Terribly Wonderful Gems...


By William Westmiller

It may be a great strategy. I hope it's successful. But, I just can't keep the secret. Promise not to tell those who would spare no expense to kill it. Everything that follows is confidential.
Proposition 8, on the November California Ballot, may be the most wonderful thing to happen to education in the past hundred years. The proposal could literally destroy the state's education oligarchy in one swift stoke. Governor Pete Wilson's initiative is such a radical innovation that it had to be buried in a cloak of exhaustive legalese and politically-correct floss. To avoid exposure, it was placed well down the ballot list and has been kept away from all media spotlights. The measure was given further cover by placing Proposition 1A, the biggest school bond issue in the state's history, at the top of the ballot, with a description that echoes that of Prop 8. Union bosses and PTA elitists have to kill Prop 8, while supporting Prop 1A. I can't imagine another tactical card that could have been played to give Prop 8 the best chance for approval by voters. If it passes, every parent of school-aged children should give thanks to the quiet angels.
The secret of Proposition 8 is that it returns control of public schools to parents. The State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Teacher's Unions, PTAs, and even local Boards of Education are thoroughly neutered by putting both curriculum and spending for individual schools into the hands of local Site Governing Councils, almost totally controlled by parents. The revisions effectively convert every school in California to super-Charter Schools, beyond anything allowed or imagined in the limited Charter program. The new Governing Councils would be two-thirds parents, elected by all the parents whose children attend the school. They would have complete authority over the school's curricula and expenditure of allocated funds. The gloomy dungeons of the State bureaucracy would crumble to the hope and light ofthousands of local Councils. The potential for innovation and achievement would be granted to those with the highest and best interests of the pupils closest to their hearts. The opportunity for amazing reforms and renewed enthusiasm for the school experience would suddenly blossom. That's the gem that's hidden under the obscure verbiage of Part 28, Section 15, Chapter 14.5, Provision 52990.5 (a), but it's not the only diamond in the rough.
Buried in the same vein of legal text is a provision that turns all hiring and firing decisions over to the principal of each school. While teachers will still be protected by some arcane civil service provisions, the selection of teachers will be left totally in the hands of each school administrator. Termination of incompetent and ineffective teachers will be immediate. No more secret decisions by school board personnel officers. No more union monopoly protecting every job at the expense of captured students. It's all in the principal's hands, a principal whose salary is controlled totally by the parent's Site Governing Council. For this provision alone, hosannahs should be ringing through the heavens.
But, that's not all. There's a political coup-de-tat for those who understand the skewed base and autocratic power of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This obscure and little-notice officer is elected by those few interested voters - unions and educrats - who understand the discretion and influence of this position. Proposition 8 grabs most of that power, reducing the Superintendent's broad mandate and putting a very tight focus on the specific obligations of a new Chief Inspector of Public Schools. While new bureaucrats are to be feared, this officer is little more than an auditor-clerk who simply accumulates and reports on the status of the newly independent schools and administers tighter competency tests for teachers. The Superintendent of all things politically correct can rage in the eternal fires of helpless political frustration.
None of these delightful jewels are highlighted in the title of the proposition. Class size reductions - already a fixed feature in the state - come first. Only marginally beneficial, class size reductions have been a structural icon for school reform across the nation. The minor changes in current law are relatively inconsequential. Immediate suspension of students for drug possession also gets a bullet in the voter pamphlets. Again, a minor change from the current recommended suspension, and just another icon to conventional wisdom. While these are only icons, they are also long-waved banners that can win broad support from knee-jerk voters. Even the most shallow motives can sometimes gain boundless blessings.
Alright, the angelic strategy isn't a secret. In fact, the mounting media battle against it will be anything but quiet. Television ads in opposition are nevertheless odd, given the character of the sponsors. Damning the imagined expense, they rail against expanding the legions of educational bureaucracy. But the opponents of Proposition 8 are the bureaucrats and spend-thrifts who have mis-managed public education for decades. It's slightly amusing that they must damn themselves in order to defeat the angels of light and hope. May the heavenly chorus sing their joy to the world of education on election day.

©1998, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CD) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
propos8.c10 ~850 Words

Home List Previous Next