State Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles had every reason to hope that the 11 members of the obscure but powerful state Assembly Education Committee in Sacramento would back his new legislation, Senate Bill 1530, designed to let public schools more easily fire teachers who commit sexual, physically abusive or drug-related acts with their students.
The bill, written by the former L.A. city councilman from the San Fernando Valley, a graduate of MIT who is seen by many as a man with a political future, had sailed through the Senate Education Committee in the upper house on a bipartisan vote. In the state Capitol, news reports about disgusting teachers who weren’t fired thanks to rigidly protective laws — teachers such as alleged sex pervert Mark Berndt — were fresh in legislators’ minds.
Egregious-behaving teachers have formidable powers. LAUSD secretly paid Berndt $40,000 to quit. That was far less money than LAUSD would have shelled out for attorneys and Berndt’s ongoing salary — only to perhaps see him reinstated by California’s unusually powerful, three-person Commission on Professional Competence, controlled by two teachers-union appointees who are increasingly criticized for not acting on behalf of children.
Since Berndt, a series of bad-teacher incidents has played out. Most recently, gym teacher Kip Arnold careened off a freeway after officers tried to question him about oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object of a girl at Nimitz Middle School in 2005. Kip told the officer he wanted to kill himself, fled and crashed.