Among the package of education reform bills introduced by Republican assembly members two weeks ago was AB 1248 by Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) designed to stiffen requirements before teachers receive tenure. The bill is similar to what former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted with one of the four initiatives he backed in the 2005 special election.

A decade later the issue is back and this time may have momentum given the much publicized Vergara vs. California Superior Court decision last year which repudiated current California teacher protection standards as bad for students.

The Schwarzenegger initiative, Proposition 74, was tougher than the Chavez proposal in weighing tenure for public school teachers. Chavez wants to extend the probationary period for teacher’s tenure from two to three years, and keep a teacher under probationary status if the teacher receives two consecutive inefficient evaluations. Prop 74 would have changed granting tenure from to two to fives years and dismissed a teacher who had two inefficient evaluations.


Proposition 74 was defeated 55% to 45%. In part, the defeat came with the massive campaign against all four Schwarzenegger initiatives on the special election ballot lead by the public employee unions. The California Teachers Association led the charge by upping union members’ dues to fund a campaign that ultimately produced 18 different television commercials, according to Joe Mathews in his book, The People’s Machine. (Disclosure: I was part of the Yes side on the four initiative measures.)


The idea of reforming teacher evaluations and hiring and firing practices has only intensified since Schwarzenegger set down the marker ten years ago.


The Vergara case dug deep into the teacher retention requirements, which make it hard to dismiss unqualified teachers, sets up last-hired, first-fired scenario protecting seniority no matter a teacher’s qualifications; and the tenure provision in which school districts had to offer tenure before proper evaluations could be completed.


The judge in the Vergara case, Rolf Treu, said the results of these policies short-changed students, especially poor and minority students and that the facts in the case “shocks the conscience.”


The Chavez bill is an attempt to improve the situation for students by evaluating teachers over a longer period. His bill relies on a second proposal becoming law, AB 1078 by Assembly minority leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), which would update the teacher evaluation process. Under the Olsen bill, teachers would be evaluated more often.


Many issues that arise before the voters and the legislature recycle over time until there is a fix. Improving the standards in which the state evaluates teachers has come around again.