Bill would put veteran teachers in failing schools

Times Staff Writer

Legislators on Thursday advanced proposals to help poor-performing schools attract experienced teachers and to make it easier for prosecutors to seize gang members' assets.

Despite opposition from teachers unions, the state Senate voted to allow additional bonuses to be negotiated for experienced and credentialed science and math teachers who take assignments at 2,509 poor-performing schools, including 307 campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The proposal, which will now go to the Assembly, addresses concerns that students at the worst-performing schools are more likely to have science and math teachers who are on emergency credentials or who lack the training, experience and specialization to teach the subjects effectively, according to state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), author of the measure.

She said students at such schools are disproportionately Latino and African American.

"If we ignore the shortage of math and science teachers in these schools, where they are needed the most, we are essentially telling these young people that they cannot be engineers, scientists, nurses and doctors," Romero said. "This is just simply wrong."

The legislation would let school districts negotiate with the teachers' bargaining units to provide additional compensation to math and science teachers who take assignments in schools ranked lowest in the Academic Performance Index.

L.A. Unified began providing incentive pay in 2006 with $11 million in state grants, but the proposal the Senate approved Thursday would allow the district to tap an additional $34 million in special funds and use it for incentives.

The measure was opposed by the California Teachers Assn., which has concerns about using special funds that were allocated for other purposes.

Also Thursday, the Senate passed legislation sought by the Los Angeles city attorney and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union that would expand the ability of prosecutors to seize the houses, businesses, cash and other property of gang members by filing lawsuits for civil damages when gang members create nuisances.

Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) cited the problem of gang violence in Los Angeles, including the recent killing of high school football star Jamiel Shaw Jr., allegedly by a gang member.

Cedillo's bill would expand prosecutors' ability to seek civil damages against gang members in court and then seek possession of their assets to satisfy judgments against the gangs.

"Gang members should not be able to profit from their activity," Cedillo told his colleagues. "We should take their assets and return them back to the community that they attempt to terrorize."

The ACLU argued that the proposal could penalize all gang members equally, regardless of their level of involvement in the crime that draws the civil lawsuit.




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