Even outright offenses are no guarantee of removal, thanks to CTA influence. When a fired teacher appeals his case beyond the school board, it goes to the Commission on Professional Competence—two of whose three members are also teachers, one of them chosen by the educator whose case is being heard. The CTA has stacked this process as well by bargaining to require evidentiary standards equal to those used in civil-court procedures and coaching the teachers on the panels. One veteran school-district lawyer calls the appeals process “one of the most complicated civil legal matters anywhere.” As the Times noted, “The district wanted to fire a high school teacher who kept a stash of pornography, marijuana and vials with cocaine residue at school, but [the Commission on Professional Competence] balked, suggesting that firing was too harsh.” The commission was also the reason that, as the newspaper continued, the district was “unsuccessful in firing a male middle school teacher spotted lying on top of a female colleague in the metal shop”; the district had failed to “prove that the two were having sex.”
Another regulatory body dominated by CTA influence is the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), the institution responsible for removing the credentials of misbehaving teachers. A report released in 2011 by California state auditor Elaine Howle found that the commission had a backlog of approximately 12,600 cases, with responses sometimes taking as long as three years. Because the CTC—which was created by an act sponsored by the CTA—is made up of members appointed by the governor, the CTA is able to bring its political pressure to bear on determining the commission’s makeup. In September 2011, for instance, one of Governor Jerry Brown’s appointments to the CTC was Kathy Harris, who had previously been a CTA lobbyist to the body.
The CTA’s most recent crusade for job security made clear that the union was prepared to jeopardize the financial future of California’s schools. Last June, it vigorously pushed (and Governor Brown hastily signed) Assembly Bill 114, which prevented any teacher layoffs or program cuts in the coming fiscal year and removed the requirement that school districts present balanced budget plans. The bill also forced public schools to prepare budget estimates that didn’t take into account the state’s downturn in revenues—meaning that schools could budget for activities even though there wasn’t money to pay for them. Since then, state officials have forecast that revenues for the 2012 fiscal year will be $3.2 billion lower than they were when the schools were making their budgets. Eventually, accommodations to reality will have to be made—at which time the CTA will, of course, use them to plead hardship.