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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial
boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable
and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States.
A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School,
Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing
editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found
[go to Liebau index]
the Kids First”
On Behalf of Some (Very) Modest Education Reforms...
Platt Liebau] 6/27/05
ago, the California Teachers’ Association took
a bold step. Its leaders voted to raise dues by $60 for each
of its members over the next three years, in order to raise $50
million to oppose Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reforms
proposed for the November special election.
vehemence with which the teachers’ union bosses
are opposing the governor, it might be reasonable to assume that
the proposed reforms are a knife to the heart of the California
educational system. But such an assumption would be wildly mistaken.
wrath is directed toward the “Put the Kids
First Act” – which are actually a series of quite
modest proposals. The initiative would merely increase the length
of time until a teacher can gain tenure from two to five years,
and authorize a school board to dismiss a tenured teacher who
received two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
Hardly radical stuff.
are sorely needed. Once teachers gain tenure in California,
can be replaced – even by more
qualified applicants – only after a lengthy appeals process
costing about $150,000. Granted, the current system is a boon
to teachers – in what other field can one obtain a lifetime
sinecure, with little chance of demotion or dismissal, after
only two years? But the benefit to teachers can be a disaster
both for the children who are saddled with lazy or incompetent
instructors and for the concerned parents (and school boards)
who are powerless to fix the problem.
Nor, by rights,
should any teacher be complaining about the provision that
dismissal after two consecutive unsatisfactory
performance evaluations. In fact, what’s amazing is that – even
under the “Put the Kids First Act” – a teacher
can receive numerous “unsatisfactory” reviews and
remain in the classroom, so long as the unsatisfactory reviews
are not consecutive. And under the current system, an instructor
can receive as many as five or six consecutive “unsatisfactory” reviews
without any ramifications. Is there any other field where long
term, sub par work is nonetheless rewarded by regular pay increases
and the other perquisites of tenure?
rightly enjoy a high degree of respect and appreciation in
the United States,
particularly in California, where their
pay/benefits packages are the most generous in the country. The “Put
the Kids First Act” does nothing to threaten the many capable,
dedicated, hard-working teachers who are making a daily difference
in the lives of millions of children. And teachers themselves
are aware of this – which is why many support the “Put
Kids First” initiative, although they are regularly intimidated
by their union from publicly supporting the governor.
The teachers’ unions need to understand that, even as
California’s citizens stand ready to support our schools,
they are likewise entitled to be sure that only high-performing,
deserving teachers are being offered the benefits (including
tenure) that they so generously provide through their state,
city and local taxes. Union opposition to the modest proposals
in the “Put the Kids First Act” reveals an unsavory
agenda that’s less about educating children than it is
about securing benefits even for those who haven’t earned
them. And that’s why the teachers’ union bosses would
be well advised to use their $50 million to help the state’s
best teachers, rather than to protect its worst. tOR
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and
theOneRepublic / CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served
as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Her web log can be found at CarolLiebau.blogspot.com