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January 14, 2011 > Governor sacks pro-reform members of the state Board of Education

Governor sacks pro-reform members of the state Board of Education

Californians may be stuck with sub-par schools because the governor is beholden to the teachers' unions

Submitted By Education Action Group Foundation

Some old-timers still believe politics are more important than quality education for children.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, the Rip Van Winkle of American politics, sent a startling message to families last week by sacking seven pro-reform members of the state Board of Education and replacing them with defenders of the status-quo.

By doing so, Brown was clearly rewarding the California Teachers Association (CTA), which was among the largest contributors to his multi-million dollar campaign.

There is little doubt a dinosaur like Brown could not have staged a successful political comeback without renewing his alliance with the dinosaurs of education - the teachers' unions - who are fighting to preserve a system that has failed the state's children for years.

Perhaps Brown and the unions believe education was ideal in 1976 and nothing should be changed but millions of pro-reform Americans know better and are watching events unfold in California with a sense of dread.

The saddest part is that education reform was just beginning to take root in California. The state recently made national news by enacting the "Parent Trigger" law which allows parents of children in failing schools to unite and re-invent those schools. The Los Angeles school board is trying to make student test scores a vital component of teacher evaluations. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a man with strong union ties, recently blasted the teachers unions for standing in the way of reform efforts.

Nationally, the reform movement has started to take on a very real bipartisan flavor. Key Democrats across the nation, including President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim have been calling for union teachers to be more accountable for classroom performance.

They believe change is necessary to help our children receive a quality education and remain competitive with their peers abroad. They have joined with many in the GOP to call for teacher evaluations based largely on student test scores, the reform of tenure laws that protect bad teachers and more school choice to allow students to escape failing and dangerous schools.

However, some Democrats are clearly not on board, starting with Brown, who has already denounced the education reform movement as being "simplistic."

By putting his union friends in charge of education, Brown is signaling he will stand behind the CTA in an effort to force children to attend their local public schools, regardless of the quality of education available. He will fight efforts to hold teachers more accountable for student learning and will use his power to make it more difficult to dismiss bad teachers.

"For Brown and the unions, the most pressing goal is to make sure teachers are well-compensated, have great insurance and maintain a large clientele of students who are trapped in neighborhood schools by their zip code," said Kyle Olson, CEO of Education Action Group.

"Many of those neighborhood schools are awful but we really have to wonder whether Brown cares about that at all. The unions scratched his back at election time, now he's scratching theirs. The political game has run its natural course in California, and the children are the clear losers."

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