The bill, AB 375, speeds up the appeals process for teachers, which would resolve cases more quickly and save school districts money at the same time. Currently, the appeals process can take up to 18 months; Buchanan's bill would reduce that time to six or seven months.
"The current system results in dismissal disputes taking years to resolve with costs that can exceed $100,000," Buchanan said Sept. 13. "The only people who win are the attorneys. This is a major step in the right direction."
AB 375 is now awaiting approval by Gov. Jerry Brown.
If signed, the bill would remove a four-month summer ban on issuing dismissal notices for unprofessional conduct. It also would allow evidence of child or sexual abuse allegations more than four years old to be considered and require school districts to place an employee charged with homicide on leave.
Under AB 375, all appeal hearings would be mandated to begin within six months of filing.
In cases of child and sexual abuse, AB 375 maintains the ability of school districts to immediately remove the teacher from the classroom as well as the ability to issue a notice of dismissal at any time during the calendar year.
Buchanan caught flack last year when she voted against a bill that could have let school districts fire teachers who commit sexual or drug-related acts with children, but defended her vote saying the bill was flawed. Buchanan has noted that districts are already required by law to act when evidence of child abuse or sexual abuse is discovered.
The Los Angeles Times called the new bill "one of the state's most important and overdue education reforms in more than a decade."
AB 375 received the support of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, California State PTA, Crime Victims United, Child Abuse Prevention Council, California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers.
Buchanan, whose district includes Pleasanton, served for years on the San Ramon Valley Unified School District's Board of Education. She is currently chair of the State Assembly Education Committee.