Monday, October 10, 2005

Proposition 74 and the Sacramento Bee

Proposition 74 and the Sacramento Bee.
On Sunday, Oct. 9, the Sacramento Bee editorial board published an editorial urging a No vote on Prop.74; the Schwarzenegger proposal to extend probationary status for new teachers from 2 years to 5 years. While I applaud their position, their reasoning agrees with the governor on a number of important points.
Now, on Monday, Oct. 10,2005, the Sacramento Bee news department writes its major piece on Prop. 74 “Education plan faces voter test.” By staff writer Laurel Rosenhall. Keep in mind that news departments and editorial departments are separate.
The article which appears on page 1 is the first in a series on the major propositions.
The news article starts off with the case of Ryan Armitage. Unfortunately it also starts off using the Schwarzenegger frame on the issue. The first four paragraphs of the news story claim that Prop. 74 is about tenure. It is not.
Do California teachers have tenure? No. That is a misleading campaign spin. What they have after two years is due process rights- an opportunity to improve, and the right to a hearing. Simply put, teachers have a right to a fair hearing before being fired.
Poor teachers are dismissed under the current system. Quality principals at times remove poor teachers. The present laws do not prevent the removal of the incompetent teachers. The present law does not grant tenure. Tenure is the property right to a position (as a teacher). The proposition 74 proposals do not grant tenure.
The news story by writer Rosenhall is not an extreme nor partisan position, but she did make the substantive error of starting off with the framework provided by the governor’s campaign.
The remainder of the story is a rather balanced description of the two sides of the argument. The writer uses the press procedure of getting comments from two opposing sides. For example, she compares the positions of Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institute with the studies done by Linda Darling-Hammond. A careful reader will know that one is an opinion piece from a major conservative think tank and the second is a summary of research.
I encourage readers to keep in mind the role of well funded conservative think tanks in promoting a viewpoint. See the information in David Brock, The Republican Noise Machine: Right Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy.
In an interesting part of the story the author compares the governor’s proposal for a five year probationary status with those of other states. 33 States require 3 years of probationary status. Only Indiana and Missouri require five years.
Margaret Fortune, educational advisor to the governor sees this as California being a trend setter. Recall, Margaret Fortune- is the former director of Sacramento High School, where a highly controversial charter school was established behind her advocacy. Fortune is an advisor to the governor, along with Karen Young, and Alan Bersin, Secretary of Education and former failed superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, and others make up the Schwarzenegger educational team. These folks see the current attacks on teachers contained in Prop.74 as good policy.
Writer Rosenhall completed a reasonably balanced story on Prop. 74. It is good to see that writers with integrity can write news stories without bending to the demands of the partisans. Most current polls show Prop.74 failing along with Prop. 76.
Next steps: After defeating Prop. 74 and 76 on Nov.8, it is obvious that we need to organize a campaign to defeat Schwarzenegger ( and his anti teacher educational advisors) in the 2006 election.

Duane Campbell
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