The Capitol’s big guns came out last week – and they were aimed at a 66-year-old grandmother who dared to buck two of California’s most powerful political interests – teacher and cop unions.
Shirley Weber, born in Arkansas and reared in a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles, acquired a doctorate degree and taught at college for four decades before becoming San Diego’s first African American Assembly member in 2012.
This year, she introduced two bills that drew the ire of teacher and police unions, and they pounced last week as a deadline for committee action loomed.
One, Assembly Bill 1495, would make mild changes in the state’s teacher tenure law, responding to a judge’s ruling that the existing system shortchanges poor children.
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Protecting tenure is a bottom-line, line-in-the-sand issue for the California Teachers Association and other unions. But Weber, a former president of the San Diego Board of Education, believes that more should be done to weed out bad teachers, who often wind up teaching – or not teaching – poor children.
The Assembly Education Committee, dominated by CTA sycophants, gave Weber a rough hearing before killing her bill. But she matched her critics word for word, saying, “When I see what’s going on, I’m offended, as a senior member of this committee who has probably more educational background and experience than y’all put together on top of each other.”
Later, when the committee chairman, former teacher Patrick O’Donnell, said he wanted to shift elements of her bill into his own, union-backed teacher evaluation measure, she snapped, “You’re going to rape me, rape my bill, and take it as your own?”
“You may do it,” she continued, “but you will not do it with my permission.”
The other Weber bill, AB 66, would set parameters for “body cameras” worn by police to record their actions. Body cameras are proliferating as a way of sorting out who did what, especially when an officer seriously injures or kills someone – the sort of incident that tore Baltimore apart last week.
AB 66 included a provision that when “serious use of force” is involved, an officer could view footage from a body camera only after making an initial report from memory.
Civil liberties groups believe that allowing cops to see videos before giving their versions of such incidents could taint potential evidence in lawsuits.
However, Weber’s body camera bill was beaten up in the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. Police unions, whose endorsements politicians crave, strongly opposed it as unfair, and the committee insisted that only local authorities decide when cops can see body videos.
“That’s what I had to do before we could get the bill out,” Weber said Monday, adding – with just a tinge of irony – “I had an exciting week.”
Call The Bee’s Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, sacbee.com/dan-walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.