TNR’s Keelin McDonnel takes a look at the political battle between California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s teachers union over two ballot proposals this November. One of the proposals, which would cap state spending and possibly lead to school spending cuts, appears likely to fail, while the other, Proposition 74, which would change the length of time before new teachers get tenure from two to five years, seems likely to pass.
BUT, as McDonnel argues, increasing the amount of time before teachers get tenure isn’t going to produce the kind of increased performance accountability, better teaching, or other reform many California schools need. Tenure is often a red herring and conservative hobby-horse in education policy debates, but a look at teacher quality indicators, dismissals, and performance across states with and without tenure suggests it’s not the real problem. More important, the Governator’s antagonistic stance towards teachers on both the tenure and school funding issues undermines his proposals to more closely link teacher pay to performance or reward teachers in hard-to-staff schools, ideas that do have promise to improve accountability and help attract to the profession the kind of high-quality new teachers California desperately needs.
–guest blogger Sara Mead