November 8, 2005 Ballot Prop. 74

Proposition 74: Teacher Tenure

Official Results

Available once the California Secretary of State has certified the election. This can take up to 3 weeks or more.

Yes votes: 3,516,071 (44.8%)
No votes: 4,329,025 (55.2%)


In his State of the State speech in January 2005, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced an ambitious set of reforms for education in California. Two initiatives on the Nov. 8 special election ballot carry forward aspects of this plan: the teacher tenure and school funding initiatives. Under current law teachers can become tenured after two years probation. The new proposal would extend the probation period to five years and expand the conditions under which permanent employees may be dismissed. Critics of the proposal claim it is an attack on teachers and will create teacher shortages in an already small pool of educators. Supporters of the proposition claim it will eliminate bad teachers who hide behind the tenure system and boost students' academic achievement.

Proposition 74

California was the first state in the country to establish teacher tenure law in 1921. Current state law mandates that teachers gain tenure in California after completing a two-year probationary period during which time they can be dismissed for poor performance by their school district. (see Education Code, Sec. 4929.20-44929.29). Once tenured, teachers gain a degree of security in their positions and can be dismissed only for just cause. State law dictates conditions under which a tenured teacher can be dismissed including unsatisfactory performance or misconduct. Low student achievement is not included as a condition for dismissal, a fact that critics have pointed to as a cause for continued low student performance in the state. In addition to dismissal conditions, state law specifies that a governing board must give written notice to an employee before initiating dismissal proceedings for unsatisfactory performance. The notice, including "specific instances of behavior" must be given to the employee three months prior to filing the charge. The law also mandates that the employee may request an administrative hearing within 30 days of receiving the notice. +

Education activists believe that tenure is an important safeguard that protects teachers from unfair disciplinary actions. Proponents of the current system also say that it is the only way to insure there will be enough teachers to instruct the more than 6 million students currently enrolled in California public schools. Critics of the current tenure system believe that the law has allowed bad or unfit teachers to hide behind tenure, adversely affecting students' performance. They point to recent studies that find that California currently ranks near the bottom of educational attainment.

Background Reading

Fact Book 2005 . California Dept. of Education, 2005.
"Statistics and information on a variety of subjects concerning education in California." 
[Website archived in Internet Archive]

The Initiative

On March 1, 2005, Gov. Schwarzengger formally endorsed the Put the Kids First Act, a proposal submitted by Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City). The Put Kids First Act qualified for the ballot on June 6, 2005. The plan would change the current tenure law in several ways. It would raise the amount of time new teachers must wait before they are covered by job protection rules from two years to five years for a certified position. It would also allow the school district to dismiss an employee after two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.

Proponents of the proposition claim that the Put the Kids First Act would allow school districts to fire teachers who consistently perform below expectations, thereby increasing student achievement in the state. They also believe that the act will allow school districts to dismiss teachers without the costly investment it now takes to fire a tenured teacher. Critics of the proposal say that the act will keep away teachers who will fear the five year probation term. In a state where school districts are already struggling to recruit teachers, they say that students will actually be hurt by increased class size resulting from fewer teachers.

Official Voter Information

Official Voter Information Guide

Campaign Finance: 
Individual Campaign Committees
Total Contributions and Expenditures (select "Nov. 2005 election" and "Prop. 74" in dropdown boxes) 

Public Opinion

CA Propositions 75, 76, 77 Defeated; Propositions 73, 74 Could Go Either Way. SurveyUSA, Election Poll #7443, Nov. 7, 2005.

Propositions 75, 76 and 77 appear to be losing; Voters divided on proposition 74. Los Angeles Times Poll, Nov. 2, 2005.

Propositions 73, 74, 75, 77 Losing Ground. Survey USA, Election Poll #7362, Nov. 1, 2005.

"NO side leads YES side on all four of the propositions backed by Governor Schwarzenegger," Field Poll, Release 2174, Nov. 1, 2005.

Baldassare, Mark.
PPIC Statewide Survey: Special Survey on Californians and the Initiative Process. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, October 2005.

Baldassare, Mark.
Special Survey on Californians and the Initiative Process. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, Public Policy Institute, September 2005
[Website archived in Internet Archive

"Prop. 75 continues to lead by big margin: strong tide running against prop. 76: Yes vote dropping on Prop. 74: narrow sentiment against prop. 77: divided vote on Prop. 80," Field Poll, Release 2168, Sept. 5, 2005.

"Schwarzenegger's Special Election Initiatives: More voters inclined to vote no on Governor's state spending/school funding and redistricting initiatives. Majority favors school teachers tenure changes.," Field Poll, Release 2159, June 22, 2005.

Baldassare, Mark. 
PPIC Statewide Survey: Special survey on education. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California, April 2005. 
[Website archived in Internet Archive]

Reports and Studies

Proposition 74: Teacher Tenure: 2005 Special Election Analyses, USC CAlifornia Policy Institute, Oct. 2005.
Summary Points

Proposition 74: Waiting Period for Permanent Teaching Status and Dismissal Procedures. Mountain View: EdSource, 2005.
[Website archived in Internet Archive]

Carroll, Stephen J., et al...
California's K-12 public schools: How are they doing? Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, Jan. 2005.

California's 2005 K-12 Education Primer. Los Angeles, Calif. : Reason Public Policy Institute, 2005.

Unsatisfactory Performance: How California's K-12 education system protect mediocrity and how teacher quality can be improved. San Francisco, Calif. : Pacific Research Institute, 2000.

Pro/Con Statements

Join Arnold [Website archived in UCLA Online Campaign Literature Collection] Better California [Website archived in UCLA Online Campaign Literature Collection]