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Assembly panel approves teacher dismissal bill

April 05, 2013|By Michael J. Mishak

SACRAMENTO -- A key Assembly committee has approved legislation that would expedite the dismissal process for California teachers accused of misconduct.

Under current law, teachers who are fired can appeal their case to a three-member panel consisting of an administrative judge and two educators, a process that can take years to resolve and cost districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Assembly Education Committee supported legislation by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) this week that would maintain that system but limit the process to seven months and limit discovery in the proceedings.

That provision in AB 375 helped win the backing of the state's largest teachers union, the California Teachers Assn., which opposed a similar measure last year that would have given school boards final authority over dismissals.

At the time, teachers unions cast the legislation as an attack on due-process rights.

"If you take teacher dismissal and you make it a political process, you will be undermining the basic tenets of the system we've had for 40 years and that has worked for 40 years," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, CTA's largest affiliate, in testimony last year.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who supports Buchanan's bill, had introduced the measure in response to the sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, in which a former teacher was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on children. The lawmaker argued that the current process is so time-consuming and expensive that L.A. Unified chose to pay $40,000 to the former teacher to retire rather than take him through the dismissal process.

The bill fell one vote short of clearing the Assembly Education Committee last year when six of the seven Democratic members either opposed it or abstained, including Buchanan, the author of this year's measure.

This week, the committee approved the teacher dismissal bill 7-0.

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michael.mishak@latimes.com

twitter.com/mjmishak

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