to subs and the kids lose so much. They should look at the ones who called in sick that day the previous year and investigate, see if they’re home or on a trip, see if they have a doctor’s note, see if they are being honest. 7.5% is the usual percent which is awful, now remember this is for a profession with 70 more days off during the week a year than the average person, meaning they don’t have to schedule doctor’s appointments or personal things on school days at all like some of us might. This should be unacceptable.

      Ken Tray a Union Leader replied to someone disagreeing with his proposal for teacher housing. I actually agreed with his proposal, but it was controversial and there were certainly two reasonable sides to the issue, and if you advocate, people will disagree with you, but for him, someone other teachers look up to, to make a joke about calling in sick due to stress, the idea you can just take a “mental health” day and hurt your students’ education if you’re in a bad mood, is despicable. Read this article and what he says and you’ll see it’s a deeper problem:

      http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/A-voice-for-affordable-housing-for-middle-class-3265202.php

      47% of teachers were in the bottom third of college graduates, meaning they didn’t work hard in college and didn’t choose teaching to give back but because their college GPA didn’t leave them options for the high paying jobs. I know some are in the top 3d, close to a third, about a quarter, and these are sacrificing to teach, but when you have many who showed poor effort in college and a leader who openly says he has a right to call in sick because someone argued with him after he proposed a new law, we have a broken system that isn’t serving our children. Some teachers will not do their best and work their hardest, some will not be effective, some won’t give 100% or even 90%. Some will. We have to stop judging by seniority. A teacher who will call in sick due to stress and had below average grades in college and gives average effort after 30-40 years will not be as good as a top graduate who works hard and only calls in sick when truly sick after 3 years, so we need to be aware of that and improve quality constantly. It must not be so difficult to fire bad teachers.

      Caroline, you’re using manipulation of facts to uphold and maintain the failed status quo and achievement gap. You’re looking for excuses rather than results. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

      • navigio on March 1, 2014 at 8:48 am03/1/2014 8:48 am

        • 000

        Re your first two sentences: yes, what she said is true, but no, it’s not indicative of the fact it’s too hard to fire people, it’s indicative of the fact that people get removed yet don’t show up on the official list of ‘being fired’. That makes the number meaningless as a measure if that effect.

  10. salmacis on February 27, 2014 at 8:03 am02/27/2014 8:03 am

    • 000

    The phrase “rising to the occasion” usually refers to someone stepping up and doing something good. This bill however is about firing people who are “accused of”, but not “guilty of”. This is something you feel we should be proud of ?

  11. navigio on February 27, 2014 at 6:39 am02/27/2014 6:39 am

    • 000

    A stone just fell out of the foundation of the castle.

  12. Floyd Thursby on February 27, 2014 at 1:30 am02/27/2014 1:30 am

    • 000

    This is a minor solution and only impacts a few cases. In the past 10 years, California, the entire state, has seen 91 techers actually fired and only 19 for performance. To really improve the teaching profession, it must be possible to fire ineffective teachers. It must happen, and in large numbers. The children must be considered first. Now they are an afterthought. This must change. It’s a tiny step in the right direction.

    Replies

    • Paul Muench on February 27, 2014 at 8:06 am02/27/2014 8:06 am

      • 000

      Raising standards for teacher credentialing would likely be more effective first step. There’s already plenty of teacher turnover to get some benefit just from raising standards.

    • Don on March 1, 2014 at 10:00 am03/1/2014 10:00 am

      • 000

      Floyd, the bill is not about addressing the overall issue of ineffective teachers. It is about specific cases of “egregious” misconduct, including sex crimes, abuse and immoral conduct.

      Caroline, a dedicated principal can apply pressure to force a teacher out of the school after doing years of documenting and mentoring. In my experience many of these teachers simply move to another school given their seniority protections. And some may leave altogether as you said. But what does forcing out ineffective teachers have to do with the subject of this post which is specifically about cases of egregious misconduct?

      • navigio on March 1, 2014 at 1:21 pm03/1/2014 1:21 pm

        • 000

        Don, bills like this are not really about what they are about. They are about the politics of the issue. So yes, a bill about specific cases of egregious misconduct are also (and probably even primarily when they dont even achieve anything different than current law) about ineffective teacher removal and anti-union politics in general.

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