ou have read a great deal already regarding the special election, especially the three propositions that would negatively impact our public schools. Let's rename the offending measures to drive home what each one represents.
Proposition 74 shall become "Teachers sentenced to five years of probation." How could this be a good idea? The two-year probation period currently in effect is ample to determine a teacher's skill before granting them job security. As a matter of fact, my administrator friends say they can spot a bad teacher in 10 minutes. Moreover, job security is not a life long employment guarantee. It is the promise of due process in any future firing decision.
Bad teachers are terminated in California, but not indiscriminately at the whim of a single administrator. The system in place today is one that attempts to help teachers develop awareness of any deficiency and become more skillful. It assumes that those who have put themselves through extensive preparation programs in college should not be booted out of the profession without a fair chance to succeed. If the teacher fails to improve with assistance, he or she is let go.
Proposition 75 shall be renamed "The Bavarian Bully attempts to have his cake and eat it, too." Yes, the claim of bullying is especially poignant these days. While schools are trying to eliminate playground bullying, along comes the biggest bully of them all, our governor who wants to strong-arm unions into silence on the political scene.
Why do teachers call this a power grab? Because corporations the big guys already outspend unions 20 to 1 in political campaigns. Those big-time spenders have the power of the buck. Should the power of working people be further reduced by new regulations?
This is not paycheck protection, folks. It is power protecting itself. Prop. 75 doesn't just threaten teachers' voices in politics. It also impacts firefighters, nurses, police, and other union members. These are your public servants, not villains.
Proposition 76 shall be dubbed "Putting your finger in the dike." Like the story of the little Dutch boy, Prop. 76 looms over us like a crack in the dike. It threatens our public schools with probable funding cuts at the whim of our governor. It eliminates the minimum public school funding guaranteed by voter-approved Prop. 98. In fact a resounding defeat is absolutely required on this measure in order to prevent significant damage to our schools.
Yes, with our vote let's put our fingers in the dike to prevent the inundation of mediocrity that Prop. 76 would rain upon our public schools. But let's not stop there. We need to take a serious look at whether our schools can thrive with the current funding levels. In terms of per-pupil spending, our schools are woefully under-funded compared to the rest of the country. Let's tackle this debacle after defeating these three destructive propositions.
Sandra Nichols is a trustee and past president of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District Governing Board serving 19,700 students in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. She is a Speech and Language Specialist with the Santa Cruz City School District; the organizer of Campaign:Support Our Schools, a coalition of educators working to improve funding for public schools; and a former commissioner on the Santa Cruz County Children and Youth Commission. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication, or web site. This article first appeared in the Nov. 1, 2005 edition of the Mid-County Post in Santa Cruz County, California.
© Sandra Nichols 2005