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CTA, EdVoice Announce Support for Teacher Dismissal Process – but CSBA, ACSA Apparently Aren’t Onboard

April 17, 2014

For several years, the California Legislature has worked on bills that would modify and in some ways streamline the teacher dismissal process. And while none of the legislative attempts thus far have become law, many Sacramento observers that some sort of change in existing law is politically inevitable.

The latest episode in this saga began on April 4, when the California Teachers Association and the advocacy group EdVoice issued a joint statement, which appeared to tout an apparent breakthrough:

After three years of efforts to streamline the dismissal process to ensure student safety while protecting the due process rights of educators, the California Teachers Association and EdVoice are joining in support of Assembly Member Joan Buchanan’s (D-Alamo) newly-introduced AB 215. This bill streamlines the complexity of certificated staff suspension and dismissal while being fair to adults and keeping all students and staff in California public schools safe. The bill balances the call for reduced cost and complexity in the appeals process with the rights of students and the rights of educators.

“AB 215 is the culmination of several years of effort by diverse stakeholders to address the need to reduce the complexity and cost of suspension and dismissal appeals. The bill balances a fair appeal process for any permanent employee requesting a hearing with the mandate to keep all students and staff safe and ensure every public school classroom is a productive learning environment,” said EdVoice President Bill Lucia. “EdVoice is pleased to support and join the hard work of the CTA in arriving at these needed and significant improvements to current law.”

Under current law, districts have the power to immediately remove from the classroom educators accused of immoral conduct but, as seen in recent cases, have failed to act. That is why educators have been advocating for a streamlined process and supported legislation last year that was vetoed by the governor. AB 215 creates a separate hearing process for employees charged with egregious misconduct—child abuse, sexual abuse and certain drug offenses. These cases will be heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ) and will be prioritized over other appeals.

“As educators, student safety and having quality teachers in every classroom is always a top priority. AB 215 expedites the current dismissal process to keep students safe, while also safeguarding the integrity of the profession and protecting the rights of educators,” said CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “This bill addresses the concerns expressed by parents, education stakeholders and lawmakers over the past few years. CTA is pleased to join EdVoice and Assembly Member Buchanan in demonstrating our shared commitment to this legislation.”

AB 215 also streamlines the appeals process to address other misconduct and chronic unsatisfactory performance appeals. The measure eliminates loopholes and distorted incentives in current law that have led to lengthy delays in commencing and completing appeals hearings, including the use of superior courts to referee process disputes in employment actions and districts’ dragging on investigations, which has resulted in costly litigation.

CTA and EdVoice look forward to having many conversations with lawmakers and other education stakeholders to ensure the measure passes and is signed by the governor.

The CTA/EdVoice announcement was billed in some news reports as representing an agreement backed by a broad group of education stakeholders. However, the California School Boards Association issued a carefully-worded statement on April 8 by CSBA’s CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy, making it clear that CSBA was not entirely onboard:

Recent press reports have indicated that AB 215 by Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) represents an agreement on the issue of teacher dismissal that involved the education community. Discussions on the drafting of the bill included the California Teachers Association, some members of the business community and the Governor.

However, it’s important to note that it's our understanding that the professionals who conduct termination proceedings, and the elected officials who make the termination decisions were not involved in crafting this approach. One obvious example is the fact that charges of violent and serious felonies are not included as a reason for a mandatory leave of absence. This is a small example of not having a complete effort by the education community to ensure the safety of our students. While there are a number of positive aspects of AB 215, there are also a number of deficiencies that do not adequately address and protect our students, parents and staff.

CSBA has been committed to reforming the teacher dismissal process and recently sponsored Senate Bill 843 introduced by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana). SB 843 streamlines the process for cases involving teacher behavior that could jeopardize student safety, including egregious conduct. SB 843 makes the teacher dismissal process more efficient and less expensive, while maintaining fairness and due process for teachers. CSBA has been working with legislators and stakeholders on this issue for more than two years, and remains committed to developing a better dismissal process. We will continue to engage stakeholders and look forward to advocating on this critical issue before the Senate Education Committee hearing later this month.

CSBA represents elected school board members who govern public school districts and county offices of education, and is committed to advocating for strong reforms that advance the education and well-being of California’s more than 6 million school-age children. We will continue to work to ensure that a strong and effective teacher dismissal bill will reach the Governor’s desk for his signature.

And on the same day (April 8), an equally carefully-worded statement was issued by Wesley Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA): 

Over the last several years, the Association of California School Administrators, representing more than 15,000 site, district and county school leaders, has been deeply involved in the various legislative proposals regarding teacher dismissal. Recent press reports have indicated that a resolution to the legislative gridlock of reforming the teacher dismissal process has been reached between education community stakeholders, including the California Teachers Association and EdVoice. To be clear, ACSA was not a party to these negotiations and the proposed resolution to the complicated issue of teacher dismissal.

ACSA understands AB 215 (Buchanan) is the legislative vehicle for this agreement. We are still reviewing the proposed legislation and will be seeking input from our membership – the school leaders responsible for overseeing the current cumbersome and difficult employee dismissal process.

ACSA has consistently advocated for reforms in the employee dismissal process in the areas of egregious misconduct and unsatisfactory performance. We look forward to working with Assembly Member Buchanan, Senator Liu (Chair of the Senate Education Committee), members of the Senate Education Committee, and other education stakeholders in resolving these issues.

Where does this leave the agreement forged between the CTA and EdVoice? And others who intended to address the issue through Sen. Correa’s bill? At this point, It is still too early to say.

Source:  California Teachers Association, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, EdVoice.