(The Center Square) – The California Legislature has passed a series of bills backed by the state Department of Education, including one aimed at reducing disciplinary options for students who engage in “willful defiance.” against teachers. Critics say a lack of discipline in public school classrooms and a lack of tools for teachers to enforce discipline are among the reasons teachers are leaving the profession. That’s why, they say, lawmakers also passed a new bill to pay retired teachers to come back and work while receiving their full retirement benefits.
Currently, all students up to 5th grade cannot be suspended and up to 12th grade cannot be expelled for “willful defiance” – defined as “disrupting school activities or otherwise deliberately defying the valid authority of school personnel “. If signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, SB 274, introduced by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D–East Bay, and co-sponsored by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, would expand an existing exemption to suspension grades 6 through 8 and would create a new exemption for students in grades 9 through 12 and extend these provisions to charter schools that were previously exempt from the ban.
““We must educate our children – not incarcerate them – and provide them with opportunities to learn and succeed,” Thurmond said in an earlier public statement in support of the bill. “Removing students from learning time through suspensions and expulsions is proven to push them into the criminal justice system.
Education expert and California Policy Center vice president of government affairs Lance Christensen disagrees with Thurmond’s assessment, noting that in the hundreds of educational events he says he has hosted in In recent years, lack of discipline was one of the most recurring problems that teachers would address. him about.
“95 out of 100 teachers will tell you there is no real discipline in our public schools right now,” Christensen told Center Square in an interview. “If you are a teacher who must attempt to teach lessons in a class where one or more students are intentionally disruptive, causing problems, disrespecting, being rude, harassing, intimidating, or disrespecting the teacher or students other students, zero education will be done in this class.
The California legislature also passed SB 765, a bill that would allow retired teachers to continue to receive their full pension and retirement benefits if they return to teach, as long as their salary does not exceed 70 % of those who retired. received the previous year. Because California teacher pay operates on a seniority-based system, the longer a teacher continues to teach, the more they are paid, so teacher salaries tend to peak when they retire. According to the Learning Policy Institute, California will need to hire at least 11,900 additional teachers to meet requirements that public schools offer transitional kindergarten – a bridge between preschool and kindergarten, and at least 16,000 more assistant kindergarten teachers of transition.
“California is facing a devastating teacher shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation,” said state Sen. Portatino, D–Burbank, who introduced the bill in a statement supporting the measure. “There are not enough people entering the teaching profession to offset the number of teachers leaving the workforce. »
Christensen says that because of the lack of discipline in higher grades, many teachers are eager to move on to much younger children, or give up, reinforcing the apparent teacher shortage.
“SB 765 — they’re doing this because they’ve made it very difficult for teachers to stay in the profession,” Christen said. “It goes back to disciplinary issues.”
Although returning retirees will continue to receive their pensions, a California Senate analysis found that “hiring and paying retired educators costs less than hiring permanent educators” because “schools and community colleges would likely not provide benefits to a retired employee rehired under the provisions.” of this bill.
With these cost savings, SB 765 received a near-unanimous vote with only one “no” from a single Assembly Democrat.