Initiative could affect school teachers’ probationary period

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A key education reform initiative on the Nov. 8 special election ballot could change how California school teachers move from probationary to permanent status, as well as how quickly a school may call for a teachers’ dismissal.

Proposition 74, labeled the “Put Kids First Act,” is one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reform measures on the ballot. The proposition extends the probationary period for teachers from two years to five years, and allows a dismissal for any teacher who receives two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.

Brian Ulatowski, a CSUN graduate who received his teaching credentials, said this proposition would make it easy for teachers to get dismissed.

“Evaluations are subjective,” Ulatowski said. “One teacher could have 20 gifted students, while another teacher could have 20 below-average students.”

California currently has a two-year probationary period for beginning teachers, but they can be dismissed at any time for unsatisfactory performance within that period.

California had a three-year probationary period from 1927 to 1982, but teachers had less legal rights to challenge dismissal decisions, according to the California Legislative Analysts office.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has said he wants to reform education, and is hoisting Proposition 74 as a key education reform initiative.

Matt Gerred, CSUN chapter president of the College Republicans, said that one look at California schools shows the need for reform.

“Two years is not enough time to evaluate someone’s ability,” Gerred said. “I don’t encourage anyone who thinks they can do a good job for only two years to go out there and teach. Something needs to be done, and Democrats are not proposing anything. They are only obstructing.”

Many public employees have perceived the governor’s statements as attacks, specifically on teachers’ unions.

On the California secretary of state’s website, in an official initiative statement, the governor and other supporters of the initiative said union bosses did not want any education reform, but want to continue receiving tax money.

Some teachers’ unions and other public employee unions have answered the governor’s initiative with television ads accusing the governor of trying to blame California teachers for the pitfalls of the California’s schools.

Los Angeles Unified School District board member Jon Lauritzen said that although the proposition could make it easier to terminate teachers, it could also make dismissal decisions prone to being based on political, religious, ethnic or other issues.

“Some teachers with great potential could be driven out of the profession,” Lauritzen said.

One of the projected advantages of Proposition 74 would be to save money by keeping lower-salaried, beginning teachers at their lower wage for a longer period.

A higher turnover rate could also lead to some schools keeping a larger number of these lower-salaried teachers on staff consistently, according to the Legislative Analysts office.

Barnett Shirley, a substitute teacher for the LAUSD, is at CSUN to obtain her teacher’s credentials, and said it is upsetting to see how far accountability for teachers goes.

“I don’t understand what gives (the governor) the right,” Shirley said.

She said she has been substitute teaching for eight years, and there are many like her already working in the LAUSD.

” It makes me want to keep (substitute teaching),” Shirley said. “It’s so unfair.”

Connie Llanos can be reached at connie.llanos.600@csun.edu.