Teacher Bill of Rights by Senator Tony Mendoza Approved by State Senate

June 3, 2016

Sacramento – Senate Bill 1225, authored by Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), was approved by the State Senate this week. The bill now goes to the State Assembly for consideration.

The bill will establish a “Teacher Bill of Rights” to ensure that California’s 300,000 teachers are made aware of their fundamental rights so they can provide an exceptional educational experience for the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students. The bill will also help address the state’s teacher shortage crisis.

“Teachers are the State’s and Nation’s unsung heroes and we should do everything we can to ensure their success in the classroom because our children’s future depends on it,” said Senator Mendoza.

“A ‘Teacher Bill of Rights’ conspicuously posted in every classroom and at every school site will ensure that every school district is held accountable for providing necessary support for its teachers and the students they serve,” added Senator Mendoza.

“California’s teacher shortage crisis is not the result of just one factor, but a culmination of many, including low salaries, unhealthy school environments, lack of appreciation for the profession, and general dissatisfaction with the standards of the job,” said Senator Mendoza.

 “SB 1225 is a simple concept that will go a long way to guarantee that California’s teachers can be successful, by giving them the proper professional support inside and outside the classroom,” said Senator Mendoza. “As a former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, I understand the importance of professional support when it comes to effectiveness in the classroom,” added Mendoza.

In the last decade, there has been a 70% drop in people training to become classroom teachers. Last year, 22,000 credentialed teachers were needed, but only 15,000 new fully-credentialed teachers entered the profession. As a consequence, California has one of the highest student-teacher ratios in the nation. The gap became wider during the economic downturn due to teacher layoffs. As of 2013, the state's student-teacher ratio reached 24-to-1, compared to the national average of 16-to-1. These dynamics have made it more challenging to recruit and retain qualified people into the teaching profession.

Additionally, there have been multiple articles and studies indicating that teachers believe that they are not given the proper support to be effective in the classroom. They also feel like their profession is underappreciated by the public. A 2013 study titled, “The MetLife Survey of The American Teacher”, found that teacher satisfaction had declined twenty three percentage points since 2008. Additionally, the study found that less-satisfied teachers were more likely to be located in schools with declining professional development opportunities. With higher levels of dissatisfaction, teachers are more inclined to leave the profession.

“It is truly unfortunate that many public school teachers believe that they do have the proper support to educate our students. This contributes to many teachers leaving the profession.  It also drives many prospective teachers from entering the profession.” said Senator Mendoza.

Specifically, SB 1225 would establish a “Teacher Bill of Rights” that must be conspicuously posted in every school classroom and administrative office in California. The “Teacher Bill of Rights” would include the following ten principles:  

1.         A safe and healthy school environment.

2.         A principal as a master teacher to help lead and prepare teachers.

3.         Access to basic school supplies, a sufficient number of books, and technology.

4.         The ability to provide input on curriculum.

5.         Freedom to teach what is best for pupils, including the use of realia.

6.         Adequate class sizes that allow teachers time to focus on every pupil.

7.         Competitive salaries and benefits.

8.         Access to quality professional development opportunities.

9.         Evaluations that are fair, balanced, and accurate.

10.       Strict adherence to due process when being disciplined by the principal or school district.

A “Teacher Bill of Rights” does not exist in current law. However, other professions in California have a bill of rights in state statute and those include the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights and the Peace Officers Procedural Bill of Rights.

“Almost every person can remember a teacher who had a profound impact on their life. We need to ensure that teachers are afforded these basic rights so that their positive effect on students’ lives may continue,” added Mendoza.

Senator Tony Mendoza, a Los Angeles native and former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, represents the 32nd Senate District encompassing portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For more information about Senator Mendoza visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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