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Poll: CA voters oppose teacher tenure and layoff laws

Vanessa Romo | June 26, 2014

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Press conference after Vergara decision LAUSD teacher tenure

Press conference after Vergara decision

A new poll shows that two-thirds of California voters agree that the state should get rid of “Last in, First Out,” a teacher tenure policy that requires the newest K-12 teachers be laid off first, regardless of merit. Just 17 percent said layoffs by reverse seniority should continue.

The poll was conducted by the USC Rossier School of Education and Stanford-based Policy Analysis for California Educations.

It also found that with or without knowledge of the landmark Vergara court case, which struck down California’s tenure and layoff policies for public school teachers, six in 10 respondents said teachers should not receive tenure because it makes firing bad teachers difficult. When asked if tenure for public school teachers provides them with job protections and the freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisals, only 25 percent said yes.

In response to the Goldilocks-type question: What is the right amount of time to grant tenure, which currently can be awarded after as few as 18 months in the classroom, a plurality of voters, 38 percent, said two years is too soon to award tenure, and 35 percent said public school teachers shouldn’t receive tenure at all.

Seventeen percent of voters said two years was the “right amount of time” to earn tenure, and 4 percent said two years was too long.

“The majority of California voters polled have expressed views that are consistent with Judge (Rolf) Treu’s recent decision in Vergara,” said Julie Marsh, associate professor at the USC Rossier School. “These views may give pause to those appealing the decision.”

The poll showed that 42 percent of voters had heard or read about the Vergara decision, with 58 percent saying they had not heard or read much or any at all about the decision.

The poll also surveyed public sentiment on other education issues:

  • Teachers unions in the state: 49 percent of voters said they have a “somewhat or very negative” impact on the quality of K-12 education, with 31 percent saying unions have a “somewhat or very positive” impact.
  • Common Core: 44 percent of voters had a negative impression of the new standards, as compared with 38 percent who said they hold a positive impression. Among Democrats, 46 percent had a positive impression of Common Core, compared with 34 percent who had a negative impression. Among Republicans, 56 percent of voters had a negative impression, and 30 percent had a positive impression.
  • Race for State Superintendent of Instruction: More than a quarter, 27 percent, said they would vote for incumbent Tom Torlakson, 16 percent chose charter school executive Marshall Tuck, and 57 percent said they couldn’t say.
  • Overall state of public education system in California: 38 percent gave the state’s schools a grade of “C,” and 43 percent of voters graded them a “D” or “F,” while 26 percent of voters gave their local public schools a “D” or “F” rating.

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