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Californians Like Teachers But Hate Teachers' Lifelong Tenure and Seniority: Poll

If California teachers felt a shadow pass over today, it was the fairly stunning PACE/USC Rossier Poll showing California residents are sick of "last hired, first fired" teacher union rules and oppose the nearly automatic tenure system that makes it all but impossible to fire crappy teachers.

Polls show that Californians like teachers in a general, warm way.  But teachers unions are making an enemy of the public on three principles: protecting inept teachers who, as the L.A. Times' "Grading the Teachers" showed, make kids fall far behind; insisting that layoffs target the young (often promising) teachers; and "earning" lifelong tenure after only 18 months of experience. Heads up! 73 percent of Californians now either oppose tenure full-stop, or say it should require more experience. The poll:

 According to the headline released by PACE/USC Rossier Poll this morning, " Calif. voters reject tenure, layoff rules for public school teachers."

A strong majority of California voters oppose the state's tenure and layoff policies for public school teachers, according to a new poll released just days after the landmark Vergara court case invalidated both statutes as unconstitutional.

The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll shows two-thirds of voters (68%) agree that the state should do away with "Last in, First Out," a policy that requires the newest K-12 teachers be laid off first, regardless of merit. Just 17 percent said California should continue to conduct teacher layoffs in order of seniority, according to the poll.

California voters also largely opposed the state's tenure laws for public school teachers, according to the poll. Six in 10 California voters said teachers should not continue to receive tenure, as it makes firing bad teachers difficult. 

In a ruling on June 10 that blew away United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and the California Teachers Association (CTA), Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, presiding over Vergara v. California, struck down California's near-ironclad tenure protections, as well as the "Last in, First Out" laws that push out young teachers, plus a number of other job protections that allow ineffective teachers to stay in classrooms.

Treu found that the teacher job-protection system long in place in California deprives students of their constitutional right to an adequate education.

The Vergara case focused on how the rules protecting the adults have created a two-tiered public school system in which poor and working-class neighborhood schools become a dumping ground.

See Also: L.A. Weekly's cover story, "The Dance of the Lemons," by Beth Barrett.

In a prepared statement, Julie Marsh, associate professor at USC Rossier School, said:

"The majority of California voters polled have expressed views that are consistent with Judge Treu's recent decision in Vergara. These views may give pause to those appealing the decision."

Marsh is talking about CTA and UTLA, who together control multimillion-dollar legal budgets, and have extensive legal teams they can tap to wage a long courtroom fight to stop Treu.

When asked specifically about awarding teachers tenure while they are still green, 38 percent said two years is too soon to award tenure, and 35 percent said just get rid of tenure, period.

Only 25 percent said California "should keep tenure for public school teachers to provide them job protections and the freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisals."

And just 17 percent of voters said two years of teaching experience was the "right amount of time" to be awarded tenure. Another 4 percent said two years was too long to wait for job tenure - um, who the heck is that bunch? 
 
The poll showed that 42 percent of voters had heard of or read about the Vergara decision earlier this month. That's a lot of people not glued to YouTube.  

Among those who knew about Judge Treu's Vergara decision, 62 percent said they approved of his ruling that teacher tenure rules violate the state constitution protections of children.

UTLA and CTA should note that 49 percent of voters now have a "somewhat or very negative" view of the unions' impacts on academic quality in the K-12 school system. Just 31 percent think teachers unions are having a "somewhat or very positive" impact on classroom quality.

Californians Like Teachers But Hate Teachers' Lifelong Tenure and Seniority: Poll