Unnecessary bill would hurt students

About 75 school districts from around California interview teaching candidates at Sacramento State.
About 75 school districts from around California interview teaching candidates at Sacramento State. Sacramento Bee file

Our focus should be on providing quality educational opportunities, closing the achievement gap and positioning our students as the future leaders of our great state.

We accomplish that by keeping students in the classroom. But Assembly Bill 2835 would permit public employee unions to take time – on every campus and in every school district – away from student learning for union orientations.

AB 2835 would force school districts to provide new employees – regardless of job and within four months of hiring – an in-person orientation during the school day that includes 30 minutes for union organizers to speak.

Authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, an Elk Grove Democrat, the bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist. There is nothing in state law that prohibits school districts from providing union access to their staff. In fact, many districts already provide union representatives the opportunity to meet with members before or after school or during lunch as long as it does not disrupt student learning. We applaud those unions and districts that have come to such agreements.

Placing the details of employee orientations in law creates costly burdens for school districts, counties, cities and special districts. That’s taxpayer money that should be used on students, not going into the pockets of union organizers.

We agree that all public employees should understand the role of their union and what their annual dues mean for representation. But it should not come at the expense of student learning.

AB 2835 is clearly bad policy, but it is also a litmus test for all of us in education. Do we embrace our No. 1 priority – our students – or is it just lip service?

At some point we have to put students’ needs before adults’. Students don’t benefit from this proposed legislation, and that is why California’s school principals and superintendents are opposed to AB 2835.

Wesley Smith is executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. He can be contacted at