WESTMINSTER—“Thirty years ago our schools were the best in the nation,” Gov. Pete Wilson said. “That is no longer true.”
Wilson addressed a small crowd at a Proposition 8 campaign press event in front of the Westminster Police Department on Thursday morning in support of the measure’s strict new drug policy.
“Too many kids turn to drugs and turn off the road to opportunity and success,” Wilson said. “Prop 8 calls for zero-tolerance of drugs on school grounds, just like we already have for the crimes of possessing a gun or knife.”
Under current law, principals and superintendents are given complete discretion with regard to the consequences of drug possession. Expulsion is required only for the sale of illegal drugs, not possession.
Prior to the press conference, Wilson and Westminster Chief of Police James Cook toured a previously drug-infested apartment complex adjacent to a school.
“In order to compete with other students across the world, changes must be made,” Wilson said. “We need to protect our children from drugs in school. There cannot be any teaching, there cannot be any learning in a drug environment.”
If passed, Proposition 8 would require that any student caught in possession of illegal drugs on campus be immediately suspended and recommended for expulsion. The only exception is for the first offense of possession of a small amount of marijuana.
“We need a strong deterrent for these kids who sell drugs to other kids,” Cook said. “Zero tolerance is necessary. We’re fighting drugs on the streets and to succeed, we must get them off school campuses.”
Wilson emphasized that students who are expelled will not just be cast out of school but given another chance. Expelled students will be sent to a continuation school with more stringent standards.
The Permanent Class Size Reduction and Educational Accountability Act of 1998 would also:
• Create an chief inspector of public schools.
The chief inspector would act as an auditor and will be responsible for biannually inspecting every California public school and reporting the findings to the governor, Legislature, State Board of Education, superintendent of public instruction, and parents and other taxpayers.
• Increase the responsibilities of school site councils and principals.
This will establish school site governing councils comprised of classroom teachers (one-third) and parents (two-thirds) selected by their peers. Working with the principal, and consistent with current state law, the councils will be charged with making decisions regarding curricula and spending school board-allocated funds.
This grant would give principals the authority to hire or fire any school employee (teachers and non-teachers) deemed sub-standard. Under current law, districts would have to find another job for many of these employees.
• Alter the state qualifications that must be met by teachers in California.
This will require that teachers pass a subject matter competency examination prior to receiving a credential or being assigned to teach a different subject.
• Require teachers to keep lesson plans on the subjects they teach.
Instructors would be required to submit lesson plans consistent with curriculum requirements before being assigned to a classroom.
• Prevent the state from reducing funding for the existing kindergarten through grade three class-size reduction program.
This will require that funding that for kindergarden to third grade class-size reduction be guaranteed in the state budget.
The amount of funding is adjusted annually to account for inflation ensuring that every kindergarden to third grade classroom in California contains no more than 20 students.
A few members of Associated Students also attended to see Wilson speak.
AS President Christian Tesoro said that although members weren’t on hand to show support representatively, those who did attend, supported the proposition individually.
Kristine Buse, AS vice president, said she is in favor of the proposition.
“I like all the major points that the measure will address, except for the creation of a Chief Inspector of Public Schools,” Buse said. “That’s just one guy who will be reporting on 8,000 public schools.”
While Wilson was speaking, a few AS members stood behind him and held up posters in support of the proposition.
Ashik Popat, AS Director of Statewide Affairs, opted not to hold a poster.
“Truthfully, I don’t know enough about the proposition to take a stand on either side,” Popat said.
Philip Chen, AS director of Public Relations, supports the proposition.
“The reduction of class size to 20 students will provide students with better personal attention,” Chen said.
“This would definitely be beneficial to higher education.”