School Reform, Not More Money

In this election, voters are being asked to consider several large bond issues that would increase support for our public schools. State Proposition 51 authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for K-12 and community colleges. Locally, measure I2016 would authorize $135 million for the S.B. Unified School District and measure J2016 would authorize $58 million for SBUSD elementary school facilities.

While we all recognize the vital importance of education to our nation, and we have fond memories of teachers who set us on our paths to success through their interest in us, we must be aware of the waste and failures of the existing system. These include millions of dollars wasted on thousands of patronage jobs in our educational bureaucracy, and thousands of poor teachers protected by antiquated rules of tenure. Do I need to remind that the famous report on the deficiencies of our school system, A Nation at Risk, was published in 1983 — a generation ago ?

I suggest we withhold support for any new school bond issues until our public education system reforms itself:

• No more “social promotion.” Students must be at grade level before they will be promoted.

• Teachers should be evaluated annually for both subject knowledge and teaching effectiveness. Teachers should be required to pass high school exit exams and comprehensive exams in their field of instruction regularly.

• The least effective 10 percent of teachers should be identified annually by each school’s administration, and the teacher’s union should be required to select one-half of the named 10 percent for immediate termination. The other 5 percent would undergo retraining.

• The school year should require a minimum of 200 days of instruction (vs. 175 days currently). A day should include seven hours of instruction (not less than 350 minutes of student contact with a qualified instructor).

These reforms would give the public system a chance to show what it can do. There is more to be done, but these steps would be a good start. After these reforms, we can consider contributing more money.

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