Politics & Government

Jerry Brown vetoes bill on firing teachers

Gov. Jerry Brown has rejected a bill intended to streamline the process for firing teachers in California.

Brown’s veto of Assembly Bill 375 on Thursday marks the second straight year that high-profile legislation aimed at facilitating the teacher-dismissal process failed in California. Last year, a measure by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, died in committee.

Proponents have argued that districts face a prolonged, costly fight when they move to fire teachers. Although this year’s measure won the crucial support of the California Teachers Association, Brown repudiated it, saying in his veto message that the bill could “make the process too rigid and could create new problems.”

The bill would have limited the amount of time that a case can take after a district formally files dismissal charges and would have lifted a ban on issuing dismissal notices during the summer months. In his veto message, Brown praised the bill for curtailing “opportunities for delay.”

But the governor cited concerns about language limiting the number of depositions both sides can invoke in firing disputes – five total – and rules governing whether districts can use newly surfaced evidence to alter charges.

“I share the authors’ desire to streamline the teacher discipline process,” Brown wrote, “but this bill is an imperfect solution.”

In addition to compressing the timeline for dismissal cases, the bill would have allowed districts to use sexual-harassment-related evidence older than the current limit of four years. Under current law, dismissal cases go before a three-person panel of two educators and an administrative-law judge. The bill sought to prevent additional delays by clarifying what types of teachers are eligible.

It also would have tweaked the repercussions that various offenses carry for teachers. The bill added murder and attempted murder to the list of charges that merit immediate leaves of absence; stated that offenses stemming from marijuana, mescaline and peyote don’t necessarily require a leave of absence; and removed an outdated statute listing “knowing membership in the Communist Party” as a means for firing a teacher.

Counterbalancing union support for the bill was an array of school districts, as well as the Association of California School Administrators, who shared Brown’s critique that the legislation would not provide needed flexibility.