2015-16 Legislative Session

During the 2015-2016 California legislative session — the first full session since the historic Vergara v. California ruling — Students Matter has engaged in a number of key education policy debates. We led the opposition to a dangerous bill that would have expanded California’s unconstitutional teacher tenure law, and worked with a coalition of education and civil rights advocacy organizations, as well as teachers and parents, to oppose a legislative overhaul that would have completely rewritten California’s existing teacher evaluation law. Having a comprehensive teacher evaluation system that uses evidence of student growth and progress in a meaningful way is critical to ensuring that every California student has an effective teacher. That’s why Students Matter continues to work with our coalition partners, teachers and parents to support Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s commonsense proposal to strengthen the state teacher evaluation system.

Below, you can find descriptions of bills that Students Matter advocated for and against in the 2015-2016 legislative session.

AB 575 (O’Donnell – Teacher Evaluations)

Bill status: Gutted and amended to address different policy issues
Students Matter’s position: OPPOSE

AB 575, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Education Committee Chair Patrick O’Donnell, would have weakened the Stull Act, the state’s law requiring teacher evaluations that are critical to ensuring that every child has a quality teacher. Specifically, this bill and its companion in the California Senate (SB 499) would have allowed school districts that currently violate the law by ignoring student progress as a measure of teacher effectiveness to continue to do so. Students Matter worked closely with a coalition of education and civil rights organizations to oppose this legislative overhaul of California’s teacher evaluation system. After hearing from education and civil rights groups, school administrators and teachers, the Education Committee Chairs pulled the bills from further consideration. 

AB 753 (Medina – Teacher Tenure)

Bill status: Held in Assembly Appropriations Committee – Died
Students Matter’s position: OPPOSE

Since Assemblymember José Medina introduced AB 753, Students Matter has led the opposition to the harmful measure. Rather than address the harmful effects of California’s unconstitutional teacher tenure law, Assembly Member Jose Medina’s AB 753 would expand the existing law to include teachers in small school districts and certificated employees working in non-teaching positions. After months of advocacy meetings with state legislators, as well as grassroots engagement from parents and educators, the bill died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This was a key victory for California’s “kids first” education agenda and an affirmation of Judge Treu’s ruling in Vergara.

AB 934 (Bonilla – Teacher Employment)

Bill status: Failed Senate Education Committee vote (2-5) – Died
Students Matter’s position: OPPOSE

In a disappointing reversal, AB 934 — a bill originally introduced in April by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla to address the broken teacher employment laws challenged by Vergara v. California — has emerged in the California Senate Education Committee a mere shell of its former self.

The bill no longer seriously addresses the outdated laws challenged in Vergara v. California that are harming California students and teachers. While AB 934 was once an honest attempt to support effective teachers and prioritize quality in California’s education system, the bill is now the product of backroom deals in the state capital with the state’s most powerful special interest groups. Plain and simple: the new bill is a bad deal for California students.

The Senate Education Committee rejected AB 934 in a bipartisan vote on June 29, 2016.

AB 1495 (Weber ­– Teacher Evaluations)

Bill status: Failed Assembly Education Committee vote (3-2-2) – Died
Students Matter’s position: SUPPORT

Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s AB 1495 was a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to strengthening California’s teacher evaluation law. AB 1495 would have required student achievement to continue to be central to teacher evaluations, as it is under the Stull Act. Instead of putting underperforming teachers on an automatic track to be fired, the bill created a new evaluation category – “needs improvement” – complete with resources to improve their classroom performance. The bill narrowly failed in the Education Committee in April 2015, but Weber’s impassioned call for her colleagues to support the bill went viral online. Committee members unanimously granted the bill reconsideration, converting it to a two-year bill, but the bill was not brought up for reconsideration and died.

AB 2548 (Weber – School Accountability)

Bill status: Passed Senate (39-0), Passed Assembly (78-0), Vetoed by Governor
Students Matter’s position: SUPPORT

AB 2548, sponsored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber in response to California’s overhaul of its public school accountability system, would have helped to ensure that our public schools are providing all students — regardless of zip code or background — with the quality education they need to succeed academically and in the future. AB 2548 would have helped guarantee that our state’s new system of accountability will provide parents, educators and community groups with the information they need to help increase equity and close achievement gaps that deprive the state’s most vulnerable students of a level playing field. Students Matter worked with a coalition of education and civil rights organizations, led by Children Now and Education Trust—West, to support AB 2548. After passing the Assembly and Senate unanimously, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

AB 2826 (Weber – Teacher Evaluations)

Bill status: Passed Senate (37-0), Passed Assembly (78-0), Vetoed by Governor
Students Matter’s position: SUPPORT

Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s AB 2826 would have strengthened California’s teacher evaluation law to remove any possible uncertainty over the state’s requirement that teachers be evaluated in a fair and meaningful way, using multiple measures, including student progress. The bill would have provided helpful guidance where current law can be strengthened, while preserving the process structures and local control of the current state law. After passing the Assembly and Senate unanimously, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

SB 499 (Liu – Teacher Evaluations)

Bill status: Passed Senate (23-16), Not Heard in Assembly Education Committee – Died
Students Matter’s position: OPPOSE

SB 499, sponsored by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and Education Committee Chair Carol Liu, would weaken the Stull Act, the state’s law requiring teacher evaluations that are critical to ensuring that every child has a quality teacher. Specifically, this bill and its companion in the California Assembly (AB 575) would allow school districts that currently violate the law by ignoring student progress as a measure of teacher effectiveness to continue to do so. Students Matter worked closely with a coalition of education and civil rights organizations to oppose this legislative overhaul of California’s teacher evaluation system. After hearing from education and civil rights groups, school administrators and teachers, the Education Committee Chairs pulled the bills from further consideration.