Teaching Profession

Teacher-Misconduct Proposals Face Uphill Battle in Calif., N.Y.

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 28, 2012 2 min read
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Efforts to change the process for dismissing teachers accused of misconduct in California and in New York state have both hit major roadblocks, illuminating the degree to which this difficult area of policy remains a contentious and highly political one.

In California, a committee in the state Assembly effectively killed a bill that would have made a number of changes to dismissals in cases involving sex, drugs, or violent offenses involving children. Among other things, the bill would have allowed evidence more than 4 years old to be used during proceedings, permitted an administrative-law judge to issue an opinion on the dismissal rather the three-person commission currently used, and made that judge’s recommendations advisory, rather than binding, for a school board, which would have the ultimate say on the dismissal.

The bill was introduced after a sexual-abuse scandal at Los Angeles’ Miramonte Elementary School, but it was opposed by the California Teachers Association and by United Teachers Los Angeles. The reaction from the Los Angeles district, still reeling in the wake of the situation at Miramonte, was swift and condemnatory.

“Have the members who voted against this bill learned nothing from Miramonte and other scandals involving horrific acts against children? Is it really more important for them to satisfy union demands than to change a system that is not in the best interest of parents and children?,” board President Monica Garcia said in a statement.

In New York, a bill that, as in California, would give the ultimate say over whether to dismiss a teacher for malfeasance to the school district rather than a third-party arbitrator, doesn’t seem to have much traction with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat.

The United Federation of Teachers has opposed the bill, saying that the current system in the teachers’ contract is sufficient and provides for immediate dismissal of a teacher found guilty of misconduct.

In the meantime, the American Federation of Teachers (of which both UTLA and UFT are affiliates) put together a proposal a while back to streamline hearings in cases of due process. It called for cases of misconduct to be adjudicated within 100 days, but unlike these laws, would have maintained a third-party binding-arbitration process. I haven’t come across any unions that appear to have adopted this model yet. I’ve reached out to AFT to see if they know more.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.