Gilroy Teacher: Prop 74 Won’t Improve Education

Dear Editor,
As a veteran of the classroom and the president of the Gilroy
Teachers Association, I feel I must respond to the letter submitted
by Sunana Batra on Oct. 8,

Better Teachers Needed
– Vote Yes on Proposition 74.

Dear Editor,

As a veteran of the classroom and the president of the Gilroy Teachers Association, I feel I must respond to the letter submitted by Sunana Batra on Oct. 8, “Better Teachers Needed – Vote Yes on Proposition 74.”

Proposition 74 is the ballot initiative that will, if passed, lengthen the probationary period for teachers from two to five years. According to the governor and his allies, Proposition 74 is necessary because there are too many “bad” teachers and we need to “weed” them out before they achieve permanent status.

To begin with, there are no studies that prove that “five” is the magic number of years required to prove one’s worthiness as a teacher. In most states, three years of probationary status is deemed sufficient.

If anything is significant about “five,” it is that 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within that time frame. It has never been an easy job, and with the new accountability measures, it is becoming almost impossible. The standards to which teachers are held are becoming increasingly more difficult, not less. For the governor to add this hurdle seems, at best, unnecessary, and at worst, punitive.

While all teachers are observed on a regular basis, the teachers on temporary and probationary status are scrutinized more closely, as any new employees should be. Any administrator who is well-trained in the evaluation process should be able to determine, after more than a year and a half, whether or not to hire a teacher for a third year.

Unfortunately, under the current system, any person who has taught for just three years can become an administrator. It would make more sense to pass legislation mandating better training for administrators, since the power to decide which teachers to let go and which to keep lies with them.

Not having to give a reason for such a decision also opens the door to dismissals which may have nothing to do with the skill or expertise of the teacher being evaluated.

Finally, one common misperception is that it is “impossible” to fire a teacher with permanent status. The word “permanent” is a simply a word to describe the status. A teacher can still be fired, but it is the responsibility of the administration to provide a reason and supporting documentation. It is called “due process,” and it is a right most Americans take very seriously.

If the concern is the quality of teachers, then let us focus our attention on improving the quality of the training, not only for the teachers, but for the administrators.

Please join me in voting NO on Proposition 74.

Michelle Nelson, President, Gilroy Teachers Association

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