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By Haley Sweetland Edwards
April 13, 2015

Californians trust their public school teachers and want to spend more money supporting public schools, according to a recent poll.

But all that love isn’t unconditional.

California voters also say they oppose the state’s strong tenure laws and believe that all public school teachers should be held accountable through regular performance evaluations, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, released this week.

The study comes less than year after an important and controversial lower court decision, Vergara vs. California, found that the state’s tenure laws were unconstitutional. The case, currently under appeal, has been used as a template of sorts by activists engaged in similar legal battles against tenure laws in New York and beyond. Both those groups as well as teachers unions will likely use the results of this poll as evidence to advance their own agendas.

The poll, which is the largest statewide survey of registered voters, found that three-fourths of Californians are in favor of putting more money into public schools in economically disadvantaged areas, and 52% are in favor of extending a tax increase that provides additional funding to public schools and other programs. A strong majority—56%—said California public schools teachers are underpaid for the work that they do.

But the majority of California voters also said they wanted to change some key laws governing how teachers are evaluated and laid off.

More than one-third of California voters say they oppose tenure laws, which provide strong job protections for teachers are carefully guarded by the unions. Another 35% say they support tenure, but only after a teacher spends between four and ten years on the job. (California law currently grants teachers tenure after less than 2 years in the classroom.) Nearly three-fourths of California voters said they thought that making it easier to fire underperforming teachers would improve the quality of public schools, according to the poll, while 64% were in favor of tying teachers’ salaries to performance evaluations.

The vast majority of Californians think it doesn’t make sense to layoff teachers according to seniority: 53% said pink slips should go first to teachers with poor classroom evaluations, while 26% thought they should go to those who failed to positively impact students’ scores on standardized tests.

The poll surveyed 1,504 registered voters between March 28-April 7 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.7%.

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