Miramonte Scandal: Mayor Villaraigosa Lobbies Gov. Brown To Make Firing Teachers Easier

Villaraigosa: Let's Make Firing Teachers Easier

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lobbied Gov. Jerry Brown this week to make it easier for the Los Angeles Unified School District to fire teachers.

In a letter to Brown, Villaraigosa said that the district paid teacher accused of abuse $40,000 to leave the profession because the process of dismissing him was too onerous. He noted, also, that average dismissals cost the district $300,000.

The teacher Villaraigosa referred to is former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who was charged of 23 acts of lewd conduct after hundreds of photos surfaced of him blindfolding and spoon-feeding a white substance to students.

Villaraigosa wrote, "While it is the district's responsibility to follow the law to remove a teacher, it is the state's duty to ensure that the process is not so irrational and arduous that districts are forced to make these kinds of decisions, which encourage resignation as opposed to dismissal."

He continued that dismissing a teacher can trigger a more than twelve-step process that can last years and that school boards should have more authority to dismiss teachers.

His specific suggestions for streamlining the process included, "shortening the length of time between appeals, limiting right to appeals, and/or leaving the final dismissal decision up to an administrative judge."

Finally, he added that teachers who "engage in misconduct or criminal behavior should NOT be rewarded with full benefits and pensions."

Villaraigosa also criticized a provision of the Los Angeles teachers contract that requires the purging of teacher personnel records -- except those that pertain to formal discipline -- after four years, the Los Angeles Times reports. Villaraigosa said that this policy complicated the district's current efforts to identify teachers who have been accused of abuse.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy is attempting to work with the teachers union to abolish this four-year time limit on teacher disciplinary files.

Below is Mayor Villaraigosa's letter in full.

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