By Len Feldman
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) are attacking public education and teacher rights in a new bill that will make it harder to keep quality teachers in local classrooms. Senate Bill 955 would gut teachers’ due process rights and protections against discrimination and unfair evaluation. Like the governor’s anti-union initiatives that voters soundly defeated in 2005, the Huff bill would not save local school districts any money and does nothing to improve student learning.
Instead of focusing on the real problems facing our schools, such as larger class sizes and cuts to student programs, the bill simply blames teachers. It undermines teacher experience in the classroom, eliminates educators’ right to a hearing before being laid off, authorizes districts to ignore experience when rehiring laid-off teachers, and reinstitutes a system of favoritism and discrimination.
As California Educator went to press, SB 955 was headed for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.
If approved, SB 955 would:
- Change the deadline to notify a second-year probationary teacher of non-re-election from March 15 to June 15.
- Allow districts to hold dismissal hearings between May 15 and Sept. 15, when teacher witnesses are often not available.
- Eliminate the March 15 RIF (reduction in force) notice to teachers and eliminate their right to request a hearing.
- Ignore teacher experience in the classroom when making layoff and rehiring decisions, and create a system based on performance evaluations, which many districts have not conducted for years.
- Allow district officials to fire employees for any reason, including for speaking out on student safety and employment issues.
- Give principals the power to discriminate against older teachers, setting back hard-won protections against age discrimination.
- Authorize school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to assign, reassign, and transfer teachers and administrators based on effectiveness and subject matter needs, and without regard to years of service.
- Scapegoat teachers during bad economic times.