SB 1530 (Padilla) guts teacher due process rights by removing the accused employee’s ability to be heard before a neutral panel and replacing it with an advisory-only hearing before a single administrative law judge. The school board then has the authority to accept the judge’s decision, or reject it and commence a new hearing where they will determine the outcome.
This begs the question: Why have the administrative hearing at all? Why should management be given new authority to ignore an administrative law judge?
Due process ensures that workers are not disciplined based on favoritism or retaliation for speaking out or for labor organizing. SB 1530 (Padilla) attempts to carve out a different process based on the type of accusation, treating some workers differently than others. The bill is completely contrary to legislative proposals introduced this session that have tried to protect due process of police officers by allowing accused employees to have a hearing before punitive action is taken. Due process is an important Constitutional protection, which requires at a minimum that the accused get to have their day in court, and present their version of the facts to a neutral decision maker.
What started this discussion?
Media coverage and public attention to the Miramonte scandal has been diverted. Instead of administration in LAUSD being held to task for their failures to follow the law and their own policies, this discussion has been shifted to attack organized labor. At Miramonte Elementary School, a teacher was accused of ugly deeds which resulted in current incarceration pending conviction along with a $23 million bail. The teacher was immediately placed on leave once the allegation surfaced, but rather than go through a dismissal process or wait for the outcome of the criminal investigation, the district chose to pay the teacher to resign. Further, the district initially failed to report the incident to the credentialing commission, essentially leaving the door open for the teacher to work elsewhere. While the teacher was immediately removed from that classroom and from those kids, the district failed to keep the teacher out of business.
The current law works
Existing law establishes a multi-step discipline process to address allegations of educator misconduct in order to (1) keep students safe; (2) safeguard the integrity of the profession; and (3) protect due process rights. The district is not harmed and the public is not endangered by protecting the due process rights of employees.
We place the public trust in our police officers and our teachers
If an accusation is made against a cop or a teacher, it is often plastered all over the newspapers, and the response is often irrational. Current law was developed to protect not only the employment rights and reputation of police and teachers, but to preserve the integrity of the professions in which we place so much of our trust. When that trust is compromised by a serious allegation, the worker is immediately relieved of duty while an investigation occurs. This investigation must be deliberate and the outcome not determined by the drama that surrounds what will always be an emotionally charged situation.
What is the solution?
Labor is always willing to come to the table to talk about problems and solutions, but so far we have been getting only lip service regarding fixing this bill. Labor has come forward with amendments to make changes to the teacher dismissal process which will save money, limit time to complete dismissal hearings, and eliminate delays in completing depositions. Senator Padilla has ignored these ideas, even though his goal appears to be to streamline the teacher dismissal process. This bill solves nothing, places teachers at unfair risk, and diverts attention from the real accountability issues at LAUSD.