Friday, July 20, 2012

Teacher's Pets: How Hard Is It To Change Work Rules For CA Teachers? Harder Than You Think

You'd think one of the easiest things to do in the world would be to pass legislation to streamline the process to fire public school teachers who molest their students; but, no it's not, at least not in California:

State Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles had every reason to hope that the 11 members of the obscure but powerful state Assembly Education Committee in Sacramento would back his new legislation, Senate Bill 1530, designed to let public schools more easily fire teachers who commit sexual, physically abusive or drug-related acts with their students. 
The bill, written by the former L.A. city councilman from the San Fernando Valley, a graduate of MIT who is seen by many as a man with a political future, had sailed through the Senate Education Committee in the upper house on a bipartisan vote. In the state Capitol, news reports about disgusting teachers who weren't fired thanks to rigidly protective laws — teachers such as alleged sex pervert Mark Berndt — were fresh in legislators' minds. 
Egregious-behaving teachers have formidable powers. LAUSD secretly paid Berndt $40,000 to quit. That was far less money than LAUSD would have shelled out for attorneys and Berndt's ongoing salary — only to perhaps see him reinstated by California's unusually powerful, three-person Commission on Professional Competence, controlled by two teachers-union appointees who are increasingly criticized for not acting on behalf of children. 
But in late June, Democratic legislators from six Southern and Northern California communities killed Padilla's bill. Two Democrats voted no on SB 1530 — Tom Ammiano of San Francisco and Joan Buchanan of Alamo. And four Democrats, including Betsy Butler of Los Angeles and Mike Eng of Monterey Park, refused to vote at all, knowing their abstentions would assure that SB 1530 failed by a single vote — and that their non-votes would go largely under the radar. (The other two abstaining Democrats were Wilmer Amina Carter of Rialto and Das Williams of Santa Barbara.)

The hang-up, believe it or not, is the timing of the termination notices. Reformers sensibly want the notices to go out right away, while the teachers' union says, hey, you can't send out notices during summer vacation! I wish I was making this up

Under current law, for instance, a school district cannot even begin the notification process — that it wants to dismiss a teacher for egregious behavior — if it's summertime. Why? Because some teachers might have to cut short vacations to set up legal teams or huddle with family; some may ignore their mail all summer. 
Padilla's bill lets the first notice go forth as soon as it's ready. 
CTA officials** urged educators to stop SB 1530, warning that it "would allow employers to send out a notice to dismiss during the summer when many certificated personnel are not in town."

Nice to know there are so many teachers out there who are the sort of creepy depressives who won't pick up their mail for months on end. 

A subtext of this story (and other teacher-parent flash-points) is almost always that these abusive teachers are in schools serving poor communities. It used to be that was no problem, I guess because the students were too poor for anyone to care about. But, things are different now because the poor kids are becoming increasingly brown, and Hispanic parents actually care about the welfare of their kids and are will to organize to vocally object to this sort of nonsense.* If you read the linked article, you'll see many of the law's proponents are Hispanic. You'll also see that the charge against the law was lead by San Francisco's Tom Ammiano, a very left-wing, very white-bread, and very gay former teacher. Yet, by some magical process, these parents are also supposed to see the Democrat Party as their "natural" home. Not if stuff like this keeps happening, it won't.

*one of the few useful California ed-reforms have been the law allowing a majority of parents at a school to essentially vote the current school staff out of their lives. Many of the schools that have gone through this are majority Hispanic).

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