School Districts, Unions Clash Over Distance Learning

Can school districts compel teachers to offer online instruction? That's a debate gaining traction in California's education circles. 

Education advocacy groups say online classes will be integral to student learning this fall, regardless of if or how schools reopen. But the California Teachers Association says teachers can’t be forced to offer live or recorded online lessons under a 1976 law.

Education Code 51512 prohibits the use of a “listening or recording device” without express permission from both the teacher and principal. According to the CTA, that language includes online recording and uploads, even though the law pre-dates the internet.

"Yes, our position is that teachers will not be required to conduct live video over their objection, pursuant to Education Code Section 51512,” Claudia Briggs, communications assistant manager for the CTA, told EdSource in an email. 

Attorneys for some school districts are beginning to challenge that assertion. Some have called the interpretation misguided. Others say the trailer bill accompanying the 2020-21 state budget defined distance learning in a way that would remove Section 51512’s applicability to online education, which the state says is most likely necessary this fall.

Distance learning will be the centerpiece of negotiations between teachers unions and school districts for the 2020-2021 school year. Section 51512 will play a big role.

Read more about the ongoing legal debate here


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