Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, responded to the landmark ruling handed down by the Los Angeles County Superior Court last week in the Vergara case, which challenged teacher tenure laws on the grounds that they discriminate against students in predominantly low-income and minority communities.
“Today’s ruling is perhaps the biggest civil rights victory in recent memory,” Conway said. “It is a victory for all parents who want their children to receive the best education possible.
“A great teacher is the key to preparing our kids for a bright future in whatever career path they choose, and is an important factor in turning around low-performing schools,” she continued. “A quality education is the great equalizer that can set any child from any background on the path toward a bright future. It is no exaggeration to say that this single ruling has the potential to lift more children out of poverty than any social program.
“This case wouldn’t have been necessary if Sacramento Democrats had embraced the education reforms we have proposed over the years to ensure that every student in every community has the opportunity to learn from a great teacher,” she added.
Empowering parents – especially those whose children are attending low-performing schools – and reforming the state’s teacher tenure laws has been an important priority for Assembly Republicans this session. Among the reforms introduced by GOP lawmakers are:
Assembly Bill 1221, by Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, would streamline the process for suspending or dismissing a teacher for unprofessional conduct. Existing state law requires complying with arduous, expensive and time-consuming mandates to dismiss a teacher. Generally, these mandates are followed by a lengthy appeals process. AB 1221 would give victims and their families the closure they need by removing dangerous individuals from the classroom in an efficient and timely manner.
Assembly Bill 1279, by Conway, would expand the current open enrollment program statewide allowing any student to transfer to a public school district of their choice. Current law requires students to attend the public school they are assigned according to their home zip code. Students may transfer to a nearby school district but need written permission from the home district, which is rarely provided. AB 1279 would permit all students to take advantage of the program and transfer to a different public school district without the explicit authorization from the resident district. Students transferring would be required to choose a higher performing school and the receiving school would need to have space available.
Assembly Bill 815, also by Conway, would expand the Parent Empowerment Act to include all schools performing in the bottom 30%. The Parent Empowerment Act allows parents to demand change (including converting their school into a public charter) if their school has been chronically failing and at least 50% of parents petition for the school to be subject to a turnaround strategy.
Assembly Bill 2240, by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, would require local superintendents to make teacher assignment and transfer decisions based on what is in the best interests of students. The bill also clarifies that seniority-based layoffs should be made based upon the equal protection of all students. The legislation was introduced in the wake of the ongoing Vergara lawsuit.