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Graduate of the University of Oregon, Married for 4-1/2 years to my High School sweetheart. I am currently residing in Cleveland while I attend med school.

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    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Common Sense prevails for California Schools

    I've been somewhat critical of certain bills coming out of the California State Legislature this year; I think SB 840 will bankrupt the state, and I think AB 2948/2949 are ludicrous at changing the way our elections are held. However, there is at least one positive bill coming out of the state legislature, and I believe that it will have a profound effect on our schools. It is SB 1655, authored by Sen. Jack Scott (D), and it has seen strong bipartisan support on it's way to the Governor's desk.

    In California, like in so many states where Teachers Unions have disproportionate influence, it is difficult to fire a bad teacher. Very difficult. Currently in California, when a teacher agrees to leave a school voluntarily, they are guaranteed a job at every other school! Whichever school they submit their application to has to hire them! Obviously, this is a ridiculous practice, and SB 1655 would help to put an end to it.

    Naturally, the teachers' union opposes the legislation. In the San Francisco Chronicle today:
    Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, called the bill "insulting to teachers," because it implies that every teacher who voluntarily leaves a school is a poor one. Some teachers leave a school for reasons unrelated to performance, such as a personality clash with a principal.
    Ms. Kerr is being misleading in stating that it implies that every teacher that leaves is a bad teacher. Furthermore, good teachers that leave shouldn't have a difficult time finding new employment; bad teachers will.

    Although this is a step in the right direction, it is not perfect. It does not fully repeal this practice - affectionately called "the dance of the lemons" by principals - it only limits the practice. The bill would grant choice to principals of poor-schools, but would not affect principals in better performing schools. In this regard, bad teachers will, apparently, still be guaranteed a job. Thus, bad teachers won't lose their jobs, they will just get sent to the good schools.

    The Mercury News recognizes this shortcoming, stating
    The better alternative to the dance of the lemons is an efficient, fair and impartial evaluation process in which the few worst teachers are more easily fired (without the district spending $100,000-plus in legal fees), and teachers needing improvement are given more opportunities to succeed.

    SB 1655 could end up encouraging that process. Meanwhile, principals in low-achieving schools will benefit through an even start in competing for new hires.


    There has been a lot of poor legislation coming from the Capitol this year. However, I'm glad to see a bill such as this, based in common sense, pass.

    Cross Posted at

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