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Against the backdrop of a ruling declaring California's teacher dismissal rules unconstitutional, the Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown legislation speeding the teacher firing process.

Years of wrangling and failed attempts preceded Assembly Bill 215, with Brown vetoing last year's iteration. In addition to attempting to limit the length of appeals, AB 215 contains a measure hailed as a major breakthrough -- a separate, accelerated process for teachers accused of egregious offenses such as molesting children.

Efforts to streamline the teacher firing process have come partly in response to the scandal of a Los Angeles teacher paid to resign after having sexually abused children. But they also reflect a consensus that, in California, it can be extraordinarily difficult, costly and time-consuming to fire a teacher.

"We all agree that the current dismissal appeal process for certificated employees takes too long and costs too much money," said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, AB 215's author. "The only ones who benefit from the current process are the attorneys."

In a Tuesday ruling invalidating several of California's teacher employment rules, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu pressed a similar point. He wrote that the dismissal process is ""so complex, so time-consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory."

Buchanan began targeting the teacher firing process before the lawsuit, Vergara v California, and Treu's ruling. But AB 215 could mark one facet of a broader legislative response to the decision. The final vote was 76-0.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, seen here during Livermore's Downtown 22nd Annual Trick or Treat on October 29, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.


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