Layoffs by merit?

Canan Tasci, Staff Writer
Created: 03/14/2011 09:47:13 PM PDT

Some union leaders are blasting an education reform bill introduced in Sacramento that would base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority.

State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, proposed the bill to give school districts more flexibility to retain top educators.

Senate Bill 355 also mandates that school districts establish a rigorous and fair evaluation system based partly on student test scores for teachers as well as principals.

Seniority protects teachers from unfair terminations based solely on a district’s financial interest, said Joe Tonan, Claremont Faculty Association president.

“I think we have lost some good first- and second-year teachers over the last couple years, who have bright ideas … I know where they’re coming from, but this bill is not the solution,” Tonan said.

Tonan said blame for teachers struggles could be directed at the state’s sluggish finances. Principals typically evaluate teacher’s classroom performance, but that time has become more scarce in recent years.

“It is hard for principals to be able get into the classrooms and do the evaluations as well as they used to … There needs to be more time to do evaluations – this bill is not solving that problem.”

Disciplinary actions can be taken against a teacher if they don’t improve upon sub-par areas noted in the evaluation.

“There is no such thing as tenure, there is permanent status and that’s after three years and all that does is give teachers the due process right,” Tonan said.

“The union doesn’t protect a bad teacher ever. We just make sure that a due process is followed, but when a principal doesn’t have the time or resources to evaluate the teacher to begin with, that’s when it becomes difficult.”

But that’s not how Huff sees it.

Teachers are currently being judged based on their place in line and sub-par teachers are protected because they have invested more years in the education profession, said Huff, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Frank Wells, spokesman for the California Teachers Association, said it would be a logistical disaster if school districts based layoffs on Huff’s proposal.

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