Teacher Tenure Debate Returns To California Legislature

Jul 11, 2017

The teacher tenure debate is back in the California Legislature.

A bill up for debate Wednesday in the Senate Education committee would let school districts choose whether to allow teachers to reach permanent status after two years – or add a third year of probation.

The bill’s author, Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), says the state’s current two-year tenure threshold puts principals in an impossible situation.

“It really is a year and a few months that you have to really make a life decision concerning a teacher, and whether or not this person is going to do well,” Weber says.

She originally wanted to increase the number of probationary years from two to three, with options for administrators to extend probation for a fourth and fifth year on a teacher-by-teacher basis. But an Assembly committee shrunk her bill down. Now, AB 1220 would simply give districts the option of offering a teacher a third year of probation – along with an individualized improvement plan.

Weber says although the bill doesn’t have everything she wants, it’s a beginning. “It gives principals more options in terms of working with a new teacher, and it gives a new teacher a chance to really demonstrate that they are beginning to master their craft,” she says.

But the California Teachers Association is working to defeat the measure unless it’s amended.

“The new requirements proposed in this bill would discourage new teachers from entering the profession while doing little to nothing to improve classrooms,“ according to a letter from CTA to the Senate Education Committee.

The letter says the union opposes the bill unless several amendments proposed in the letter are made to address those issues, such as requiring districts to invest in teacher training and offer “due process“ hearings to teachers dismissed in their third year of probation.

The bill passed the Assembly by a wide, bipartisan margin of 60-5 – rare for a bill opposed by the CTA. But its fate in the Senate is far from clear. Previous efforts to extend the tenure threshold have stalled, thanks in large part to the union’s influence.

If the measure passes the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, it would then advance to the Senate Appropriations Committee before reaching the Senate floor.

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