Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Proposition 74: Teacher Tenure

Fight the Lies!
End the blame game !
Vote No on Prop. 74. Vote No on Prop. 75

There will be at least eight initiatives on the November 8 ballot, and three have particular importance to public schools.

74 Prop. 74 would extend the required probationary period for k-12 teachers from two to five years. Proponents say that this will give administrators more time to evaluate new teachers to be certain that they deserve “tenure”. Yet experience tells us that a probationary teacher can get consistently good evaluations and still be let go by a district without reason or an appeal.
At the k-12 level, what is called tenure is simply the right to due process- an opportunity to improve, and the right to a hearing. Proposition 74 would require the district to begin dismissal proceedings with no opportunity to improve.
Fortunately, through a decade of organizing and political work, teachers in public schools in California and many other states in the U.S. have achieved the legal process of tenure. Teachers, working with others, established tenure to keep partisan politics out of the public schools. All tenure does is protect teachers from arbitrary dismissal. It protects the due process rights of teachers. Poor teachers are dismissed under the current system. You may have read about these dismissals in the newspapers.
Quality principals at times remove poor teachers. Tenure does not prevent the removal of the incompetent teachers. It only provides procedural safeguards against arbitrary and capricious dismissal.
Why is this so important? Because arbitrary hiring and firing once happened frequently. Hiring and dismissal of teachers was too often a petty, patronage based, unprofessional process by school boards and principals. Tenure is very important. It protects teacher’s freedom to speak and their basic citizenship rights. As a teacher you can speak out, disagree with your principal without having to fear that your school board or your principal is going to fire you.
Proposition 74 does nothing to improve learning or to attract and retain quality teachers. It targets teachers as the problem in our public schools, ignoring the inadequate levels of funding provided by the governor and the legislators.

For more information: www.choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Still Separate: Still Unequal

JONATHAN KOZOL / Harper's Magazine v.311, n.1864 1sep2005…..

As I found a place to sit in a far corner of the room, the teacher and his young assistant, who was in her first year as a teacher, were beginning a math lesson about building airport runways, a lesson that provided children with an opportunity for measuring perimeters. On the wall behind the teacher, in large letters, was written: "Portfolio Protocols: 1. You are responsible for the selection of [your] work that enters your portfolio. 2. As your skills become more sophisticated this year, you will want to revise, amend, supplement, and possibly replace items in your portfolio to reflect your intellectual growth." On the left side of the room: "Performance Standards Mathematics Curriculum: M-5 Problem Solving and Reasoning. M-6 Mathematical Skills and Tools ..."

My attention was distracted by some whispering among the children sitting to the right of me. The teacher's response to this distraction was immediate: his arm shot out and up in a diagonal in front of him, his hand straight up, his fingers flat. The young co-teacher did this, too. When they saw their teachers do this, all the children in the classroom did it, too.

"Zero noise," the teacher said, but this instruction proved to be unneeded. The strange salute the class and teachers gave each other, which turned out to be one of a number of such silent signals teachers in the school were trained to use, and children to obey, had done the job of silencing the class.

"Active listening!" said Mr. Endicott. "Heads up! Tractor beams!" which meant, "Every eye on inc."

On the front wall of the classroom, in hand-written words that must have taken Mr. Endicott long hours to transcribe, was a list of terms that could be used to praise or criticize a student's work in mathematics. At Level Four, the highest of four levels of success, a child's "problem-solving strategies" could be described, according to this list, as "systematic, complete, efficient, and possibly elegant," while the student's capability to draw conclusions from the work she had completed could be termed "insightful" or "comprehensive." At Level Two, the child's capability to draw conclusions was to be described as "logically unsound"; at Level One, "not present." Approximately 50 separate categories of proficiency, or lack of such, were detailed in this wall-sized tabulation.

A well-educated man, Mr. Endicott later spoke to me about the form of classroom management that he was using as an adaptation from a model of industrial efficiency. "It's a kind of `Taylorism' in the classroom," he explained, referring to a set of theories about the management of factory employees introduced by Frederick Taylor in the early 1900s. "Primitive utilitarianism" is another term he used when we met some months later to discuss these management techniques with other teachers from the school. His reservations were, however, not apparent in the classroom. Within the terms of what he had been asked to do, he had, indeed, become a master of control. It is one of the few classrooms I had visited up to that time in which almost nothing even hinting at spontaneous emotion in the children or the teacher surfaced while I was there.

Friday, August 26, 2005

PPIC poll results : August

PPIC Statewide Survey: Special Survey on Californians and the Initiative Process, August 2005
Mark Baldassare

Some findings of the current survey
• A majority of likely voters across age, income, education, racial and ethnic groups, and in every region of the state, oppose holding a special election this fall.
• When asked which ballot issue was most important to them, a higher percentage of likely voters (16%) volunteered the answer “none” than named any one measure.
• At this time, likely voters are not very enthusiastic about the three reform measures on the fall ballot that are supported by the Schwarzenegger administration:
Proposition 74 (teacher tenure), 49% support, 42% oppose;
Proposition 76 (spending and funding limits), 28% support, 61% oppose;
Proposition 77 (redistricting), 34% support, 49% oppose.
• Governor Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings are at a low point: Only 34% of state residents approve of the way he is handling his job.
• The state legislature fares even worse, with a 27% approval rating.

This is the 58th PPIC Statewide Survey and the first in a series of three surveys focusing on Californians and the initiative process. This special survey series is funded by The James Irvine Foundation.


At this time, the Schwarzenegger propositions are not doing well. Only Prop. 74 is in trouble. A 7 % spread is not too bad. all the funding is going to Prop. 75 & 76.
Prop. 74 should not be summarized as Teacher Tenure. It is to deny teachers tenure until they complete 5 years. See other blog entries on this proposition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Progressive views of school reform

Progressive Ideas for Fixing Our Schools

August 23, 2005

American public schools are failing to adequately prepare our students for a rapidly changing world economic and political order. High school dropout rates are increasing; students lack requisite reading skills for college; and American students continue to fall behind their counterparts in other nations in terms math and science knowledge. The Center for American Progress and the Institute for America’s Future will release today a comprehensive, progressive agenda for addressing these challenges and improving our schools to better serve our children and our nation.

Ensure qualified teachers for every student in America. As part of his No Child Left Behind program, President Bush promised—by the end of this coming school year—that “every teacher of every major subject in every school will be highly qualified.” Unfortunately, many teachers today fail to make the grade, lacking the proper training and knowledge to adequately teach their subject areas. The Center for American Progress task force recommends implementing high-quality, employment based on-the-job training programs. At the same time, a “more rigorous accountability system must be developed,” including new, quantitative measures to make sure teachers make the grade.
Extend school days and the school year to help keep American students competitive in the global economy. Students in the United States are falling behind students in other countries. The Program for International Student Assessment ranks the United States 24th out of 29 industrial nations in math literacy; students also ranked 24th out of 29 in problem solving. One reason for this: the abbreviated school year and school day in the United States. At 180 days, the U.S. has a shorter school year than all but two industrialized nations. Students in other countries spend an average of 193 days in school. Over a 12-year academic career, that gap means American students finish nearly a full school year behind their international counterparts. The task force recommends a longer school day to give students extra time to learn math, science and English skills. In poorly performing districts, the task force recommends adding up to 30-days of schooling to the U.S. school year.
Provide universal preschool and full-day kindergarten to children across the country. The benefits of early learning are well documented and incontrovertible. As the report states, “Research consistently indicates that for every $1 investment in high-quality pre-school, there is a $7 return in long-term education outcomes and earnings, as well as decreases in crime, teen pregnancy, welfare rates, and the need for special and remedial education.” The task force therefore recommends offering access to universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year olds, beginning with low income and minority children who need it most.
Click here to read the full recommendations in “Renewing Our Schools, Securing Our Future.”


© American Progress Action Fund

The above list provides a good starting point for discussion. Think tanks, even progressive ones, tend to join into the misconception that every one understands schools. We all know about schools because our kids attend one, and so did we.
One addition. In generating recommendations, groups should talk with teachers.
This is like discussing the reform of medicine without talking with doctors.

Monday, August 22, 2005

California Test Scores

The California Dept. of Education in their press statements of Aug. 15, on the STAR and the CAHSEE test results and major newspapers want you to believe that California students are doing better. And they are: on state tests.
But, we should also look at national tests. The national test is NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Lets keep looking at the data.
If you continue to look a the most recent NAEP scores in California you find that while there has been a significant gain in math and a small gain in reading at the 4th. grade level, and a gain in math at the 8th. grade level, there is also a decline in reading scores at the 8th. grade level both as a scaled scores and as a percentage of students at or above proficient.

What does this mean?
Well, mostly it means we should be cautious with the data. The state standards are closely tied to the state tests. And, the curriculum is designed to raise scores on the test.
But, the national tests NAEP, are more a test to compare over time.
As Linda McNeil and Angela Valenzuela demonstrated well in the Texas “Miracle”, state test scores, when tied to harsh sanctions, can be manipulated and modified in a number of ways, such as reclassifying large number of kids as English Learners.
I have not yet seen the data in reading scores which gives me confidence.

For another view on this data see the EdTrust web analysis.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Schools, Teachers and School Reform in Finland

In Finland's Footsteps
If We're So Rich and Smart, Why Aren't We More Like Them?
By Robert G. Kaiser
Sunday, August 7, 2005; B01

Life in Finland, one of the world's best functioning welfare states and least known success stories, can be complicated. Consider the dilemma confronting parents looking for day care for a 4-year-old daughter in Kuhmo, a town of 10,000 near the middle of the country.

Should they put their child into the town nursery school, where she could spend her weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. with about 40 other children, cared for by a 47-year-old principal with 20 years' experience, Mirsa Pussinen, as well as four teachers with master's degrees in preschool education, two teacher's aides and one cook? The girl would hear books read aloud every day, play games with numbers and the alphabet, learn some English, dig in the indoor sandbox or run around outside, sing and perform music, dress up for theatrical games, paint pictures, eat a hot lunch, take a nap if she wanted one, learn to play and work with others.

Or should that 4-year-old spend her days in home care? Most parents in Kuhmo choose this option, and put their children into the care of women such as Anneli Vaisanen, who has three or four kids in her home for the day. The 49-year-old Vaisanen doesn't have a master's, but she has received extensive training, has provided day care for two decades and has two grown children of her own. The kids in her charge do most of the things those at the center do, but with less order and organization. They also bake bread and make cakes.

How to decide? There's no financial difference; both forms of day care cost the parents nothing. There's no difference in the schooling that will follow day care -- all the kids in Kuhmo (and throughout Finland) will have essentially identical opportunities in Finnish schools, Europe's best. There is no "elite" choice, no working-class choice; everyone is treated equally.

It's a dilemma that American parents don't have a chance to confront. And it's a vivid example of the difference between what the Finns call a social democracyand our society. Finland is a leading example of the northern European view that a successful, competitive society should provide basic social services to all its citizens at affordable prices or at no cost at all. This isn't controversial in Finland; it is taken for granted. For a patriotic American like me, the Finns present a difficult challenge: If we Americans are so rich and so smart, why can't we treat our citizens as well as the Finns do?

Finns have one of the world's most generous systems of state-funded educational, medical and welfare services, from pregnancy to the end of life. They pay nothing for education at any level, including medical school or law school. Their medical care, which contributes to an infant mortality rate that is half of ours and a life expectancy greater than ours, costs relatively little. (Finns devote 7 percent of gross domestic product to health care; we spend 15 percent.) Finnish senior citizens are well cared for. Unemployment benefits are good and last, in one form or another, indefinitely.

On the other hand, Finns live in smaller homes than Americans and consume a lot less. They spend relatively little on national defense, though they still have universal male conscription, and it is popular. Their per capita national income is about 30 percent lower than ours. Private consumption of goods and services represents about 52 percent of Finland's economy, and 71 percent of the United States'. Finns pay considerably higher taxes -- nearly half their national income is taken in taxes, while Americans pay about 30 percent on average to federal, state and local governments.

Should we be learning from Finland?

The question occurred to me repeatedly as I traveled around Finland this summer. Americans could easily get used to the sense of well-being that Finns get from their welfare state, which has effectively removed many of the tangible sources of anxiety that beset our society.

But the United States could not simply turn itself into another Finland. Too much of Finnish reality depends on uniquely Finnish circumstances. Finland is as big as two Missouris, but with just 5.2 million residents -- fewer than metropolitan Washington. It is ethnically and religiously homogeneous. A strong Lutheran work ethic, combined with a powerful sense of probity, dominates the society. Homogeneity has led to consensus: Every significant Finnish political party supports the welfare state and, broadly speaking, the high taxation that makes it possible. And Finns have extraordinary confidence in their political class and public officials. Corruption is extremely rare.

For all of that, Finland doesn't feel like an entirely foreign place -- I thought I was on familiar ground. Finns obviously enjoy things we enjoy, from a good concert (rock, jazz or classical) and a good ice cream cone to a brisk walk on the beach. They are practical-minded experimenters and problem solvers.

One fundamental Finnish value sounds a lot like an American principle -- "to provide equal opportunities in life for everyone," as Pekka Himanen, a 31-year-old intellectual wunderkind in Helsinki, put it. Himanen, a product of Finnish schools who got his PhD in philosophy at 21, argues that Finland now does this much better than the United States, where he lived for several years while associated with the University of California in Berkeley.

In Finland, Himanen said, opportunity does not depend on "an accident of birth." All Finns have an equal shot at life, liberty and happiness. Yes, this is supposed to be an American thing, but many well-traveled younger Finns, who all seem to speak English, have a Finnish take on American realities. Miapetra Kumpula, a 32-year-old member of Parliament, volunteered this on the American dream: "Sure, anyone can get rich -- but most won't."

Finns are enormously proud of their egalitarian tradition. They are the only country in Europe that has never had a king or a home-grown aristocracy. Finland has no private schools or universities, no snooty clubs, no gated communities or compounds where the rich can cut themselves off from everyday life. I repeatedly saw signs of a class structure based on economics and educational attainment, but was also impressed by the life stories of Finns I met in prominent positions, or who had made a lot of money.

One of the richest Finns is 39-year-old Risto Siilasmaa, founder and CEO of F-Secure, an Internet security firm that competes successfully with American giants Symantec and McAfee. Siilasmaa, a teenage nerd turned self-made tycoon, is worth several hundred million dollars. His wife, Kaisu, the mother of their three children, has a decidedly un-tycoonish career: She teaches first and second grade in an ordinary school. Like every Finn I spoke to about money, Siilasmaa would not acknowledge any interest in personal wealth. "I'm a competitive person, I like to win," he said, "but I've had enough money since I was 15."

This too seems to be part of Finnish egalitarianism; most Finns don't boast or conspicuously consume (except perhaps when they buy fancy cars). Finnish authorities know how much everyone earns, and they pro-rate traffic fines depending on the wealth of the malefactor. Last year the 27-year-old heir to a local sausage fortune was fined 170,000 euros, about $204,000 at the time of the fine, for driving at 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone in downtown Helsinki.

The Finnish educational system is the key to the country's successes and that, too, is a manifestation of egalitarianism. Surprisingly, it is a new system, created over the last generation by a collective act of will. The individual most responsible for it was Erkki Aho, director general of the National Board of Education from 1972 to 1992. Aho, now 68, was "a little bit of a radical," he told me with a smile -- a Finnish Social Democrat who believed in trying to make his country more fair. The early '70s were a radical time in Finland. Change was in the air.

For reformers, education was the principal arena. The traditional Finnish system was conservative and divisive: Kids were selected for an academic track at the end of fourth grade. Those not chosen had no chance at higher education. Universities were relatively few, and mostly mediocre.

Aho and his colleagues thought schooling should be "comprehensive," keeping all kids together in the same schools for nine years without tracking them by ability. Only for "upper secondary," or high school, would academic students be separated from those with vocational interests. The schools would be administered by municipal governments, but at the outset, the substance of the reform would be controlled by the National Board of Education and the government in Helsinki.

The key to reform, Aho and others believed, was teacher training. Teaching had always been a high-status profession in Finland, but now it would become even more prestigious. (Today there are 10 applicants for every place in the universities that train teachers.) Teachers would be required to complete master's degrees, six years of preparation that combined education courses with substantive work in subject areas. "Of course I faced much criticism," Aho recalled. "Upper secondary school teachers were very skeptical. Many parents were critical. The cultural elite said this would mean catastrophe for Finnish schools. The right thought the comprehensive schools smacked of socialism."

But by the end of the 1980s, the new system was broadly popular. It was strengthened by a reform of higher education that gave Finland numerous new, high-quality universities. A grave economic recession in the early '90s was a key test, Aho said. "It was wonderful to see how strong the consensus was" that even in dire economic straits, Finland had to save this new school system, which had become "so important to the society," he said.

Indeed it had. Finland in the '90s became a high-tech powerhouse, led by Nokia, now the world's largest maker of cell phones. Finnish students have become the best in the world, as measured by an internationally administered exam that assesses the educational progress of 15-year-olds in all the industrial countries.

Aho's time in charge ended in the early '90s, when Finns turned against excessive centralization. After he left the Board of Education in 1992, power over the schools reverted to localities and the schools themselves.

Teachers and headmasters were given the authority to write curricula, choose textbooks and allocate resources. Apart from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests and final exams at the end of high school, Finnish kids take no standardized tests, a stark contrast to the current test obsession in this country.

I found Finnish society beguiling on many levels, but in the end concluded that it could not serve as a blueprint for the United States. National differences matter. The Finns are special and so are we. Ours is a society driven by money, blessed by huge private philanthropy, cursed by endemic corruption and saddled with deep mistrust of government and other public institutions. Finns have none of those attributes.

Nor do they tune in to American individualism. Groupthink seems to be fine with most Finns; conformity is the norm, risk-taking is avoided -- a problem now, when entrepreneurs are so needed. I was bothered by a sense of entitlement among many Finns, especially younger people.

Sirpa Jalkanen, a distinguished microbiologist and biotech entrepreneur affiliated with Turku University in that ancient Finnish port city, told me she was discouraged by "this new generation we have now who love entertainment, the easy life." She said she wished the government would require every university student to pay a "significant but affordable" part of the cost of their education, "just so they'd appreciate it." Today every Finnish student is assured free tuition and a monthly stipend to live on that they can receive for 55 months, the length of the six-year courses most still take.

But if Finland can't be a blueprint for us, it can be an inspiration. Education struck me as the area where Americans could most profit by learning from Finland. Nothing achieved by Aho's reforms would be beyond the reach of American schools if we really wanted them to become good.

And I think we could learn from Finns' confidence that they can shape their own fate. Finns speak of the Finnish National Project, an effort involving much of the country, and nearly all of its elites, to make the country more educated, more agile and adaptive, more green, more fair and more competitive in a fast-changing global economy. Manuel Castells, the renowned Spanish sociologist who teaches at the University of Southern California and has been writing about Finland for nearly a decade, argues that Finland's ability to remake itself followed from its success in creating a welfare state that made Finns feel secure. "If you provide security and it is felt, then you can make reforms," he said in an interview. Of course you have to agree on what reforms are needed.

The complicated Finnish language includes the word talkoot, which means, roughly, "doing work together." It's a powerful Finnish tradition, and reflects a national sense that "we're all in the same boat," as numerous Finns said to me. This idea has always appealed to Americans, but in this country it has nearly always been an abstraction. Finns seem to make it real.

Author's e-mail:


Robert Kaiser, associate editor of The Post, recently returned from a three-week trip to Finland with Post photographer Lucian Perkins. Their earlier reports and photos can be found online at http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/finlanddiary.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tenure and Proposition 74

Proposition 74:
The Governor’s Proposition 74 would extend the present probationary period for k-12 teachers from two to five years. Proponents argue that this will give administrators more time to be certain that they deserve “tenure”.
This is a part of the consistent conservative argument that the problem with the schools is the teachers. Experience shows us that probationary teachers can get consistently good evaluations and still be let go by the district without reason or appeal. Why should a professional be put in this position for 5 years?

The proposal assumes that administrators are good evaluators, and that they use fair and reasonable criteria. There is no evidence to support this assumption. I have had over 34 years in the schools. I have observed administrators seek the removal of good teachers. This effort to remove teachers has significantly increased in recent years with the accountability movement. For example, in Sacramento City Unified principals were told to “do something” to improve the test scores. The easiest thing to do- which does not work- is to insist that all teachers teach the same way and to dismiss those who object.

What is called “tenure” is simply the right to due process- an opportunity to improve and the right to a hearing for those who choose to contest the administrator’s decision.

This initiative targets teachers as the problem in our public schools, without facing the problems of school budgets and finance. It misleads by claiming that tenure protects bad teachers, not acknowledging that tenure laws only provide due process guarantees.

In working in teacher preparation for the last thirty years I have found many future teachers believe that they give up their first amendment rights to free speech when they become teachers- at least until they get tenure. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Teachers have the same rights that all citizens have to express their views. They do have a professional responsibility to not propagandize.

In my own experience many teachers fear that they will be dismissed for disagreeing with a Principal until they tenure. That is, they see themselves as less than professionals.
My efforts to convince future teacher that they retain their first amendment rights have seldom changed their minds.

What do teachers fear? In particular teachers of English Language learners and Special Education students frequently see the school administration violating state and federal laws to provide services. They see money for special services used for other projects selected by the Principal. However, the teachers are reluctant to complain fearing dismissal. They say, “ well I will wait until I have tenure.”

Now, with this proposal tenure will be extended to five years. This gives the Principal and other administrators arbitrary power. There is no good evidence showing that administrator’s use this power wisely.

My argument is that if you keep quiet about your democractic rights for five years, you become a person who does not demonstate integrity. You become part of the problem.

Two years is plenty long enough for a professional to serve with limited procedural rights. Extending this only attacks teachers professionalism. If administrators can not do their job within two years- let them move on.

Our real problem is finding ways to keep new teachers in the schools. Proposition 74 will discourage new teachers.

What are your opinions?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Long Detour

Weinstein, James
The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left. 2003.
Westview press.

p. 233.
This necessity is two fold. First, profound educational reformare needed to realize the potential implicit in the pronouncement that ‘all men [meaning people] are created equal.” And, second, educational reform offers a partial solution to the problem of how to provide meaningful, creative work for the tens of millions of people being thrown out of work, or into low paying service jobs, as productivity leaps forward and employment in manufacturing inexorably declines.
There are two potential steps in this proces. First, to finance all public schools at the level of those now most well-financed. This would improve the quality of education and provide jobs for thousands of new teachers- and also architects, artisrts, musicians, coaches, maintenance workers, counselors, groundkeepers, and many others. Such an upgrade would entail expansion of curricula to a level already existing at many elite private schools and suburban public schools. …..
Improving our schools, however, is not simply a matter of infrastructure, faculty ratios, and extracurricular activities. Americans instinctively understand that education for all is a prerequisite for equality and a functioning democracy. Yes, as John Dewey wrote a hundred years ago, our schools, while claiming to prepare future members of an egalitarian social ordeer, arae more often institutions in which ‘the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting.”

In today’s schools, Dewey’s nightmare is more often the rule than the exception. Advocates of minimalist, or essentialists, education have imposed standardized tests disigned to encourage a stifling uniformity of achievement and minimal intellectual development. In many schools education has been narrowed down to teaching only for the test. Still, Dewey’s proposed methods and his vision of education and its purposes offer the best hope for democracy to triumph over the spirit of elitist individualism and the hierarchy of wealth that increasingly characterize our society.

Effect of California High School Exit Exam

Effect of California High School Exit Exam
Subject of San José Conference

Tens of Thousands of California Students Will Not Receive a High School Diploma Because of High School Exit Test-Accurate Data to be Released at Conference

Conference Will Explore the California Exit Tests' Relation to School Quality and Dropouts

What: California High School Exit Exam Convening
When: Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Where: National Hispanic University, 14271 Story Road, San José, California

(San José, California) - On August 23, local, state and national education experts, advocates and students will join community members and educators in San José to focus on research on the potentially devastating effects of California's High School Exit Exam on California students and communities.

Despite recent research studies showing an alarmingly low 71 percent high school graduation rate in California, the Exit Test will first be used as a bar to high school graduation in May 2006. This exam is being laid on a system of public schools with blatant inequalities.

According to the California Department of Education, more than 50,000 California potential 2006 graduates have not yet passed the English-Language Arts test and more than 50,000 California potential 2006 graduates have not passed the Mathematics test. Under present law, a student must pass both of these tests to receive the diploma they have been working toward for 12 years, regardless of their grades or the educational opportunities they have had.

"These statistics greatly underestimate the real barriers created by the tests," noted Dr. Gary Orfield, Director of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. "California hasn't told us how many students have failed to pass both tests. As with its shocking dropout statistics, California does not know how many students are just leaving school instead of continuing to take a test they see no realistic opportunity to pass." A recent national report by CEP decried the extremely negative effect of exit tests on English Language Learners.

Unveiling a report from UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA), Professor John Rogers provides new analyses of data just released by the California Department of Education on August 15, 2005. Rogers offers a far more realistic estimate of the effects of the exit tests on students of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners and students attending schools identified by the Williams case and the No Child Left Behind Act as not meeting state educational standards. "Students in schools with the highest rates of failure," Rogers reports, "have been denied access to qualified teachers and other conditions essential for learning. It's unspeakable that these students must pay such a high price for the state's failure to educate them."

Liz Guillen of Public Advocates will speak at the conference on the proposals for legislative reform before the California Legislature. "The exam by itself is not a true accountability measure. Real accountability would ensure that the State and schools are actually providing students adequate opportunities to learn."

Speakers at the conference will also discuss the increasing use of high school exit tests during the last decade, the extremely negative effects the tests are having on students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. Leading scholars such as Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and Dr. Jeannie Oakes will describe alternatives in use in other states, the California drop out rate and its effect on California's economy, and the relationship of the test to the special issues of urban education and proper test use.

During the conference, local educators and community members will join with state and national experts to discuss how to respond to the upcoming final implementation of the testing system, and have real discussions of the positives and negatives of this type of testing.

The conference will end with a panel of California High School students discussing the effects these tests will have on them and their fellow students.


CO-SPONSORS: The conference is co-sponsored by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, Public Advocates, Californians for Justice, Bay Area Legal Aid, California Rural Legal Assistance, Legal Advocates for Children & Youth, National Hispanic University, Public Interest Law Firm, Youth Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Dr. Roberto Cruz Foundation. It is supported by a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Proposition 74

The Governor’s Proposition 74 would extend the present probationary period for k-12 teachers from two to five years. Proponents argue that this will give administrators more time to be certain that they deserve “tenure”. Experience shows us that probationary teachers can get consistently good evaluations and still be let go by the district without reason or appeal. Why should a professional be put in this position for 5 years.
The proposal assumes that administrators are good evaluators, and that they use fair and reasonable criteria. There is no evidence to support these assumptions.

What is called “tenure” is simply the right to due process- an opportunity to improve and the right to a hearing for those who choose to contest the administrator’s decision.

Proposition 74 targets teachers as the problem in our public schools, without facing the problems of school budgets and finance. It misleads by claiming that tenure protects bad teachers, not acknowledging that tenure laws only provide due process guarantees.

Our real problem is finding ways to keep new teachers in the schools. Proposition 74 will discourage new teachers.

What do you think? Use the reply buttons below to express an opinion. Please indicate whether or not you are a teacher.

First look at new state test scores

Most Students Lack Proficiency Despite Rise in Test Scores
By Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin
Times Staff Writers

11:10 AM PDT, August 15, 2005

California public school students showed steady gains on standardized tests of math and English last spring, building on several years of progress that state education officials attributed today to a strong focus on academic standards in classroom instruction.

Despite the improving scores, however, less than half of California's 4.8 million test takers reached a level of proficiency in math and English — the goal set by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The proficiency hurdle was underscored by a separate Times analysis that found only incremental gains among California sixth graders — the first crop of students who were tested each year since standards instruction and assessment went into widespread practice five years ago.

In some of California's largest urban school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, sixth grade math achievement declined over the last two years after initial gains, the analysis found.

Still, California's top education official said he was pleased with the upward movement in test scores statewide and with the fact that so many more students were taking exams geared to college preparatory math and science classes.

"With five years of data, we can now see a clear trend of student gains," Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement.

Like many other states, California has moved in recent years to establish a system of standards instruction. The standards specify what students are supposed to know in each subject at every grade level.

For example, second graders must be able to understand common synonyms and antonyms, while seventh graders must show they can add and subtract fractions.

Annual tests to measure students' knowledge of the English-language arts standards were first given five years ago; math tests followed a year later. Standards exams for other subjects such as science and history also have been instituted.

Monday's results were the latest measure of California's shift to this new system, and were based on tests taken last spring by students in grades 2 to 11.

The state also released separate test results for California's high school exit exam, a graduation requirement for the class of 2006. Students are allowed to take the test multiple times in high school.

The results showed that 88% of the 2006 class had passed the math test, which is geared to ninth grade standards, and 88% had passed the English-language arts exam, pegged to a 10th grade level. The state could not say what percentage of students passed both tests. Those figures are due out next month from an outside evaluator.

The passing rates were higher for white and Asian students than for Latino and African American students.

State leaders said that California's academic standards are among the most challenging in the nation, an assertion backed up by independent groups that have analyzed the guidelines.

The state's schools have shown significant progress in meeting the standards in recent years, the test scores showed.

For example, 54% of California's third graders reached the proficient level in math last spring, a 16 percentage point jump from three years ago.

And in English-language arts, 43% of ninth graders were proficient last spring, a 15 percentage point increase over four years earlier.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Who pays to attack unions?

Eight big donors prop up Prop. 75

Campaign finance filing shows business groups fund move to limit public employee unions.

By Andy Furillo -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Eight major donors accounted for more than half of the financial support for an initiative that would restrict public employee unions' political spending, according to campaign finance reports made public Monday.
The contributions were funneled into the Yes on Proposition 75 campaign through the Small Business Action Committee, whose leader is closely tied to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ameriquest Capital, of Orange, gave SBAC $250,000. The California Business Properties Association's issues committee contributed $200,000. The New Majority Political Action Committee, which represents moderate Republican business owners, came in at $150,000. Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton, who died in a June 27 plane crash, contributed $100,000.

Other large contributors included Eureka mortgage broker Robin P. Arkley II ($100,000), Los Angeles investment banker Frank Baxter ($75,000), Beverly Hills businesswoman Paula Kent Meehan ($50,000) and the Watson Land Co. of Carson ($10,000).

Opponents of the initiative, which would require public employee unions to obtain the annual written consent of their members before spending their dues money on political purposes, have accused the committee of trying to hide its funding sources in the run-up to the Nov. 8 special election. They also suggested that the disproportionate share of the group's political cash belies its name.

"The voters know that the people behind Proposition 75 are more interested in increasing the power of corporations," No on 75 spokeswoman Sarah Leonard said.

But Small Business Action Committee head Joel Fox said the group collected 150 more contributions from small donors and that two of its bigger backers - the New Majority and the business properties PACs - are made up of substantial numbers of smaller contributors.

"Obviously, we had a handful of donors who made the majority of the donations," said Fox, who in the past has worked as a senior policy consultant to Schwarzenegger. "But that's not unusual in our business."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

CTA Sues the Governor

Lawsuit seeking cash for schools

Governor broke his word, say teachers and schools chief.

By Alexa H. Bluth -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, August 10, 2005

California's largest teachers union and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced Tuesday that they have sued Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to seek $3 billion more for public schools.
The California Teachers Association and O'Connell, a Democrat elected statewide to his nonpartisan post, say the Republican governor broke his word and violated state law by failing to give K-14 schools (K-12 schools and community colleges) more in his 2005-06 budget. Some California parents also joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"We've exhausted all of our other remedies, and the judicial option is our last remaining option to adequately fund public education," O'Connell said.

Schwarzenegger's budget aides said Tuesday they are confident the lawsuit will not hold up in court and that the governor's budget was approved legally by the state Legislature and sufficiently funds schools.

The lawsuit comes after a months-long battle between Schwarzenegger and education advocates over a deal they struck in January 2004.

Facing a massive budget shortfall, the new governor persuaded a powerful and vocal education coalition to accept a $2 billion cut to K-12 schools and the suspension of Proposition 98's minimum funding guarantees. In exchange, it was announced, the cut and any resulting lost money from the suspension would be restored in future years when the state's fiscal picture brightened.

"Just one year later, however, the governor changed his mind about the funding agreement," states the lawsuit filed late Monday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Prop.77 Fails the test: Again

Appeals Court Upholds Move to Strike Redistricting Proposal
By Nancy Vogel and Alicia Wittmeyer
Times Staff Writers

4:00 PM PDT, August 9, 2005

The state appeals court ruled today to keep Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal off the Nov. 8 special election ballot, siding with the state attorney general and setting the stage for a quick appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In its 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel backed Atty. Gen . Bill Lockyer, who had argued that the version of the proposition that was circulated among voters to collect signatures to place it on the ballot was different than the initiative that was given to his office, which is illegal.

Proposition 77, a keystone of the governor's agenda, would attempt to strip lawmakers of the power to redraw legislative and congressional districts, giving the task instead to a panel of retired judges in order to make the process less political.

"The petitioners could easily have avoided or discovered and corrected the problem of different versions before the circulation of the petitions," the ruling said.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland issued the dissenting opinion, saying that any challenges to the validity of the proposition should wait until after the election is held.

Supporters of the proposition had said the wording differences were minor technicalities that would not have mattered to voters, and that in substance, they had obeyed the law.

"The court today ignored the will of nearly 1 million Californians who signed petitions demanding redistricting reform," Schwarzenegger in a statement after the ruling. "Those voters knew they were signing petitions in support of reform and they deserve to get it."

The versions had 17 differences, sometimes with single words replaced, other times with entire passages reworded.

Daniel Kolkey, the attorney representing the proposition's supporters, said he plans on filing a petition for an emergency review with the state Supreme Court tomorrow. The court has 60 days to process the review.

Voter guides for the special elections are scheduled to be printed on Aug. 15.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Corporate bashing of schools

The School Administrator Web Edition
August 2005

Refrains of the School Critics

Behind the rhetoric lies a contempt in some quarters for the work of public educators


George Packer, a New Yorker staff writer, points to the danger of clarity, observing that seemingly simple and tough-minded words blow out as much smoke as the jargon of the Pentagon of decades past.

Nowhere is this smoke thicker and trickier than in the lingo the corporate-politico-media squad uses when talking about public schools. At first glance, their talk seems plain and to the point: failing schools, caring about education and education as war. In contrast, education progressives befuddle the public with authentic means of assessment,decision-making processes and triangulated learning.

But the simplicity is deceptive. The expression failing public schools has a lot in common with war on terror. After the media parrot these phrases often enough, we find ourselves at war and in the morass of radical public school deformation. Familiarity breeds acceptance. We need to unpack the knee-jerk, smoky phrases to examine the purposes behind the rhetoric we are in danger of taking for granted.

What follows are refrains about schools plucked from the news--not always unique statements but phrases repeated so often they have become jingles framed around a common theme: Make sure the public can’t think about public schools without thinking about failure.

The structure below is designed to encourage people to look closely at the rhetoric used to describe schools. Readers are invited to unpack popular phrases, to think about what is revealed and what is hidden. In so doing, we can keep our own discourse free of the corporate catchphrases.

Refrain: Schools are failing.

Example: We need to acknowledge that our K-12 education system is failing--Our future U. S. competitiveness hinges on fixing it.

Speaker: American Electronics Association Board of Directors, in a report, “Offshore Outsourcing in an Increasingly Competitive and Rapidly Changing World: A High-Tech Perspective”

What It Means: When your job is outsourced, blame the schools. When the dollar tanks, blame the schools.

What It Hides: The only concern here is the bottom line. Corporations ship jobs overseas because that’s where the cheap labor is.

Something to Consider: More than five times as many people die from drugs prescribed by physicians than from the combined effect of street use of cocaine, heroin and Ecstasy, but there is no hysteria about the failing medical system.

Refrain: Caring about education.

Example: “In these times, caring about education means caring about the implementation of No Child Left Behind.”

Speaker: Joseph M. Tucci, chair, Business Roundtable’s Education and the Workforce Task Force

What It Means: The Business Roundtable has been on-message about public schools since the 1980s. The organization has flooded the media with its message and formed a network of public and private organizations characterized by incestuous partnerships, overlapping alliances and common funding sources.

What It Hides: With 8-year-olds vomiting on high-stakes tests, special education students forced to take tests on their age level instead of their developmental level (and their school labeled failures when this doesn’t work), and high schoolers who want to be welders shut out of a high school diploma, caring seems a distinctly inappropriate word here. With care-givers like the Business Roundtable, public schools need no enemies.

Refrain: Education as war I

Example: “ America is engaged in an unconventional conflict that stretches to every corner of the globe. … Our nation, which has prevailed in conflict after conflict over several centuries, now faces a stark and sudden choice: adapt or perish.

“I'm not referring to the war against terrorism but to a war of skills--one that America is at a risk of losing to India, China and other emerging economies. And we're not at risk of losing it on factory floors or lab benches. It's happening every day, all across the country, in our public schools. Unless we transform those schools--by upgrading our corps of classroom teachers for the next generation -- and do it now, it will soon be too late.”

Speaker: Louis V. Gerstner, chairman, Carlyle Group, and former CEO, IBM, and founder, The Teaching Commission (“ Bad Schools + Shackled Principals = Outsourcing,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 7, 2004)

What It Means: Noted researcher Gerald Bracey calls Gerstner the “captain of the scare industry.” Here, Gerstner provides a variation on the failing schools theme. Blame the teachers for outsourced jobs. Schools are a battlefield and the teachers are warriors. Referring to education professionals as a corps fits right in with the battlefield metaphor with the first meaning of corps being “a separate branch or department of the armed forces having a specialized function.” The second meaning is “a tactical unit of ground combat force.”

What It Hides: As co-author of Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in American Public Schools, Gerstner defined students as “human capital” and urged schools to compare themselves to each other as “Xerox compares itself to L.L. Bean for inventory control.” But it’s the global economy, not public schools, that’s destroying the working class. Corporate greed, not teacher skill, is the problem.

Refrain: Education as war II

Example: Des Moines school officials laid out their battle plans for closing gaps in academic achievement for struggling minority and poor students.

Speaker:The Des Moines Register, “Board Discusses Achievement Gap,” July 14, 2004

What It Means: When corporate leaders make repeated use of a metaphor, the media picks it up. And so do school officials. Warning: When you look at what happens in school as a battle, you’re not far from seeing students as the enemy.

What It Hides: Most people enter education with the idea it is a helping profession, not a battlefield.

Refrain: The knowledge supply chain

Example: “ Companies are reaching even further down the knowledge supply chain, to K-12 teachers and students. … I dream of the day when I can go to a knowledge systems integrator, specify my needs and have them put all the partners together to deliver the people I need.”

Speaker: A presenter at the Conference Board 2002 Business and Education Conference during a session, “The Business Role in PreK-16 Learning: Aligning the Knowledge Supply Chain.” The phrase, knowledge supply chain, also is used by the National Alliance of Business in Work America, a newsletter published in May 1998.

What It Means: Instead of anteing up to train their own workers, corporate America demands that schools supply the personnel specified in their business plan.

What It Hides: Corporate America wants education to be a delivery system. Corporate leaders say they want schools for the 21st century, but their rhetoric is right out of the industrial-efficiency movement of the early 20th century. Now, as then, schools exist as the vehicle for regulating little chunks of human capital.

Refrain: Beefed-up kindergarten academics

Example: Nap time needs to go away. We need to get rid of all the baby school stuff they used to do. (“Time May Be Up for Naps in Pre-K Class,” The Washington Post, March 15, 2004)

Speaker: André J. Hornsby, former superintendent, Prince George’s County, Md., Public Schools

What It Means: In hyper-academic frenzy, kindergartners get DIBELS-tested on their speed parroting of nonsense syllables--instead of singing, dancing, finger painting, block building and hanging from the monkey bars.

What It Hides: Developmentally appropriate practices are abandoned in favor of giving the appearance of high standards. Suddenly, 5-year-olds worry they aren’t good enough to measure up to the demands of the global economy. Battling this tide, the admissions office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked seniors who applied: "Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it."

Refrain: Preparing all students for the 21st century

Example: “Today, more than ever, we live in a global economy where competition and technology are changing the workplace and impacting economic success for all Americans. U. S. schools must change if they are to prepare all students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. This is not a partisan issue.”

Speaker: Edward B. Rust Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm Insurance Co.; former chair, The Business Roundtable’s Education Initiative; and member National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. (Testimony before House Subcommittee on Education Reform, March 8, 2001)

What It Means: Rust is right that this isn’t a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike embrace the corporate agenda. When working people can’t find living-wage jobs and their children don’t pass the high-stakes test for a high school diploma, blame the schools. When 50-year-old high tech workers find their jobs shipped to India, blame the schools.

What It Hides: The global economy is a cutthroat slaughterhouse for which corporate America assumes only profits, not responsibility. Despite all the hype, algebra cannot ensure a living-wage job for tomorrow’s workers. As Gerald Bracey and Richard Rothstein have pointed out in their essays, technology often lowers the skills needed for jobs. Moreover, even a casual glance at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’Occupational Outlook Handbook, ( www.bls.gov/oco)reveals that retail sales positions account for almost as many jobs as the top 10 fastest-growing occupations combined.

In case you missed it: Sandy Kress, education adviser to President George W. Bush and prime architect of No Child Left Behind, pointed out in his keynote address to the EduState Summit in June 2004: "The Business Roundtable has been at the forefront of the effort to craft, pass and implement the No Child Left Behind Act."

Refrain: Failing schools, failing teachers

Example: “While Orange County recruits top teachers to its F graded high schools, others who could not make the grade are being relocated from the F campuses to schools throughout the county.”

Speaker: Orlando Sentinel (Lead paragraph by Mary Shanklin, “23 F-School Teachers Are Relocated,” July 29, 2004)

What It Means: Under a school grading system, everyone is labeled, including teachers and principals.

What It Hides: The fact students in affluent areas score well on standardized tests tells us more about their parents’ income than their teachers’ abilities. To say teachers in poverty schools “could not make the grade” deliberately obscures the needs of children living in poverty, needs like adequate housing, nutrition, and health care. Richard Rothstein points out that if we want to raise test scores, then we should get the lead out of students’ housing and fix their teeth.

Refrain: The private-sector fix

Example: With its ambitious proposal to reinvent Chicago's worst schools, the city has become the biggest player in the boldest experiment now under way in urban school systems-- inviting the private sector to fix what's wrong with public education.

Speaker: Chicago Tribune , “A Bold Experiment to Fix Chicago’s Schools,” June 27, 2004

What It Means: Private-sector incursions into public education are described as ambitious, bold, inviting and inventive. Public school employees are described as failing, inadequate and not making the grade.

What It Hides: Say it out loud: Edison. The private-sector track record is not good.

:Susan Ohanian, a former teacher, is a free-lance writer based in Charlotte, Vt. E-mail: susano@gmavt.net. She is the co-author of Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A view on teacher tenure Proposition

The Irascible Professor SM
Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition."... ... Jacques Barzun.

Commentary of the Day - July 31, 2005: California's Teacher Tenure Reform Initiative - A Reluctant "No".

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made education a high priority in the "State of the State" address that he delivered this past January. Two initiatives on the November 8th special education ballot address the governor's education priorities. One, Proposition 76, would revise the school funding mandates that were included in the previously approved Proposition 98 to make it easier for the governor to reduce school funding during budget shortfalls. The other, Proposition 74, would revise California's teacher tenure laws to make it more difficult for a probationary teacher to be granted tenure; and, to make it easier to fire tenured teachers whose performance is deemed "unsatisfactory".

Under current California law, probationary teachers are granted tenure (actually "permanent employee" status) after two years of satisfactory performance. Once granted "permanent employee" status, teachers can be dismissed from their positions for a variety of "just causes". These include among others: immoral or unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, "unsatisfactory performance", "evident unfitness for service", alcoholism or drug abuse, and the commission of a felony or crime of moral turpitude.

The initiative would make it more difficult for a probationary teacher to be granted permanent employee status by increasing the probationary period to five years. It also would make it easier for school districts to fire teachers with permanent employee status by making two consecutive annual unsatisfactory evaluations prima facie evidence of "unsatisfactory performance" within the meaning of the education code. The initiative, if passed, would allow school boards to ignore two sections of the California education code that provide important protections to a tenured teacher who has been accused of unsatisfactory performance.

The Irascible Professor favors the part of the initiative that would lengthen the probationary period. Two years just is not enough time to determine if a probationary teacher is making sufficient progress to grant permanent status. At the college and university level the probationary period usually is seven years. While the credentialling process in California often requires a certain amount of practice teaching, most probationary teachers still have much to learn about actual classroom teaching. Learning to teach is, in most cases, a gradual process. A probationary period of five years would give both the teacher and the school district enough time to ensure that (1) the probationary teacher has made satisfactory progress, and (2) that classroom teaching really is what the candidate wants for a profession.

The argument most often made against extending the probationary period for public school teachers is that it already is difficult enough to find people to fill the many teaching vacancies in urban school districts because of low pay and hard working conditions. Making tenure more difficult to attain would only reduce the number of applicants. Another argument against increasing the probationary period is that in California, as in much of the nation, new teachers on average leave the profession after about five years on the job so an extensive probationary period is not needed.

The IP thinks that both of these arguments are weak. Low pay and difficult working conditions are a fact of life in public education. However, that is no reason to grant permanent employee status to applicants whose competency is marginal or worse. The fact that the average tenure of a new teacher is only five years also is not a good argument to grant tenure after only two years on the job. Tenure implies a long-term commitment on the part of the employer, so it should be reserved for those teachers who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the profession.

While the IP supports the part of the initiative that would extend the probationary period, there are two features of the initiative that are troubling enough to cause him to recommend a "no" vote. The first is that the five-year probationary period would apply to all probationary teachers whose "probationary period commenced with the 2003-2004 fiscal year or any fiscal year thereafter." This means that probationary teachers who already have been hired with the understanding that the two-year probationary period applies to them would be affected by the new law. There is something distasteful about changing the rules in the middle of the game, and the law -- if approved by the voters -- should only apply to those hired after the date the law goes into effect.

More troubling is the section of the initiative that would allow school boards to ignore sections 44934 and 44938 of the California education code when dismissing tenured teachers for unsatisfactory performance. The first of these sections ensures that the teacher is given an adequate notice that outlines the specifics that resulted in the unsatisfactory performance evaluation. The second section gives the teacher the opportunity to correct his or her deficiencies.

If the probationary period for tenure is extended to five years, then the tenured teacher should be presumed competent unless a good case can be made for the contrary conclusion. Dismissals of tenured teachers should be made only for good cause, and only after due process. The changes proposed in the initiative would make it too easy for vindictive administrators to dismiss tenured teachers for reasons other than genuinely unsatisfactory performance.

For these reasons, The Irascible Professor concludes that the initiative is fatally flawed, and urges a "no" vote on it.

© 2005 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.
(c) 2005 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro, used by permission.
Dr. Shapiro is editor and publisher of The Irascible Professor (http://irascibleprofessor.com ).

Governor and big business allies

Governor, allies spent $23 million

Ballot measure costs rising, with foes having raised $22 million.

By Gary Delsohn -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, August 2, 2005
With his special election still more than three months away, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his business allies have spent more than $23 million since the first of the year to qualify and promote his ballot initiatives.

New campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state's office on Monday show most of the pro-Schwarzenegger money went to petition circulators, political consultants, direct mail, and television and radio advertising.

The money was almost equally divided between Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team, which spent $11 million, and the Citizens to Save California, a business group, which spent $12 million.

"You've got very big numbers coming in, and I don't think it's unrealistic that in what was supposed to be an off-election year - when it's all done - this special election could see in excess of $500 million in spending," said Barbara O'Connor, a politics and media expert at California State University, Sacramento.

"The numbers are extraordinary. They're obscene - despite the fact the citizenry of California says, 'We don't want this election, we don't understand why you're doing it and why aren't you doing your jobs, you politicians?' "

Various groups have come out against the Republican governor's special election initiatives, including the California Teachers Association and the Alliance for a Better California, a coalition of Democrats and public employee labor unions. They have raised about $22 million and spent about half that on advertising against Schwarzenegger's agenda.

Shortly after Schwarzenegger laid out his government overhaul agenda in January, he said he would need $50 million to campaign for his ballot initiatives. He predicted the other side would spend at least $200 million.

"In a state the size of California, it costs an awful lot of money to get your message out," said Todd Harris, a Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman.

"We've had to pay for TV advertising, for radio advertising, for the governor's political events. And when you do all of that in a state this size, the money adds up very quickly."

The pro-and anti-Schwarzenegger money is especially noteworthy given that his "reform" agenda has shrunk considerably from when he first announced his intentions.

His proposal for teacher merit pay never qualified for the ballot. Schwarzenegger withdrew his pension overhaul proposal when it created an outcry from unions and public safety officials who said it would have eliminated death and disability payments for widows and orphans, something Schwarzenegger denied.

A Superior Court judge disqualified Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal after state Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued because circulated petitions contained language different from the measure filed and certified for signature gathering.

Although Schwarzenegger and his allies say they hope a court appeal will get redistricting back on the ballot, they're currently certain of submitting just two measures to voters.

His so-called "Live Within Our Means" initiative, which would give the governor broad new powers to make spending cuts, trails in voter surveys. His other proposal, making it harder for public school teachers to get tenure, is ahead in most polls.

Although the spending report for Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team shows the committee was $1 million in debt on June 30, spokesman Harris said it now has about $1 million in the bank.

"The debt is gone," Harris said. "We're doing very well right now as far as fundraising goes, but we are facing an opponent with a bottomless well of money from which to draw, so we are ever mindful of that fact."

Two Democratic state officeholders who want to take Schwarzenegger's job - Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly - have 2006 gubernatorial bank accounts that dwarf Schwarzenegger's own 2006 fund.

Schwarzenegger collected $2.1 million for 2006 during the first six months of the year - although he has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.

The governor's re-election account was left with about $150,000 on hand and $275,000 in debt at the end of June. It spent more than $2 million on campaign consultants, political events and a $35,000-plus hotel bill at the Hyatt Regency, where Schwarzenegger bunks while in Sacramento.

The campaign paid $254,000 to Oak Productions, Schwarzenegger's holding company, and $202,000 to San Francisco-based Hartmann Studios, which has provided lighting and other production assistance for some of his public appearances. The re-election committee also gave $1 million to the governor's California Recovery Team.

Angelides, the first to announce he would run for the Democratic nomination next year, had $16.8 million in the bank at the end of June, having raised $4.7 million in the first six months of the year. He formally entered the race in March.

Westly's campaign announced Monday that he had $13.2 million on hand at the end of the reporting period, including $10 million of his own money that he poured into the race after he announced his candidacy in June. The former eBay executive also contributed $5 million more on Monday to his 2006 campaign committee.

In the race to replace Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, reported more than $1.9 million in cash. She raised more than $800,000 through June 30.

State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi had $450,000 in cash on hand, having raised nearly $429,000 so far this year.

About the writer:
• The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or gdelsohn@sacbee.com. Clea Benson, Alexa H. Bluth, Andy Furillo and Dan Smith of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Corporate donors buy democracy

Eight big donors prop up Prop. 75

Campaign finance filing shows business groups fund move to limit public employee unions.

By Andy Furillo -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Eight major donors accounted for more than half of the financial support for an initiative that would restrict public employee unions' political spending, according to campaign finance reports made public Monday.
The contributions were funneled into the Yes on Proposition 75 campaign through the Small Business Action Committee, whose leader is closely tied to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ameriquest Capital, of Orange, gave SBAC $250,000. The California Business Properties Association's issues committee contributed $200,000. The New Majority Political Action Committee, which represents moderate Republican business owners, came in at $150,000. Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton, who died in a June 27 plane crash, contributed $100,000.

Other large contributors included Eureka mortgage broker Robin P. Arkley II ($100,000), Los Angeles investment banker Frank Baxter ($75,000), Beverly Hills businesswoman Paula Kent Meehan ($50,000) and the Watson Land Co. of Carson ($10,000).

Opponents of the initiative, which would require public employee unions to obtain the annual written consent of their members before spending their dues money on political purposes, have accused the committee of trying to hide its funding sources in the run-up to the Nov. 8 special election. They also suggested that the disproportionate share of the group's political cash belies its name.

"The voters know that the people behind Proposition 75 are more interested in increasing the power of corporations," No on 75 spokeswoman Sarah Leonard said.

But Small Business Action Committee head Joel Fox said the group collected 150 more contributions from small donors and that two of its bigger backers - the New Majority and the business properties PACs - are made up of substantial numbers of smaller contributors.

"Obviously, we had a handful of donors who made the majority of the donations," said Fox, who in the past has worked as a senior policy consultant to Schwarzenegger. "But that's not unusual in our business."

The eight donors accounted for $935,000, or 99 percent, of the $945,000 the committee has raised this year. A total of $555,000 of it went to the Coalition for Employee Rights, accounting for more than half of the $927,798 raised to gather petition signatures for Proposition 75. The state Republican Party gave $200,000 to the initiative.

The business committee, meanwhile, also gave $255,000 to the Californians for Fair Elections, which supported the redistricting initiative.

The No on 75 committee was formed after June 30 and was not subject to Monday's disclosure deadlines. But the secretary of state's records show that the Proposition 75 opponents have received more than $2 million from the Alliance for a Better California, a recipient committee funded mostly by labor unions and controlled by Democratic operatives.

"The alliance has a lot more money than we do," said Coalition for Employee Rights organizer Lew Uhler. "All this poor-mouthing about us being on the receiving end of corporate largesse is just ludicrous."

About the writer:

The Bee's Andy Furillo can be reached at (916) 321-1141 or afurillo@sacbee.com.
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