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Bill Revamping Teacher Tenure in California Gets Support

A bill to overhaul parts of California's teacher-tenure laws has gotten some fresh support from Students Matter, the California group that brought the Vergara v. California lawsuit

The bill, from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Democrat, would extend a teacher's probationary period from two to three years. Exceptional teachers would receive tenure in their fourth year, but districts could otherwise choose to extend a teacher's probationary period for a fourth year. (These third- and fourth-year probationary teachers would get some protections but not full due-process rights.) 

The bill would also create a separate process for tenured teachers being dismissed for poor performance. Rather than the three-person panel that hears all other cases of firing, these teachers' cases would be heard by an arbitrator, whose binding decision could not be appealed.

But before that, tenured teachers with low evaluation ratings would be guaranteed support through new district training programs.

AB 934 also makes some changes to how the state conducts layoffs, though they would still be based in large part on seniority.

In 2015, Republican lawmakers introduced a host of other proposals, but they were quickly shot down in the Democratic-controlled legislature. The proposal from Bonilla, a Democrat, was seen as having more of a chance—and as threading a very fine needle between supporters and opponents of the Vergara case.

Initially, Students Matter initially took no position on the Bonilla bill. But after Vergara went down on appeal and a few tweaks to the legislation were made, it's now on board, despite still eyeing some additional changes. (Don't mistake that as capitulation, though; it's still going to appeal Vergara to the state Supreme Court.)

Other supporters of Bonilla's proposal include the advocacy group Teach Plus.

The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers oppose the bill.

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