Don’t miss IWF regular contributor Cathy Seipp’s new column for National Review Online about her disappointment that California’s voters, apparently cowed by the teachers’ unions, failed to approve Gov. Arnold’s Schwarzeneggar’s Prop. 74, a ballot initiative that would have taken steps toward abolishing tenure for incompetenet and burnt-out teachers. Cathy writes:
“Critics argued that Prop 74 wouldn’t have helped because it didn’t push for improved teacher training, but I’ve never seen that as a magic bullet. Giving good teachers raises and firing bad ones seems more in tune with how the real world works. At least Prop 74 began to address the ridiculous notion that after a certain amount of time any teacher, no matter how sullen and incompetent, has an inalienable right to eternal job security.
“Most of the discussion about Prop 74 focused on the increased time new teachers would have had to put in before they got tenure. But the only terrible teachers my daughter Maia has encountered since she returned to public school this fall are two burnt-out cases near retirement. I suspect their supervisors would love to get rid of them, but since their probationary period went out with disco music, this continues to be almost impossible.”
Cathy then details some horror stories about a couple of teachers her daughter, a high school senior, faced recently, such as the chemistry teacher who refused to give labs or lectures because she was a year away from retirement and the “health and life skills” (that’s California’s euphemism for mandatory sex education) who insulted and humiliated her daughter.
Nonetheless, edu-blogger Right on the Left Coast argues that maybe it was a good idea that Prop. 74 failed. Just before Tuesday’s election he wrote:
“Prop 74 would change education code so that teachers would be granted tenure after 5 years instead of two or three. It would also severely restrict due process even of tenured teachers, making it too easy to fire people that administration doesn’t agree with. This moves the pendulum from too far in favor of teachers to too far in favor of administration.”
Yes, we forget that abolishing tenure is a two-way street. In today’s highly politicized edu-enviornment, too many administrators are all too willing to dump competent teachers who happen to think the wrong way.