A state lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday that would attempt to streamline the process for dismissing California teachers accused of misconduct.
The proposed bill by state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) also would strive to make the dismissal process less expensive. Recent attempts to change rules have wilted under opposition from teacher unions.
A law passed last year with the support of unions but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Critics said it could have made dismissals even more onerous for school districts.
In California, a fired teacher can appeal to a three-person state panel consisting of an administrative law judge and two teachers—one chosen by the school district and the other by the accused’s representative.
Correa’s proposal allows an administrative law judge alone to review the most serious misconduct cases. This change would align the due-process rights of teachers more closely with those of other state employees. Teacher unions, however, have defended the panel system as appropriate and fair.
For lesser infractions, the panel system would remain in force, but instructors who serve on it would need only three years of teaching experience rather than the five now required.
The new bill also aims at shortening the review process for a dismissal to 12 months. Some cases can extend for several years.
Districts would be able to submit testimony or evidence more than four years old to support the credibility of the current allegations against a teacher. Unions have worried such provisions could result in the use of unproven, irrelevant or out-of-date information.
“The governor challenged us to develop a balanced and fair solution that best protects children from serious immoral misconduct,” Correa said. “I believe that we have done just that with this bill.”
The California School Boards Assn., which collaborated with Correa, said the proposed law would “ensure that California’s students are protected, and that any teachers posing a direct threat to student safety are removed from the classroom in a fair and judicious manner.”
The group’s executive director, Vernon M. Billy, said the proposed legislation “is not an anti-teacher bill, but a pro-student safety measure that we hope the Legislature will embrace.”
The California Teachers Assn. and the California Federation of Teachers had no immediate response.
The dismissal process also is being challenged in court as part of an ongoing trial in Los Angeles.
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