State Republican Leaders Get in Bed With ... Villaraigosa (!?) in Bid For Post-Miramonte Teacher Reform
Villaraigosa / Facebook
Strange bedfellows have arisen from the Miramonte Elementary School sex abuse scandal in which two teachers face charges for lewd conduct and a slew of allegations have hit educators at other area campuses.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who once vowed to take over the L.A. school district and who has tried to reshape its elected board in his image, had been silent for weeks on the matter, even as it was revealed that one of the accused at Miramonte, Mark Berndt, had been paid $40,000 and was allowed to leave quietly with is pension intact.
But now ...
... the Los Angeles Unified School District and the mayor have taken the offensive, essentially opposing protections won by the teachers' union that make it difficult to get rid of allegedly bad educators like Berndt.
(This still doesn't explain why the district has taken so long to notify parents, as it is supposed to do by law, when sexual allegations against a teacher arise).
The mayor is behind an effort to, as he wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, "revise the portions of the teacher dismissal laws that make it difficult dismiss teachers who violate the public trust of our families and students."
Today the L.A. Unified school board is also considering proposals that would make it easier to fire allegedly lewd and otherwise bad teachers.
But ... as the board and the mayor acknowledge, the issue is a state one, and laws need to change in Sacramento to make this happen.
And so ... in march the strangest bedfellows of all. State Republican leaders.
Today state Senate GOP leader Bob Huff and state assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said they're all for the mayor's reforms.
Keep this in mind: Villaraigosa is the chair of the Democratic National Convention this year.
Well, also keep in mind the Republicans are traditionally anti-union: It's actually the mayor, a product of union organizing and support, who has moved toward the so-called right on this issue.
In any case, Huff and Conway issued a statement saying Sacramento Republicans will introduce legislation this week that would make it easier to get rid of bad teachers.
Among the proposals:
-Eliminate teacher-union contracts that wouldn't maintain teacher records or include prior allegations of misconduct.
-Allow misconduct allegations to remain in teachers' files for longer than four years.
-Speed up the teacher dismissal process and allow it to proceed even in summer.
-Dismissal reviews would be done by one administrative law judge instead of a panel.
-Allow districts to strip teachers of pay after such a review.
-Ensure that allegations against teachers are on the record, with a "paper trail."
-Make sure that teachers convicted of felonies would not be able to receive pensions.
Huff, of Diamond Bar, says:
Public schools are supposed to be havens for safe learning, not a proving ground for sexual predators. The recent arrest of two Miramonte Elementary teachers for lewd acts against their students shows that we must change the law to protect our kids. That's why Republicans are standing with Mayor Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified to enact reforms to empower local districts and ensure that a Miramonte-like tragedy never happens again.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.