Judge’s Ruling Indicates Change is on the Way for Teacher Dismissals in California

According to the LA Times, a bill intended to speed the dismissal of public school teachers in California is making its way into law. Currently, because of appeals, dismissals can take over a year to be completed, which can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs. This can discourage schools from following through with dismissals, considering that education budgets around the country are already tight.

If the faster process becomes law, it would help to speed up the proceedings and reduce costs. It would apply to teachers who have committed serious offenses, which includes drug offenses, sexual misconduct and attempted murder. The process doesn’t require that the instructor is fired — just that the school district finds the employee unfit for a classroom environment.

The bill has been able to move forward thanks to the ruling of Vergara vs. California, which was decided last week. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found that the state system for the dismissal process was a violation of student rights to an equal education opportunity, a right provided by California’s constitution. He agreed that the time and cost required for districts to act on a teacher found guilty of misconduct were so high as to be prohibitive, effectively encouraging districts to keep ineffective teachers on staff.

“The proposed changes will make all California public schools safer and keep more education resources in the classroom where they belong,” says Bill Lucia, president of the advocacy group EdVoice.

The bill will make additional changes to the process of examining misconduct; for example, alleged sexual misconduct cases can now use evidence older than four years old.

Many have been hailing the decision as a potential opportunity for California as well as the entire country to re-examine a broken system of dismissal, layoff and teacher tenure laws. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the ruling a chance for the U.S. to build “a new framework for the teaching profession.”

“These laws will greatly improve the schools overall budget, as they will not be wasting thousands of dollars in the dismissal proceedings,” says Walter Ribeiro, Director of Richmond Hill Montessori School. “Being a private school we do not have to worry about as much red tape being created when it comes to dismissals. It is also something we do not deal with that often as we have a great staff here at RHMS.”

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