It's not often that a single piece of legislation can be called catastrophic for the future of education in California, but Sacramento has managed to create it. It's called AB 5 -- a bill that will legislate how teachers are evaluated, and it has re-appeared Frankenstein-like, with the backing the powerful teachers' unions. Stuffed with watered-down amendments and other late-breaking shenanigans, this bill is a disaster, even with the new 'sunset' provision that may have been slapped on.
The bill has suddenly become so urgent that the Senate Education Committee met late Wednesday to cut a deal for last-minute changes so it could be rushed to a vote before the close of the legislative session Friday. Its resurrection looks like a bold attempt to gut school districts' power to assess teachers -- and will hamper the districts' ability to use test scores or student progress as part of the equation.
That long-standing but little-used power is conferred on school districts by a law called the Stull Act, dating from 1971. It cannot be a coincidence that AB 5′s rise from the dead coincides with a Judge's ruling earlier this summer, which ordered LAUSD to adhere to the Stull Act and use test scores as part of teacher evaluation. The ruling was celebrated by LAUSD chief John Deasy and groups of teachers, parents and school administrators -- but came as a shock to the teachers' unions. So in a stunning show of political muscle, the teachers' lobby is propelling AB 5 forward. One of the bill's more outrageous stipulations: that the evaluation process be subject to local collective bargaining -- akin to letting your drunk teenager negotiate for the car keys. In effect, the bill will make it easier for those teachers who don't help students learn hang onto their jobs in the classroom.
So Frankenstein has arrived, ugly and powerful enough to stave off meaningful teacher assessment. For too long as a state we have refused to appropriately link teacher and principal evaluations to student test scores, the very thing this sort of bill could be accomplishing. Even a third-grader could tell you AB 5 deserves an "F" -- and should be voted down in the Senate.
Jamie Alter Lynton is the publisher of laschoolreport.com, which reports on education-related issues in Los Angeles.