Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla seeks common ground on education reform.
Vergara vs. State of California, the legal challenge to California’s highly contested teacher tenure and seniority laws, continues to wind its way through the courts. The California Supreme Court needs to make the final call about the detrimental impact of these laws on California’s most disadvantaged students. But California’s students can’t wait, which is why we’re encouraged that state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, is taking action now.
Bonilla’s bill, AB934, is a careful and comprehensive reform of the teacher tenure system. A former teacher herself, Bonilla said in a Chronicle editorial meeting that she’s “not interested in blowing up public education.”
Indeed, the centerpiece of AB934 is an innovative teacher support and coaching program that’s already been proved successful.
Called peer assistance review, it would require districts to provide struggling teachers with high-quality coaching and development programs, and AB934 would make it mandatory for every school district.
“It provides what the teacher has been begging for, which is: support me,” Bonilla said.
AB934 would give teachers who have received unsatisfactory evaluations at least a year of support from the peer assistance review program. Only after offering teachers support and training would districts be allowed to dismiss those who remain ineffective in the classroom.
“I really do feel there’s a transformational possibility here,” Bonilla said. “Fixing this mechanism will bring relief to the whole system.”
As far as the dismissal process itself, AB934 doesn’t deny teachers due process — but it does bring some much-needed clarity and transparency to a system that’s long frustrated the public.
The new dismissal process requires binding arbitration, much like the process that’s currently used for other school district employees.
It requires an arbitrator’s decision within 60 days, to avoid an exhausting and never-ending dismissal process.