California's citizens are suffering from an extraordinary level of cognitive dissonance when it comes to their schools:
41. California Public school teachers who receive a positive recommendation from supervisors are currently awarded “tenure” after eighteen months in the classroom. Teachers without tenure can be terminated for any reason. Tenured teachers can only be terminated for just cause, and they are entitled to due process protections that give them the right to contest the case against them. Which of the two positions do you agree with most:So nearly two-thirds of people say there shouldn't be any tenure. Except...
- We should keep tenure for public school teachers because it protects them from being fired based on personal or political reasons, prevents schools from firing more experienced teachers to hire younger, less-‐expensive teachers, and allows teachers freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisal. 25% (22% parents)
- Public school teachers should not receive tenure because the policy makes it extremely difficult to fire poorly performing teachers, so that many California school children, particularly those in economically challenged school districts get stuck with poor teachers year after year. 61% (65% parents)
- Can’t say/refuse. 14% (13% parents)
Yes, one-third of Californians said there shouldn't be any tenure -- right after two-thirds of Californians said there shouldn't be any tenure.44. California public school teachers are currently awarded tenure after 18 months in the classroom. Which of the following do you agree with most:Two years is too long for teachers to wait for tenure – 4% (5% parents)Two years is the right amount of time for tenure – 17% (13% parents)Two years is too soon for a teacher to earn tenure – 38% (41% parents)Public school teachers should not receive tenure at all – 35% (35% parents)Refuse – 6% (7% parents)
Jersey Jazzman (artist's conception)
OK, I'm being more than a little facetious. Polls are actually really hard to design well; item 41 asked which position the respondent agreed with "the most," which muddies the waters. Still, I think this poll tells us something about how people view the tenure debate: like most complex issues, they have a hard time reconciling disparate views:
- Nobody wants bad teachers in the classroom. But nobody wants to see someone get fired arbitrarily.
- Nobody thinks a bad teacher should get to keep her job while a good teacher is laid off. But nobody wants to see layoff decisions made that are functionally the same as rolling dice.
- Everyone thinks people who do a good job should be rewarded. But nobody thinks it's fair to reward only a scant few who happen to get lucky.
- Nobody thinks schools that serve poor kids should be staffed by inferior teachers. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to fire staff if you don't have good replacements -- and how do you get those without making working conditions better and raising pay?
- Nobody thinks anybody should have a "job for life." But I don't see many folks clamoring to pay more in taxes (especially in California), and tenure has a value to teachers but costs taxpayers nothing; who would want to get rid of something that's such a good deal for them?
- Nobody thinks our schools have enough money. But...
Actually, there's not much debate on this one:
Two-thirds of Californians don't think the state spends enough to educate its children.25. Do you think California public schools currently have the money needed to provide students with a quality education, or do you think the state should be spending more on schools?- California public schools have enough money -- 23% (19% parents)- The state of California should be spending more on schools -- 64% (70% parents)- Unsure 13% (11% parents)
Maybe David Welch can fund a lawsuit to do something about that. Of course, that would mean that he would have to pay more in taxes. Heaven forbid, he might actually have to pay as much as poor Californians do!
Now this is something I'd like to see a poll about; wouldn't you?