How Assemblymember Shirley Weber Became an Education Advocate

Yesterday, for the Los Angeles Times, George Skelton shared the story of how Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) — who moved from Arkansas to Los Angeles at the age of 3 because a lynch mob was chasing her father — became an education advocate. Her father, whose schooling ended after sixth grade, always believed in the power of education, and encouraged her own appreciation for education. After finishing high school at the top of her class, Weber earned three university degrees — including bachelors, master’s and doctorate — from UCLA, taught at San Diego State University for 40 years, served on the San Diego Board of Education for eight years and was elected to the California Assembly in 2012.

Weber is passionate, tenacious and inspiring. She’s also unafraid to challenge the status quo, and is currently doing so by addressing the arcane and ineffective statute that governs the process for granting California’s teachers permanent employment. Weber’s Teacher and Student Success Act (AB 1220), which she drafted at the urging of teacher organizations Educators for Excellence and Teach Plus, would extend the probationary period for awarding tenure to new teachers to three years, with a possible fourth or fifth year for teachers who show promise but need more time to demonstrate success.

AB 1220 would also provide additional mentoring and professional development for new teachers, giving them the support they need while starting out in the classroom. This would help address both the high turnover rates for new teachers and the growing teacher shortage in California. AB 1220 would shift California’s system to reflect the laws of forty-two other states in which teachers receive tenure after three to five years of experience, as well as the beliefs of eighty-five percent of traditional district school teachers in California who think tenure decisions should be made after at least three years of classroom experience.

It’s clear that California’s current system robs California’s new teachers of the support they need to ensure success in the classroom. This, in turn, hurts students — especially the state’s most vulnerable students — who deserve equal access to great teachers who empower them to succeed. AB 1220 will help empower both teachers and students to succeed in the classroom.