Students, Parents and Teachers Lose as AB 934 Falls Victim to Battle Between Powerful Interest Groups
SACRAMENTO – Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord) pursued legislation this year that would have addressed some of the longstanding frustrations from students and parents regarding ineffective teaching in California’s K-12 public schools. Assembly Bill 934, which responds to the concerns highlighted in the historic Vergara v. California case, has endured an onslaught of unreasonable scrutiny and criticism, and unfortunately fell short of the five votes required for its passage.
“It is frustrating when two opposing sides are not only unwilling to compromise, but are vehemently reluctant to work together to achieve the mutual goal of providing a high quality education for all California students,” said Assemblywoman Bonilla. “While I am disappointed in the end result, I am proud of the journey and work we have been able to accomplish, providing a platform to discuss the necessary and overdue changes that must be addressed within our education system.”
AB 934 faced adamant opposition from teacher unions since its introduction and their opposition remained following substantial amendments, which narrowed the focus of the bill on administrator accountability, additional support and training for teachers, and more negotiating power during the local contract bargaining process. On the other hand, education reform groups wanted a complete overhaul to the current system pertaining to teacher tenure (or what is referred to as “permanent status”), dismissal, and layoffs. Regrettably, education reformers were disinclined to support any incremental changes, creating further barriers to the bill’s passage.
“When the Vergara plaintiffs are saying the bill doesn’t go far enough and CTA is saying it goes too far, AB 934 offers a compromise that might positively impact public education,” said Stephen McMahon, former mathematics teacher and current Chief Business Officer of Administrative Services for San Jose Unified School District. “Assemblywoman Bonilla is to be commended for her efforts and San Jose Unified hopes that the committee will allow the discussion to continue.”
“PTA would like to thank the Assemblywoman for her fearless leadership and measured efforts on this very reasonable bill, which would have helped so many students across our state,” said Justine Fischer, President of the California State Parent Teacher Association. “While we are certainly disappointed with the outcome of today’s hearing, AB 934 shined light on an ongoing problem that will hopefully be revisited next year.”
“We are disappointed that the Senate Education Committee voted to once again avoid confronting some of the difficult issues addressed in this bill,” said Edgar Zazueta, Director of Policy and Governmental Relations for the Association of California School Administrators. “ACSA continues to believe that there needs to be changes to the Education Code governing issues such as the probationary period and teacher dismissals. While the bill may have not been the comprehensive solution some may have hoped for, AB 934 would have enabled the Legislature to begin this important conversation this year.”
AB 934 has been granted reconsideration by the Senate Education Committee and may be eligible for a vote in the future.
Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord) was elected in November 2010 and represents California’s 14th Assembly District, which includes Contra Costa County and Solano County.