On a 5-2 party line vote, with two Republicans opposed, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to send AB 5, the bill rewriting the teacher evaluation law, to the full Senate for a vote next week.
The bill passed despite uncertainty over state funding for a more extensive and involved evaluation system than is currently required. AB 5’s author, Democratic Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes, was able to secure $60 million in one-time money to enable districts with low-performing schools to establish the new system. But the bill would leave it to the Legislature to figure out how to cover ongoing costs after the bill goes into effect on July 1, 2014. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t signaled whether he’s OK with adding at least $20 million in annual new education costs – the Department of Finance’s latest estimate of implementing the system.
The California Teachers Association hasn’t yet taken an official stand on the bill, but Fuentes couldn’t have come up with $60 million in funding without CTA’s say-so. The money will be diverted from the Quality Education Investment Act, a $2.7 billion program established through a lawsuit settlement struck between CTA and Gov. Schwarzenegger to fund smaller classes and teacher training at about a third of the state’s lowest-performing schools. CTA has zealously guarded encroachments on that money.
CTA has said it supports a fair, comprehensive evaluation system based on professional teaching standards, which is what AB 5 provides. But CTA also said there must be funding to ensure that principals are uniformly trained in classroom observations using objective criteria. So in agreeing to use $60 million of QEIA money to train evaluators in districts with low-performing schools, CTA is walking the talk.
But the bill also hands the union a victory on two contentious issues, which is why Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy joined nonprofit advocacy groups EdVoice, Education Trust-West, Children Now, and StudentsFirst in opposing AB 5.
“This current bill, if passed, would really weaken the progress we’re making. It will end a great deal of it,”Deasy told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
The district has instituted a voluntary evaluation system that includes student growth on state standardized test scores as one factor in measuring a teacher’s effectiveness. United Teachers Los Angeles unalterably opposes using the California Standards Tests in an evaluation.
In June, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the current evaluation law, the Stull Act, does require using students’ test results and ordered the district and union to devise a plan to incorporate the data. AB 5 would undo that decision, if not for LAUSD now, then starting in July 2014, by allowing but not explicitly requiring that test data be included in the mix of evaluation criteria.
The bill also would subject all aspects of an evaluation system to collective bargaining. Los Angeles Unified has adopted the position, which is ambiguous under the Stull Act, that districts have the authority to design evaluation systems without union approval.
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