Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced a bill Wednesday that proposes moderate changes to the way teachers are evaluated and would provide the training necessary to help teachers who need improvement. However, her Democratic colleagues in the education committee made it clear that they were not going to let the bill advance out of committee.
California's new nonpartisan election system has created a situation where some lawmakers, like Weber, are willing to challenge the powers that be in order to pass sensible legislation to deal with problems that need to be fixed. Weber has long been respected as an expert in education reform, but her bill challenges the interests of the teachers' union, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Sacramento.
Weber's bill wanted to accomplish 3 things:
- She wants to add a new category called "needs improvement" to teacher evaluation forms in California that currently only provide two choices: "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory." The new category would indicate that the teacher needs more training to be effective in class.
- Her bill would require that funds be allocated to train any teacher that needs improvement.
- Her bill would require teacher evaluations to be based in part on the academic growth of the teacher's students. This would not be accomplished by looking solely at student test scores, but it would not ban using test scores, either.
LA Weekly reports that the latter proposal is the most controversial one and the main issue that her Democratic colleagues and the teachers' union have a problem with.
"Sacramento is a pretty congenial place – there's a lot of back-slapping and fist-bumping and laughing that goes on in the hallways and aisles. But when Weber's Democratic colleagues signaled that they would not let her bill out of the education committee – effectively burying it, preventing it from getting to the Assembly floor – Weber lit into them.
"When I see what’s going on, I’m offended, as a senior member of this committee, who has probably more educational background and experience than all ya’ll put together on top of each other," Weber lashed out." - LA Weekly, May 1, 2015
Weber took even more offense when committee chair Patrick O'Donnell wanted to take the "needs improvement" proposal from her bill and put it into his own teacher evaluation bill.
"You're gonna rape me, rape my bill and take it as your own?" she said. "After the work we’ve done, without my name on it? I’m not having that. You may do it, but you will not do it without my permission."
Weber said her bill is an adequate bill based on research, good information, and brings people from across the political spectrum together. She exclaimed that the Legislature needs to do something and that children in the state deserve lawmakers who are willing to stand up for them.
While Weber's bill will not advance, there is evidence that lawmakers have emerged under a nonpartisan election system who are willing to legislate not within the confines of their party's special interests, but outside of it in a nonpartisan way to pass legislation that has much broader appeal.