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Schwarzenegger supports bill to streamline educator discipline

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday threw his weight behind legislation that proposes to give school administrators the ability to assign or fire teachers based on their effectiveness and to streamline the educator dismissal process.

Schwarzenegger made similar suggestions during a speech in January. State Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) sponsored the bill, which is scheduled to be introduced to the Legislature on Wednesday.

At a news conference Tuesday at Markham Middle School in Watts, Schwarzenegger said that California's schools need to operate more like private companies that can make personnel decisions based on merit rather than seniority, which is currently the only measure public school administrators can consider during layoffs.

That "means the best and most committed...teachers are getting laid off while ineffective teachers are allowed to keep their jobs," he said.

Because of California's budget woes, districts throughout the state have issued preliminary layoff notices to thousands of younger, less experienced instructors.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in February on behalf of students at three of Los Angeles' worst-performing middle schools, including Markham, which were forced to lay off dozens of teachers last year. The suit claims those students were denied their legal rights to an education and aims to prevent the Los Angeles Unified School District from laying off more teachers there.

Teachers unions officials have vowed to fight the bill, saying that it amounts to an attack on teacher tenure and would hurt the state's ability to recruit and retain educators.

-- Jason Song

Photo: "Sweet" Alice Harris, left, gets the crowd to react as Markham Middle School teacher Nicholas Melvoin addresses a news conference following Schwarzenegger's introduction of SB 955. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (21)

The sooner our Idiot Governor is gone the better.Nothing at this late date will change his legacy as a FAILURE while he dis-served California.

Teachers have DUE PROCESS in California, not tenure. That means if a teacher is lacking in some area, the teacher has a chance to redress the issue and improve before being fired. Due process is reasonable. What will happen if teachers are denied due process is a series of injustices: administrators who don't like teachers can fire at whim; parents can bully administrators into firing teachers that they dislike; senior teachers who make the most money will be fired or laid off in order to balance the budget---why not fire one older teacher making 75K and buy two young ones? Teachers are in the midst of a political quagmire and politics will determine who gets fired. Due process is just; an administrative fire fest is not.

According to the Governor, if education were run like a business...failures such as the CEO's of failed banks and investment firms or General Motors would receive huge bonuses or buyouts. How about coming up with a fair system of evaluation that incorporates seniority AND competency. Politics is not business and democracy is messy...so the naive governor should stop touting business as the model for education and state government....or does he really want a dictatorship.

Its time. The children must come first. As the old saying goes "if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk". If you can believe anything is possible in infinite realm of possibilities, then you can believe there is a doable way to the top. The current track record speaks for itself. Bring the best forward.

I'm one of those young, energetic, effective educators who has been laid off. I would love it if there was some other criteria for deciding who gets to keep their job. This seniority-only approach is not the way to go. I say this even as a union member and supporter. It would be good for teacher unions if they found some middle ground on this topic. I'm not afraid of being evaluated based on my merit, expertise, and effectiveness.

As a teacher and also a substitute teacher, it saddens me when I have subsituted or been in an effective teacher's classroom. These teachers are just doing their "job", and some do not care if students understand the standards. They are ineffective at classroom management, have lesson plans that don't activate student learning (or some don't even have any), and are doing a terrible derservice to our children.

"Research indicates that kids who have two, three, four strong teachers in a row will eventually excel, no matter what their background, while kids who have even two weak teachers in a row will never recover," says Kati Haycock of the Education Trust and coauthor of the 2006 study "Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students Are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality."

Believe me, working as an intervention teacher in a lower socio-economic school I know there are bad teachers. Some of these teachers yell at their children (1st grade), others are teaching 2nd graders fourth grade standards without linking it to any prior knowledge (these poor children have no idea what the teacher is talking about), while others have let their classrooms just run amuck. Why does the administrator not get rid of them? Because the union protects these bad teachers at the expense of children. That is sadly what it has come down to. As much as I used to love the teacher union, hey who wouldn't love a union that helps you gurantee a life long job after three years? Now, I disagree with its principles. Too many bad teachers are ruining our children's chances of success, especially those that already have a "poor" start in life.

The teacher union should protect teachers against unfair labor acts. They should not protect bad teachers, lazy teachers, and ineffective teachers. Our chilren are our future, and quite frankly it's a scary thought when they have been educated by incomptent teachers.

This is outrageous. The more politicians push off the responsibility for the inadequate governance and lack of education funding and other social programs that help students, the more they scapegoat teachers, the further down the spiral our democracy and access to adequate education for our children falls.

This is an idiotic lawsuit. Teachers who are laid off at these schools are replaced by permanent teachers with more experience in the classroom. There's something to be said about experience. The teachers that are getting laid off are 1st year teachers who are hardly award winning teachers. They're gaining their teacher legs and most will be burnt out by the end of the year. Remember these young teachers leave the profession w/in 5 years, the ones who can handle it...stay. Teachers learn their profession by baptism by fire. Schwarzenegger is anti-union, anti-teacher and has his head up his...well you know. He has no idea what he's talking about. He has never taught in a classroom.

Our ill-informed governor once again demonstrates his lack of understanding of educational issues. The greatest indicator of student test score success is what is going on at HOME, not the quality of the teacher. What about those teachers whose students might not test out as proficient but make steady impressive growth throughout the year? Moreover, after over 20 years with LAUSD, I know that not all class populations are equal in terms of student ability. This, thus, begs the question. How would the governor and other politicians measure effectiveness. I have no doubt that they cannot find a valid measure. Too bad they are in positions of power to turn their ignorance into law. Hopefully, not this time.

When was the last time our governor spent an extended amount of time in a classroom? Could the problem be that our whole education system is inefficient? Has he sent his "business" auditors into LAUSD lately to see how they run the district? Has he sent inspectors in to determine if our principals are truly trained and equipped to handle the huge societal issues in our classrooms? Do our principals have what it takes to teach kids with major learning deficiencies? Has anyone determined what it really takes to teach kids in the 21st century when educators have 1980s or 1990s curriculum and limited resources in the classroom? How about all the pressure on families today and the negative effects on kids? It goes on and on... Why does our governor make it look so simple? He isn't the one who will face the consequences -- it will be the kids. Also, why are we laying off any of our capable educators and school staff --- who else will prepare our kids for the future -- none of it makes sense. But we can always play the "blame game" and attack at the most vulnerable point.

Bob Huff, is just as bright as Arnold, and we all know how bright is. Arnold, has made these stupid statements, and the State is going down the hill. Davis, is not looking bad thanks to Aronld.

Good. My son had a horrible teacher last year who only stayed because she had seniority. She is burned out, bad for students, and not a good educator. They didn't learn much, and lived in constant fear of her. Despite more than half of the parents sending letters to the principal demanding she be replaced, he could do nothing. So this year, she got to stay, but a wonderful teacher everyone loved was dismissed for not having enough years of seniority - even though her kids' test scores were higher year upon year than the older teacher.
I used to be pro-union, but the UTLA is evil. Fighting to keep teachers who are not doing their job hurts kids. Keeping teachers paid who are under investigation for abuse leads to 5 days fewer learning - that money could be going to teachers in a classroom. Demanding 5 fewer days rather than a temporary pay cut for 2 years hurts kids. Our education system is a nonprofit organization created to help our next generation, and the UTLA is consistently doing everything in their power to dismantle it.
When you put adults needs instead of children's - that to me is evil.

The Governor would do well to tend to his words and language when it comes to badmouthing experienced teachers in his adopted state of California. This state has a long and storied history of top-notch k-12 education once built upon a now eroding government commitment to properly funded public schools, and his self-absorbed and myopic attack on teachers smacks of political opportunism. He should keep in mind that teachers are the highly educated and largely selfless public servants that have devoted their lives to nurturing the growth of our most precious resource – our children – and because classroom instruction is a learned art and science that grows more refined and efficient over time, it is insulting and misleading to hear the Governor speak poorly of the armies of expert veteran instructors at each grade level that blanket our California schools statewide. By tearing a page from the private sector playbook, as the Governor has suggested, he would instead encourage the support and the retention of smart and efficient veteran teachers in our statewide efforts to improve education, and avoid this politically driven and highly transparent witch hunt he has decided to undertake against reasonably-paid mid-career and late-career teachers. Changing the law to allow sometimes ethically-challenged administrators to clean the books of these higher salaried employees would improve neither the quality of education in our classrooms nor our current financial headaches – it would simply rip up the education profession for a generation. The Governor reveals his aggressive lack of understanding of the mechanics of teaching and instruction – and indeed besmirches his own elected office – when he makes statements such assays the “best and most committed teachers are getting laid off while ineffective teachers are allowed to keep their jobs.” Since when are new and inexperienced teachers considered the best and most committed? Are new police officers considered the best and most committed by their peers and by our elected officials. What about firefighters and public defenders? Are veterans in these public sectors expected to allow themselves to be sidelined by our elected officials in the way that experienced public teachers are being sidelined? I doubt it. The Governors’ plan to improve education by ending teacher seniority is full of holes, and hopefully a caring and alert electorate will recognize that our earnest and “committed” career public school teachers have been instrumental in building this state into a worldwide beacon, and will work collectively to steer our legislature away from traveling down this disastrous path. Thanks for your thoughts, Governor.

Since when does seniority equate to ability? Schools are rife with ineffective, indifferent, and sometimes outright abusive teachers who cannot be fired because of the unions' seniority system? Where else in a progressive, innovative country does such a stupid system exist? The only people who benefit from this system are ineffective teachers.

This is one of the crucial aspects that needs to be changed if there is ever to be successful education reform. It is a disservice to students to be taught by ineffective teachers and administration needs to be able to get rid of teachers who are inadequate just like every other profession. The inability to get rid of teachers has allowed a certain amount of unprofessionalism and it needs to be rectified.

It is not fair to students that the most senior teachers are allowed to keep their jobs because they have simply "been there" for a number of years. Teacher unions oppose this because they have spent a lot of energy to keep ineffective teachers at the expense of student success. Change needs to happen, and it needs to happen NOW!

Two points:

1. There is no such thing as TENURE. A probationary or permanent teacher can and should be fired if they have shown they are not effective. If your principal told you he/she cannot do anything, he/she is a liar. There is a process and it involves some work on the part of the administrator. Quite often the administrtator is not willing to put in the time and throws his/her hands up in the air, blaming "that union". In the first two years of teaching, a teacher can be fired without cause. Many of the candidate for firing show their weakness immediately, but administrators choose to look the other way because they do not want to do the hardes part of their job, the job they were hired to do, and that is attracting and retaining a quality staff of teachers.

2. It is a ridiculous generalization to say that seniority "means the best and most committed...teachers are getting laid off while ineffective teachers are allowed to keep their jobs,". Yes there are some burned out older teachers and amazing younger ones. But just as often there are experienced and therefore successful teachers who still care about the education of their students. There are also inexperienced teachers who lack wisdom and knowledge to be productive in the classroom. Let's not make such broad and sweeping generalizations in the future, Mr. Governor. When you do, you show your lack of depth of knowledge on the topic of education.

Come on, teachers. Don't claim that you can be fired if you're bad as if it's equivalent to how bad employees can be fired in most other industries. It typically takes at least THREE YEARS of bad evaluations to get rid of a crummy teacher IF a district is lucky. Meanwhile students suffer and parents fume. And if a teacher with okay evaluations suddenly changes his behavior and becomes abusive to kids? Or comes to class drunk one day? Sorry, district, don't try to remove him immediately. Leave him to yell and swear at kids with alcohol on his breath because you'll be spending hundreds of thousands in legal fees and back wages since you will lose to the union who will swear that it will never happen again and that you have violated the contract.

To respond to a reasonable teacher's points:

1) Once a teacher has been employed more than two years, the process to terminate a teacher with all the available appeals can take more than three years. This is absurd. The times did a series of stories on this last year. the UTLA system kept a child molestor employed by the district for more than three years while they appealed, even though they had been convicted. The system is flat out broken. No other profession in the world operates like this.

2) Although the governors statement is indeed factually wrong, it is irrelevant to this proposal. The proposal is not about replacing all high seniority teachers with low seniority teachers, it is about mixing the two to attract, retain, and motivate the highest acheivers, regardless of how long they have been on the job.

I am a big proponent of public education and realize its importance. Until we get a system in place that rewards teachers, administrators, and staff for competency andccomplishment and not degrees earned and longevity, I won't support any additional funds for education. I think more and more people are coming to my side on this issue.

We can't continue to support a system that doesn't differentiate and reward excellence.

Response to a Reasonable Non-Teacher :

LAUSD is a behemoth and its own entity and I cannot begin to understand how that system is run. All I can tell you is that in most "averaged-sized" districts what you described is not the case. I read the article, too, and it bothered me because LAUSD is always the example used to illustrate school districts -- just because LAUSD is doing something, please do not assume it is true for all districts. All districts are not created equally!

I understand wanting to have a merit system. In theory it is a good idea. The only problem is that children are not widgets and you cannot judge a teacher like you would an assembly line worker. How could you fairly distribute the students so that each teacher would begin the year with equal "resources" if you will? Why would any teacher take a lower performing group (when those are the very students who need her the most)... because she will be penalized for them not being at grade level by the end of the year? Currently best practices dictate that you cluster like students in classrooms to allow for homogeneous grouping. If the high performing students are grouped in one class and the lower performing in another class, how can we fairly "judge" the two teachers? All I am saying is that it is more complicated than just judging a teacher based on student success.

Reasonable Teacher,

Thanks for the comments back and the discussion.

I agree that measuring on test scores and the like is not a good comprehensive way to evaluate performance. Perhaps it should be part of the measurement, but clearly not the entire, or majority of the measure.

I have a job that is not about making widgets, but what I do every year is sit down with my boss, lay out my goals for the year, tell them how these goals can be evaluated, we agree, and at the end of the year we discuss how I did in relationship to those goals and my overall job performance. I am then given an evaluaton and a raise based on that.

There are ways to evaluate effectively other than how long you have been at the position. I am sure education professionals could figure that out if they really wanted to. I have no doubt they are smart people, but why figure it out if you can get a raise every year just for showing up?


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