By Len Feldman
CTA is working to defeat a new, unnecessary measure by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) that would change how teachers are assigned, laid off and rehired.
The CTA-opposed SB 1285 is similar to an earlier CTA-opposed bill, SB 955 by Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). Like the Huff bill, SB 1285 would both undermine teachers’ protection against discrimination and unfair treatment and would let districts move experienced teachers out of lower-performing schools, which would be detrimental to improving student learning.
Because Sen. Steinberg “gutted and amended” a bill on an unrelated subject that had already made it to the Assembly, SB 1285 has avoided vetting and scrutiny by the Senate Education Committee. Steinberg’s parliamentary maneuver to circumvent Senate review leaves it up to the Assembly to review and debate.
The measure ignores the real source of the problems in schools throughout the state — budget cuts that have reduced school funding by as much as 18 percent and more than $17 billion over the past two years. These cuts come at a time when even research commissioned by the governor’s office shows that California schools need 40 percent more funding to ensure all students reach the state’s rigorous academic standards.
The current educator layoffs reflect the state’s funding cutbacks and decisions to increase class sizes dramatically to cope with these funding shortfalls.
Contradicting his own stated goals of the bill and contrary to all research about the importance of teacher experience, Sen. Steinberg is proposing to allow districts to skip over more experienced teachers at schools in the lowest three deciles in order to retain teachers with less than five years of experience.
Research shows that teacher effectiveness increases dramatically as a teacher gains experience, but the Steinberg measure would require districts to keep less experienced educators at the lower-decile schools, where students desperately need the benefit of the skills that come with experience.
Experts also point out that SB 1285 is unnecessary, as current law gives school districts flexibility in skipping over less senior teachers during layoffs to maintain or achieve compliance with constitutional equal protection requirements. The Steinberg measure would allow districts to rehire laid-off teachers out of seniority order, undermining teacher rights without adding any civil protections for students.
The bill’s efforts to “level” experience
at all school sites will in reality cause instability and unnecessary teacher transfers. Administrators will be forced to follow essentially a mathematical formula, instead of making decisions based on the best fit for the needs of the students.
CTA members have been urging Sen. Steinberg and other lawmakers to focus their attention first on passing a budget that protects education funding, rather than looking for ways to blame teachers.