SB 955 represents radical change to state’s teacher policies

Everywhere I look these days, there is another bill on teacher seniority and evaluation. New York’s legislature is considering a bill that would gut seniority provisions in that state’s education code, and I just saw another article on a big fight brewing in Colorado over teacher evaluation and tenure. (Arizona banned seniority entirely last year, but then again, that’s Arizona for you). California’s foray into this discussion comes in the form of SB 955, a bill introduced by Republican Bob Huff of southern California. The California Teachers Association and other labor groups adamantly oppose the bill, which is supported by Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Charter Schools Association and Education Trust-West. It narrowly passed out of the Senate Education Committee (5-4) last week.

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, Commissioners will hear an analysis of SB 955, and consider which alternatives to this bill, if any, the district might support. As a practical matter, SB 955 is highly unlikely to pass in its current form in our overwhelmingly Democratic legislature — as an “urgency” statute, it requires a 2/3 vote. Still, it’s clear that there is political traction for California to weigh in on the national conversation happening on teacher seniority and evaluation, and I’m told that an alternative bill is likely to be introduced by a Democratic sponsor. If that happens, it will be important for the Board to have a position on what provisions should be included or dropped.

Here are key provisions in SB 955:

  • It would change the notification timeline for teacher layoffs. Currently, districts must issue a March 15 “intent to lay off” notice, and then a permanent notice on May 15. Even if an employee receives a permanent notice, the district can later call them back, but the danger is always that some staff will accept other employment before that happens. The other problem is that late state budgets extend the school district’s uncertainty about our own budget until well after March 15. This bill would eliminate the need for a March 15 notice, which I actually think is a good idea — I think it saves employees from needless stress in years (unlike this one) where budget uncertainties led us to issue far more March 15 notices than were ultimately needed.
  • The bill would allow districts more flexibility in determining the order of layoff based on need and evaluation and allowing entire sites to be skipped. I think this goes too far in gutting the seniority system but it would be great to have some ability to limit the effect layoffs have on the hard-to-staff schools — it’s crazy to have two-thirds of the staff at a school facing layoff at the same time.
  • The bill would also grant school districts wide latitude in assigning or transferring teachers to sites based on effectiveness and subject matter need rather than seniority.
  • The rights of teachers to ask for hearings after dismissals or layoffs would be curtailed,  along with changes to other provisions concerning those hearings.

I have to say that gutting the seniority system is a solution in search of a problem. Giving senior teachers more job security isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, as long as we are regularly evaluating and adequately supporting those teachers.  I do think it’s a good idea to re-examine the timelines for notifying staff of layoffs, in order to better align those timelines with our budget process.  Finally, I’m sympathetic to the plight of junior teachers at hard-to-staff schools and would welcome the ability to introduce some safeguards to staff who want to work at such schools, but I continue to think the best solution would be to address the challenging conditions at these schools so that they aren’t so hard to fill in the first place.   Last week, Deputy Superintendent Carranza proposed a “clustering” system for district resources that seems like a good step in that direction.


4 responses to “SB 955 represents radical change to state’s teacher policies

  1. After observing the grammar, punctuation and spelling (or lack thereof) in Gustavo’s comment, I believe he makes a pretty good case that the problem is, in fact, the teachers.

  2. Hello
    My name is Gustavo I have been a teacher for 12 years and trust me it is not just the teachers. Everybody is to blame yes everbody. Im not for dismissal but if an administrator can not tell if a teacher is going to work out then the administrator should be replace. If there is any doubt do not heir them simple as that. PArents are also to blame. Teachers are not baby sitting services parents need to do their job.

  3. As a past PTA president with years of PTA board involvement in California public schools, I can tell you, time for repealing tenure protection of teachers who should no longer be teaching is LONG OVERDUE! Every parent I speak to has experienced at least one really bad teacher … most who may have once been a good teacher but they have now taught too long … they no longer care, dispise the very children they are supposed to be educating and are only there to collect their paycheck and wait for their big payoff at retirement. Don’t get me wrong. I would never want to be a teacher and I greatly admire the teachers who are there for the love of teaching and inspiring our children. The problem with the school districts hands being tied because legislation and the unions make it next to impossible to let a tenured teacher go, is that when the pink slips come out in the Spring, which they always do, it’s the newest, most eager to install knowledge in our kids, excited and energetic teachers that get let go and it’s the grumpy, jaded, glorified babysitters, that get to stick around to ignore your kids for one more year! What a shame and what a loss for all of the students of California public schools! I have personal knowledge of a teacher who would regularly fall asleep at her desk in front of the classroom, another so hopped up on pain meds for some “chronic” condition half the parents had their kids transferred from their class because this teacher was so scattered in their thought process the kids and their parents couldn’t follow anything they were trying to say and the teacher who sits at their desk on the classroom, on their laptop while having the students just read the entire period. At the time of progress reports, 90% of her students were “in danger of failing”. Then she would threaten them to study for the “big test” as it would count for a large percentage of their grade and if they failed it, they’d fail her class. No teaching in this classroom. Only boring book work and threats. Is this REALLY what we want our kids subjected to in the classroom? Good teachers, and I know many, will have nothing to worry about (unless they turn into one of the above or worse as time goes on!). We must turn this around before California education is the worst in the Country … We’re almost there now, but this could greatly help to turn that statistic around! We must support this bill and the legislaters that support it also. Stand up to the Teachers Union who will stop at nothing to defeat and will spend tens of thousands of dollars to fight this bill. PARENTS OF CALIFORNIA … STAND UP AND BE HEARD … SEND THE BAD TEACHERS AND THE UNIONS WHO PROTECT THEM AT ALL COST A LOUD AND CLEAR MESSAGE. WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!!!

  4. What most people do not realize is why the tenure is in place. It is there so that GOOD teachers can effectively evaluate student need without threat of reprisal from (politically minded) supt’s and principals. It is unfortunate – and true – that tenure provides a skirt to hide behind for “ineffective teachers” but the ugliest danger lies ahead when we redesignate what it means to be “ineffective” AFTER we have done away with tenure. Merit-based pay, tenure or no tenure, these are all fairly moot. There is very little to determine good pay for good teachers. HERE’S MY IDEA. ALL INCOMING TEACHERS GET THE SAME PAY, A STATE PAID SALARY AND NOT A DISTRICT ONE, REGARDLESS OF TAX BASE, AND THOSE IN HIGH RENT AREAS GET A COLA ABOVE THAT. THEN, EVERY THREE YEARS, EACH TEACHER IS REASSIGNED TO ANOTHER SCHOOL IN THEIR AREA. IF THEY STARTED AT AN “UNDERACHIEVING SCHOOL,” THEY MOVE TO AN ACHIEVING SCHOOL AND VIS VERSA. EVERY THREE YEARS THEY SWITCH AND, AS SUCH, HAVE A NEW SUPERVISOR WHO WILL EVALUATE THEM, AND THEY (THE TEACHERS) LIKEWISE EVALUATE THE LEADERSHIP AND BOARD and COMMUNITY OF THAT SCHOOL. IF EVERY SCHOOL RECEIVES THE SAME BUDGET MONEY (PLUS “ECONOMY”COLA”) FOR THE AREAS OF GREATEST NEED, THEN EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP WILL BE AS EASY TO SEE AS EFFECTIVE TEACHING. Anyone, teacher or admin with 3 in a row of negative evals, is barred from employment in a school district for 2 years (of which they will be taking classes to become more effective in the areas of their weaknesses).

    The problem with so many underachieving schools is an apathetic board, ignorant population, and COMPLETELY undertrained administrators. Why do admin people only have to have a min of 2 yrs experience? That’s crazy! Superintendents and their assistants should be co-superintendents with the curriculum supt having at least 10 years experience and the other co-having at least 10 years experience in non-school related management. This way there will be so much less frustration on the parts of teachers who try to communicate the needs of the students and the fiscal co-supt can argue with the other one as to balancing the needs with the financial resources. Until then, it is one big popularity contest with all of our students at risk of being underserved.