The governor vetoed a bill Thursday aimed at streamlining the teacher dismissal process -- a bill inspired in part by a Brentwood special needs teacher convicted of child abuse yet not fired.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 375, a controversial, union-backed bill authored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, after a long and challenging road to his desk.
"The goal of this bill is to simplify the process for hearing and deciding teacher dismissal cases," Brown wrote in his veto letter. "I have listened at great length to arguments both for and against this measure. While I agree that it makes worthwhile adjustments to the dismissal process, such as lifting the summer moratorium on the filing of charges and eliminating some opportunities for delay, other changes make the process too rigid and could create new problems."
Buchanan did not return a request for comment.
A similar 2012 Senate bill authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, died in committee. That bill was prompted by a sex abuse scandal involving Mark Berndt, a Los Angeles teacher whose district paid him to resign rather than fire him because of the daunting dismissal process.
Critics agreed with the governor that AB 375 made some positive steps but did not go far enough.
"AB 375 was a poor, rushed attempt to fix the current teacher dismissal process, making it more complicated to dismiss teachers accused of abuse against children," said Jovan Agee, state director of StudentsFirst, an education advocacy group. "We thank Gov. Brown for his leadership and look forward to working with the state Legislature to address this issue in a way that fulfills the state's fundamental responsibility to protect California's kids and put their safety first."
Brown detailed his problems with the legislation, including restrictions like limiting the number of witnesses in hearings.
"I am particularly concerned limiting the number of depositions to five per side, regardless of the circumstances, and restricting a district's ability to amend charges even if new evidence comes to light, may do more harm than good," Brown said. "I share the authors' desire to streamline the teacher discipline process, but this bill is an imperfect solution. I encourage the Legislature to continue working with stakeholders to identify changes that are balanced and reduce procedural complexities."
Buchanan's other teacher-related bill AB 1338 -- which required school districts to develop policies for compliance with mandated reporting laws and to review those policies with all school personnel each year -- never got out of committee.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.