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Paperwork for Public-School Teachers Shredded by News California Law

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California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., recently signed a law designed to cut paperwork for public-school teachers and administrators by as much as 50 percent.

Senate Bill 222, written by a committee formed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (utla) and sponsored by State Senator Paul Carpenter, requires the state department of education to provide new, simplified forms for information required by the state and federal governments.

The forms are to be designed to avoid redundancy and the reporting of what the bill's authors feel are unnecessarily arcane or useless pieces of information.

"Sitting in front of me, for example," said William S. Lambert, director of governmental relations for utla, "are beaucoup forms that have to be filled out by special-education teachers. There are 35 forms that require all kinds of redundant information. We think these 35 can be reduced to two. Speech and hearing teachers told me they spent about 50 percent of their time trying to keep up with paperwork."

He added that the 50-percent figure is an informal one, arrived at through observation of the amount of paperwork required. The state has not been able to estimate accurately how much money the new program might save.

Under the new law, the only forms teachers will have to fill out are those provided by the state department of education. Any form not bearing the California seal can be ignored. The law includes a provision that allows a school district to set up temporary paperwork committees if the state form is not appropriate. The law requires that the state of California incur no added cost as a result of its passage. The authors of the law say the new forms can be drafted by staff members of the state education department.

The bill's authors also hope it will eliminate the need for staff in individual school districts to handle state and federal paperwork. "Lots of districts hired personnel to deal with the paperwork," Mr. Lambert said.

"One school district in San Diego County violently opposed the bill, saying, 'well, we have a person who handles those forms.' On the list I'm looking at, I see 186 forms people in that district have to fill out. I'd say 185 of them are redundant," he explained.

The bill was developed by a task force of utla members at the request of the legislature. According to Mr. Lambert, California is the first state to pass such a law.

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