Editorial: Don’t ‘terminate’ support for teachers
November 1, 2005
California Proposition 74 has a flawed premise.For starters, it blames teachers for the state’s education problems when in fact most schools are overcrowded and under funded and teachers don’t have the resources and materials to be effective in the state that at one time was the best in the nation for education.
If passed the proposition will increase the probationary period for new teachers from two years to five. California would join Indiana and Missouri as the only states with five-year probationary periods. Most states have three-year terms.
Supporters say teachers have a virtual job for life once they get tenure and that the process for removing bad teachers is expensive and difficult.
According to The Associated Press, the state does not track how many teachers are fired each year or how many quit voluntarily after poor performance evaluations. And there are no records to show how many probationary teachers are hired after two years, nor studies indicating that teacher quality is a problem in California classrooms.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign team says the existing tenure system locks problem teachers into the classroom and makes it hard for them to be fired. That has to be changed, since teacher quality is the most important factor in how children perform, said Margaret Fortune, chairwoman of the governor’s Proposition 74 campaign.
However, Proposition 74 gives the misleading assumption that under current law, a teacher can’t be fired after he or she has been working two years. In fact, teachers can be fired at any time – but they are entitled to a hearing. With Proposition 74, teachers could be fired without a hearing for their first five years on the job.
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This sends a bad message to people who may be considering entering one of the lowest-paying professions. The California Teachers Association (one of the powerful unions the governor appears to oppose) predicts in 10 years there will be an shortage of teachers in this state of 100,000. It doesn’t take a mathematics degree to calculate the figure will increase if this proposition is passed.
Poor moral will hurt the teachers’ effectiveness. With the new law, teachers will be evaluated every year for five years (at an unknown cost to taxpayers) and two consecutive poor performance evaluations will bring a termination.
If teachers are responsible for educating our children, we would like them to be happy to work hard in doing so. If Proposition 74 passes, young teachers with fresh minds might be less willing to bring in new ideas if they are afraid they’ll be fired for making waves. Why not put an apple on the teachers’ desks instead of a constant threat of a pink slip?
This special election is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s effort to go over the Legislature’s head and implement the financial reform he feels he was mandated when he took the office from Gray Davis in a 2003 recall election. But only one of the four propositions he has on the ballot directly deals with state spending.
Moreover, Schwarzenegger could be criticized for holding an election that no local California government can afford. He simply could have waited until the June 2006 primaries to trump lawmakers and let voters decide whether or not to accept his agenda.
While the state struggles financially and the educational system suffers, Schwarzenegger is squaring off against unions. Is that why we elected him?
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