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Vergara aside, CA lawmakers considering bill to expand tenure

Michael Janofsky | June 19, 2014

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Lorena Gonzalez LAUSD

Lorena Gonzalez, San Diego Democrat

While much of the state waits out the appeal process in Vergara v. California, one member of the California assembly is moving forward with an effort to expand tenure to teachers in smaller school districts who have no tenure at all.

The state law that grants tenure after two years was one of the five laws struck down in Vergara.

A bill sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, and supported by the state teacher unions, would require school districts with fewer than 250 students to grant tenure to teachers after three years. For now, those districts are not required to offer any tenure.

The bill passed in the Assembly, but it fell one vote of approval yesterday in the Senate education committee, failing in part because it appeared to some members of the committee that it violated at least the spirit of Vergara.

The bill is expected to come back for another vote in committee next week, and Senator Bob Huff, the Republican leader and a member of the committee, whose district straddles LA and Orange Counties, said it’s likely to pass, moving then to the full Senate for a vote.

The state and its co-defendants in Vergara, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), argued that two years was adequate time to assess teachers for permanent employment. Judge Rolf Treu disagreed, saying it’s too short a time and leaves ineffective teachers in classrooms.

Would passage of the Gonzalez bill violate the court decision, in fact or spirit? Depends on whom you ask.

Even though it would only apply to the smallest districts, Huff described it as a sort of end-around “to crawl out of the decision.”

But he stopped short of saying it would encourage future union-supported measures that reflect issues in Vergara, saying, “We’ll have to see if they try reform-lite or wait for Vergara to wind through the courts.”

Frank Wells, a spokesman for CTA, said it’s more likely the latter.

“I don’t believe Vergara hamstrings anything,” he said. The judge stayed his decision, so nobody is doing anything. We’ll wait and see as it plays out.”

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