Report: Calif. schools get 'F' in achievement

SACRAMENTO The White House recently told state leaders that California is eligible for about $700,000 in new federal money from a new pot of funds, but only if some changes are made. The new report, released Monday, is not helping the cause.

California got its lowest grade, an "F", when it comes to firing poor-performing teachers.

The latest "/*Leaders and Laggards*/" report by the /*U.S. Chamber of Commerce*/ and the /*Center for American Progress*/ blamed the bad grade on union rules that make it difficult to let teachers go, taking as much as two years, if not longer.

"When a teacher is accused of something or there's some sort of charge made for the purpose of dismissing, they have a right to respond," said Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist for public schools. "It is that due process that takes so long."

Teachers say those processes are necessary to ensure the firings aren't for personal or arbitrary reasons, but they can be terminated for cause.

"It's up to the administrator to actually document what's going on in order to make sure that teacher is given everything that's possible to make sure they succeed," said kindergarten teacher Toby Boyd.

In an era of budget cuts, though, principals have a tough time juggling school operations with evaluations of every teacher.

While most educators do a good job, the failing grade doesn't sit well with some parents, because their kids could be stuck with the ones that are struggling.

"Kids not getting their education that they deserve and they need. That's the biggest thing," said Paul Tassinari, a concerned father of a student.

California's inability to fire teachers may hamper its chances to win some of the $4 billion President Obama has made available in the "/*Race To The Top*/" program.

Among the qualifications: states must evaluate teachers based, in part, on student test scores, a move administrators know unions will fight.

"Even with significant money at stake, they know it's a tough hill to climb," said Gordon, the lobbyist.

Applications for the extra federal stimulus money are due in mid-January. Some states have already turned them in.

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