California Educator

April 2014

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Advocacy Legislative update Fair dismissal Legislation that keeps students safe, protects educators' due process By Claudia Briggs O V E R T H E L A S T three years we've seen several proposals aimed at modifying laws that outline procedures for teacher dismissals. Some claim teachers have jobs for life, which we know is not true; others claim unions protect "bad" teachers, which is also untrue. The reality is that current laws provide school districts with the tools they need to address situations that call for discipline, dismissal, or even immediate removal of educators charged with immoral conduct. However, as seen in recent cases, districts often fail to act. Because student safety and retaining quality teachers in every classroom are always top priorities, CTA supports streamlining the dismissal process to keep students safe, as long as due process protections for educators remain uncompromised. Last year, CTA supported AB 375, which was approved by the Legislature but later vetoed by the governor. This year, CTA worked closely with a coalition of education stakehold- ers and lawmakers to again craft a bill that would streamline the teacher dismissal process to keep students safe, while safeguarding the integrity of our profession and protecting the due process rights of educators. AB 215, introduced by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), is the product of many conversations, hard work and collaboration among edu- cators, EdVoice and the governor's offi ce. EdVoice is an education lobbying group that had planned to circulate a ballot initiative seeking to undermine educator rights. "You and I know that, as educators, we care most about keeping our students safe from any harm or danger, whether it is at school, at home, on the playground, or on their way to and from school. AB 215 ensures dismissals are done in a timely manner and forces school districts to act quickly in order for our kids to remain in a safe learning environment," says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. "This bill addresses past concerns expressed A B 2 1 5 U P D AT E S and prioritizes the teacher disci- pline and dismissal appeal process with the goals of keeping students safe, saving time and money, and ensuring due process rights for educators. AB 215 creates a separate hearing process for edu- cation employees charged with egregious misconduct, including child abuse, sexual abuse and certain drug offenses. Districts are required to start these cases within 60 days of a complaint. The case will be heard by an administrative law judge, and that decision will be binding. AB 215 streamlines the hearing process for all other dismissal appeals. It requires districts to hold the hearing within six months of an educator making a request and requires the hearing to be concluded within seven months. These hearings will be heard by the Commission on Professional Competence, which includes an administrative law judge and two educa- tors. Decisions will be binding. A hearing in the Senate Education Committee is set for April 24, and CTA members and staff will be lob- bying lawmakers until that day to ensure the measure continues to move through the legislative process. This is a sound proposal that makes sense for stu- dents and educators. Read more about the measure at ABOUT AB 215 PROPOSED PATHS TO FAIR DISMISSAL UNDER AB 215 Charges involving sexual offenses, illegal substances, or child abuse What for? Within 60 days of charges filed; continuance not to exceed 30 days Hearing when? Only an administrative law judge (ALJ); the decision of the ALJ is binding Who decides? Just cause, performance, violations Within 6 months; may be extended for extraordinary circumstances Commission of Professional Competence (CPC — two educators and an ALJ); the parties may waive a hearing before the CPC PATH A PATH B by parents, education stakeholders and lawmakers. We are pleased to join EdVoice and Assembly Member Buchanan in demonstrating our shared commitment to this legislation." What for? 38 A P R I L 2 0 1 4 Educator 04 Apr 2014 v2.5 int.indd 38 4/15/14 2:21 PM

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