A proposal to make it faster and easier to fire ineffective, unprofessional or abusive teachers failed to pass at Tuesday's meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Education. A slim majority instead voted 4 to 3 to establish a task force to study the issue.
The resolution had been presented by board members Tamar Galatzan and Marlene Canter, who said she had pushed the issue behind the scenes since last fall.
Their measure would have put the Los Angeles Unified School District on record as seeking changes in state law to permit a tenured teacher to be more readily dismissed for poor teaching.
The resolution also contained provisions for speeding up dismissals, which can take years even when the district prevails at every level of due process, said Kathleen Collins, an associate general counsel for L.A. Unified.
Canter and Galatzan said the district's success in firing problem teachers is limited because state rules put a higher priority on the livelihood of teachers than the rights of students.
Other board members said they felt rushed.
"Let's all sit at the table," said board member Richard Vladovic, echoing calls from leaders of the teachers union. "Let's slow it down and do it right."
The successful amended motion to establish a task force was offered by Vladovic, Yolie Flores Aguilar and board President Monica Garcia.
Flores Aguilar said legislators would more likely fix the system if the district could join forces with teachers and parents: "I just want us to get to a win rather than a fight and a loss."
Union leaders said they worried about inviting a return to abusive management practices.
"We think the system works better when teachers can raise their voices about issues of wrongdoing around the school," said Daniel Barnhart, north area chairman for United Teachers Los Angeles.
A.J. Duffy, UTLA president, characterized the original Canter/Galatzan resolution as "an end run" and "a media splash."
State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) also urged a patient approach: "I don't believe this is an emergency."
But Mary Najera, an organizer with the nonprofit Parents Union, countered: "With all due respect to the senator, this should have been done yesterday."
Canter broke with Galatzan to support the task force, saying that it was better to get that far than to have her original resolution simply fail.
"My intent was to get my colleagues to pay attention to this issue," said Canter, who leaves office June 30.
Galatzan said she lacked the time to evaluate the substitute motion and noted that the district has "a bookcase full of task force recommendations."