Performance-based teacher layoff bill dies in committee

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Legislation that would have allowed school districts to lay off teachers based on performance, not seniority, failed in a state Senate education committee Wednesday.

The measure, proposed by state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), called for school districts to create new administrator and teacher evaluations that would be partially based on student test score data. It would have allowed district officials to lay off teachers based on performance.

Currently, by state law, teachers are laid off strictly by seniority during budget shortfalls.


Three Republican senators supported the bill in a committee hearing, falling short of the six votes needed to proceed to the full Senate.

This is the second straight year that the bill has failed, and earlier attempts to do away with seniority-based layoffs also proved unsuccessful.

During the hearing, Huff said his bill would give districts more flexibility and children more access to high-quality teachers.

“We should not have a quality-blind approach to our teachers,” he said. “We should have an approach that understands there are differences.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent a letter to the committee expressing support for the bill, although he said that changes to the state education code were also necessary to overhaul seniority-based layoffs. Several school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, were also in favor of the bill.

But several dozen teachers testified against the legislation, saying that student test scores should not be included in evaluations and that the bill would give too much weight to evaluations.


Huff said the testimony was a sign of teacher unions’ power and helped quash the bill. “What happened today was [the union] flexed their muscle,” he said.

California Teachers Assn. representatives did not return an email, but A.J. Duffy, president of the Los Angeles teachers union, said he was pleased that the bill did not pass.

“There must be something better,” he said.

Huff said he was disappointed that the bill did not garner enough votes to proceed. “The defeat … means incompetent teachers are still given preference to better teachers because of the quality-blind approach we currently use,” he said in a statement.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy, who is pushing to revamp evaluations in the state’s largest school system, also expressed disappointment but vowed to keep pressing for change.

“I’m going to continue to work with our legislators that seek to reform the evaluation system,” he said.