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Schwarzenegger has a dream:
"I control the budget -- so get out of the way!"

The governor supports these three ballot measures. Do not sign them. They will hurt schools and other vital services.

The "California Live Within Our Means Act"

Governor Schwarzenegger is calling this measure a "spending cap." He says that if the state runs out of money, it will cut all programs in an equal and fair way. This is a lie.

This measure gives the governor dictatorial power to cut the budget any way he wants to. It also reduces the amount of money the state is required to spend on public schools, including community colleges.

The state constitution gives the legislature (our elected representatives in the assembly and state senate) the power to decide how state money is spent. They are supposed to pass the budget by June 15 each year and make necessary changes in the middle of the fiscal year.

The governor can either sign or veto the budget. He can also reduce some programs before signing (the "line item veto"), but not after. He can declare an emergency mid-year, but the legislature has to change the budget.

Fiscal "Emergency"

The "California Live Within Our Means Act" lets the governor call a fiscal emergency as many as four times a year if there is 1.5% less money than the state had expected. (That is, if there is only $98.50 for every $100.) Then if the legislature does not agree on a solution in 45 days, the governor can cut whatever he wants. The governor also gets this power if the original budget is late.

The problem is that in California the legislature needs 2/3 of the members to agree to pass or change a budget. It takes a long time for that many people to come to an agreement, even if they all honestly want to. Most other states require only a simple majority (50% plus one). Since the budget is almost always late, the governor will get to spend our tax money.

Some people say we have to keep the 2/3 requirement for spending state money so that one party cannot make such important decisions alone. But they are willing to give all the power to one person. He is their friend, and the rest of us are "special interests."

Hurting teachers doesn't help kids

The "Put Kids First Act" should be called "Fire Any Teacher We Don't Like." And they don't like unions, or creativity, or spending money without making a profit. Teachers who organize other teachers, or who think differently from the teacher's guide tells them to, or have enough experience to be high on the salary scale could be fired without cause. That can't be good for kids.

The act has two parts. The first part increases a new teacher's probationary period from two years to five years. This new teacher has already been a student teacher in three different classrooms without pay and studied at least a year after graduating from college to get a teaching credential. It would take a college graduate at least six years to get a permanent job. But this isn't the really bad part.

Firing Veteran Teachers

The second part makes it very easy to fire experienced teachers. If a principal gives a permanent teacher two unsatisfactory evaluations in a row, the job is gone.

Currently, that teacher would be given a chance to improve with the help of a "peer reviewer," another teacher who is considered to be an expert and who has been trained to help others. After two years of coaching, a permanent teacher who does not become "satisfactory" can be let go under the current law.

Why do the rich people who belong to "Citizens to Save California" want to eliminate the peer review process which helps to make better teachers? Maybe they don't care about the quality of education. They just want it to be cheap.

"Excellent teaching," or union busting?

The "Excellence in Teaching Act" is a ballot measure supported by the governor and big business interests which is supposed to allow "merit pay" for teachers. The idea is that if you can pay teachers more for doing a better job, the students will get a better education.

There are two problems here.

Number 1: There is no real way to measure the quality of teaching for every child. This proposition does not try to find one.

Number 2: This proposition is not really about "merit pay." It is about taking away all rights to organize and bargain for wages and working conditions. It is a frontal assault on teachers' unions and all other school workers.

Ignore the Promises

The "Excellence in Teaching Act" starts with several sections that describe nice-sounding things it plans to do. It is important to know that these sections don't do anything. The real meat is in Section 4, which amends the Education Code, the law that governs how California schools work.

What it Really Does

This measure replaces the Education Code section about teacher employment status with an amendment to the California Constitution. It says that school districts will make all "employment decisions" based on teacher evaluations and students' test scores. "Employment decisions" means hiring, firing, paying, transferring, promoting or demoting. All agreements made with teachers' unions are broken. Because this will be in the state constitution, it will be very difficult to change.

Like the "Put the Kids First Act," the "Excellence in Teaching Act" provides for a five-year probationary period for new teachers instead of the current two years. It does not talk about firing veteran teachers. That would be covered under "employment decisions."

The "Excellence in Teaching Act" is a disaster for students. Teachers, fearful for their jobs, will not try anything new or different. They will teach to the test and do whatever the principal says. As the number of required teaching evaluations doubles, principals will be constantly observing teachers and filling out forms. They will not have any time to practice real educational leadership or organize community activities. Schools will look more like dull factories than places for children.

If the teachers' unions lose their power, we will lose major organizers in the fight to provide adequate funding for schools. The unions have been the guardians against voucher schemes and other efforts to end public education and turn it over to corporations. And that is the real goal of Governor Schwarzenegger and the "Citizens to Save California."

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