Proposition 74: An Attack on Teachers or Education Reform?

If Prop. 74 passes, an extra three years will be tacked onto the
probationary period for California teachers
Gilroy – Supporters claim it will cut down on bad teachers. Critics say it will deter more Californians from becoming teachers.

Theories aside, one thing’s for sure, if Proposition 74 passes in November, the probationary period for teachers from would increase from two to five years.

The California Department of Education, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association and local teacher’s unions oppose 74 or Schwarzenegger’s “Put the Kids First Act,” saying its an unwarranted attack on educators.

“I think it would be a disincentive for people to go into the profession,” said Michelle Nelson, president of the Gilroy Teacher’s Association. “The low pay, we’re scrutinized as no other profession is and now (if Prop. 74 passes) you have absolutely no job security for the first five years … There is a trade that happens in education, we have given up, more or less, the higher salary for the sense of security.”

Nelson said it’s already difficult enough to ask Californians to join the teaching profession. The Brownell Middle School teacher – she’s currently on leave – thinks Schwarzenegger’s claim that Prop. 74 will help reform education is way off base.

She’s currently writing up a “No on Prop. 74” resolution for the Gilroy Unified School District board to pass.

It would make more sense to look at administrator’s jobs, since they’re the employees responsible for teacher evaluations and getting rid of a tenured teacher, said Nelson.

Nelson said she agrees that there are burnt-out teachers still in the classroom but increasing the time it takes to earn tenure won’t improve those statistics. The person to question, if a tenured teacher remains in the classroom despite constant complaints, are the administrators, said Nelson.

But Mark Zappa is disgusted by the opposition to 74. The Gilroy businessman and political activist said he’s for “better teachers and better education,” and passing 74 is just one step in that direction.

“Give me a good reason why they feel they shouldn’t be accountable for five years if they’re guaranteed a job for life,” said Zappa. “It seems almost ludicrous that after 18 months of time in the classroom a teacher is essentially guaranteed a life-time job … Once they get past that 18 months they’re in there for life no matter how bad they suck.”

Zappa pointed out that 18 months on the job isn’t a long enough time to assess a teacher’s classroom conduct.

And the claim that new teachers will be abused is also baseless since a brand-new teacher has rights that are granted to anyone employed in California, he said.

Zappa said he knows plenty of good teachers in Gilroy who think 74 is a great idea that will weed out individuals who aren’t going into education for the children.

The push against 74 is a concerted effort by union heads who want quantity not quality, said Zappa, adding that the “CTA rejects any type of accountability efforts.”

The message 74-supporters are conveying is simple, said Zappa.

“We’re saying, ‘You know what, we want good quality teachers,’ ” he said. “We don’t want people to skate by.”

To Dale Morejon the objective of 74 is quite clear.

“It’s a union-busting tactic,” said the California Teacher’s Association chapter services consultant and former Gilroy High School teacher.

Morejon said there is no data to prove that a longer probationary period will improve teacher quality and that Prop. 74 isn’t at all about educational reform.

“It’s easier to attack teachers because you can get these buzz words: ‘Bad teachers have jobs forever,’ ” he said.

A better idea would be to reform the administrative sector of California’s public schools, he said.

Although administrators are responsible for doing teacher evaluations they only have to spend three years in the classroom before entering the administrative sector.

Both Morejon and Nelson think that number should be increased.

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