Students Matter, a non-profit group dedicated to changing the way the Golden State hires and fires teachers, issued a press release alerting of a lawsuit it filed on behalf of eight minors who are students in California public schools. The defendants include the Los Angeles Unified School district and the Alum Rock Union School District.
What does the lawsuit allege?
The complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that "California's public schools are failing the very children whose interests they are meant to serve." It cites outdated laws that make it difficult -- if not impossible -- for school administrators to improve education quality by making "teacher employment decisions driven by the needs of their students."
Does California follow predefined teacher evaluation standards?
No, an educator receives tenure after completing 18 months in the employment of a school district. Even if an administrator finds out later that a teacher is ineffective, this educator is protected against job loss due to performance.
What does it take to dismiss a California public school teacher?
Union-negotiated permanent employment status requires school administrators to participate in "investigations, hearings, union grievances, administrative appeals, court challenges, and re-hearings -- all of which can and often do take multiple years and cost hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars" before they may dismiss a teacher. The complaint notes that over the course of 10 years, the LAUSD spent $3.5 million in an effort to fire seven teachers over poor classroom performance.
Is the LAUSD in favor of a change to teacher employment rules?
"Every student deserves the most effective teacher in the classroom, every day of every year, in a school led by an effective administrator. I stand side by side with students so that their full rights are advanced," LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Contra Costa Times. During Deasy's tenure with the school district, the LAUSD had to pay $40,000 to persuade a disgraced Miramonte Elementary teacher to retire and cease his appeals. Police arrested this educator "on charges of committing lewd acts with students."
Why will the teachers' union not support a performance-based employment model?
The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) places responsibility for the Miramonte incident on the LAUSD. "While the school board considers changes to policy, it is important to remember that we are in the current situation because LAUSD has not met basic standards of vigilance on a daily basis," the organization asserts. With respect to performance, the UTLA supports a 2010 policy statement that includes an involvement of teachers in the setup of an educator effectiveness system, more emphasis on proactively meeting teacher needs, and a differentiation between a "basic competency" evaluation and a "better teaching" evaluation.
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.