Editorials

Taking on teacher tenure in California is no small undertaking

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D- San Diego, is carrying Assembly Bill 1220, which seeks to toughen tenure for public school teachers, ever so slightly.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D- San Diego, is carrying Assembly Bill 1220, which seeks to toughen tenure for public school teachers, ever so slightly. Sacramento Bee file

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, treading where most legislators fear to go, is challenging the public school teachers’ unions on the issue of tenure.

We hope she succeeds.

A former San Diego State University professor and San Diego school board member, Weber is carrying Assembly Bill 1220, which seeks to toughen tenure for public school teachers, ever so slightly. Instead of attaining tenure after two years, teachers could not gain tenure until their third year.

Wisely, Weber is offering a sweetener for teachers who remain on probation in their four or fifth years. Instead of rejecting them, as can happen now, districts would be expected to provide new teachers with mentoring and training.

The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers oppose the bill, understandably so. In 42 states, teachers don’t receive tenure until they’ve been on the job for from three to five years.

New York and Connecticut have probationary periods that run four years. The National Council on Teacher Quality notes those states based tenure decisions on teacher effectiveness and student growth.

Weber managed last week to get her bill out of the Assembly Education Committee thanks to support from Republican Assemblymen Kevin Kiley of Rocklin and Heath Flora of Ripon, and no thanks to three of Weber’s fellow Democrats who voted against it or ducked the vote, Kevin McCarty of Sacramento among them. A fourth Democrat, Todd Gloria of San Diego, voted for it, as did Weber.

Teachers’ unions have protected two-year tenure for decades. But the bill also has support from education-oriented groups including the Association of California School Administrators and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

AB 1220 may seem incremental, but it also makes sense. Tenure is a privilege, not a right. And teachers who attain it ought to have to prove their competence for at least three years, if not more.

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