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Tenure still a target

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In a never ending quest in a never ending attempt to make money, the "educational reform" movement, such as it is, will target tenure rules and push for private control of education in California, again.

In his column in the Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters outlined the probable upcoming attacks. Cloaked in the mantle of school reform, the reforms are thinly veiled attempts to strip teachers of tenure and to transfer as much money as possible into the coffers of the various pet projects of what is termed the "educational reform movement."

While it is commonly recognized that California really should devote more money to the schools, the business types want control of the money mainly so that it doesn't end up in teachers paychecks.

The thrust of the upcoming legal battles is, again, focused on teacher tenure, charter schools, and vouchers. Here's Walter's take on it:

"It’s a complicated conflict, but in its simplest form:

• The establishment contends that the state’s rather poor educational outcomes would be markedly improved by sharply raising California’s below-average school spending;

• Its foes don’t dispute the need for more money, but say that structural changes are needed to empower parents, widen educational choices, use test results to evaluate teachers, and make it easier to weed out incompetent teachers, regardless of seniority and tenure."

The "establishment" translates to teachers and teachers unions and associations, while "foes" translates to business types, consultants, and those with political aspirations or agendas.

While it may seem noble to bang the drum for structural changes that "empower parents, widen educational choices, use test results to evaluate teachers, and make it easier to weed out incompetent teachers, regardless of seniority and tenure", those are nothing more than political buzz words that have been carefully crafted by a raft of highly paid political consultants.

Throw in evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and the rhetoric gets even more fanciful.

First, stripping teachers of tenure rights simply means that more mature, and more expensive, teachers will be replaced whenever it is expedient, with younger, and much cheaper, teachers.

Those teachers with many years experience are much more likely to question policy decisions and to critically examine curricular change than newly minted rookies. In short, they're much more difficult to steamroll.

It is a given that in any group of professionals there are a few duds. Due process, however inconvenient, is critical when anyone is threatened with losing their job. Younger doesn't mean better. Older doesn't mean incompetent. It's a matter of money, pure and simple.

Second, the transfer of money from the public system to a voucher system or private charter schools doesn't make much sense. It is difficult to find a record of benefit to students related to either vouchers or charters.

Third, given the amount of money poured into initiatives to change the system in California, it seems prudent to question the return for the investments. Who, exactly, is going benefit from these changes?

When groups--StudentsFirst being one of many--spend over $1 million in one year (2012) to influence "school choice" and tenure initiatives, the warning bells should go off.

The question is whether political consultants, big business, and organizations run by ex-rookie, and completely ordinary, teachers should have to prove some kind of verifiable expertise in education prior to claiming to have the answers to what makes a good school system.

California, and the nation as a whole, cannot afford to allow the public school system, which always looks for better ways to educate the children in its care, to be hijacked in order to enrich those who would benefit from a corporate take over.

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