A bill intended to make it quicker and less costly to dismiss teachers received a 7-0 approval from the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, and its author – the chair of the committee, Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – received much praise from her colleagues for taking on a contentious issue.
Unanimous passage of AB 375, without opposition in public testimony, does not necessarily mean the bill will face a conflict-free path to Gov. Brown’s desk, however. The California Teachers Association, which adamantly opposed an alternate version that died in the same committee last year, has tentatively supported Buchanan’s bill. But its State Council meets this weekend and may recommend amendments. Those advocating a stronger version will suggest technical amendments to ensure that the bill meets its goal of a dismissal process taking no more than seven months, including appeals. Bill Lucia, CEO and president of the advocacy group EdVoice, offered to work with Buchanan on tightening provisions. The bill must go through the Assembly Judiciary Committee before going to the Senate.
Last year’s bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would have applied only to dismissals for egregious misconduct, including sex abuse against children. It would have replaced a three-person appeals panel, composed of two teachers and an administrative law judge, with an administrative law judge alone issuing advisory rulings to school boards, which would have had final authority over dismissals. Buchanan’s bill would keep the appeals board but would make changes to timelines, procedures and rules of discovery that would apply to all dismissals, for bad conduct as well as unsatisfactory performance. In cases of suspected sex abuse, districts could use evidence older than four years if an administrative law judge determined it was relevant.
Buchanan said a two-hour discussion with eight administrative law judges formed the basis for provisions in the bill. Dismissal proceedings currently can cost districts more than $100,000 and take 18 months or longer to resolve.