Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear Colleague,

With many school districts set to reopen in late August, there is still much doubt as to what education will look like. As we mentioned last month, the California state guidelines on schooling in a coronavirus-affected environment were issued in early June, and there were 45 pages worth of suggestions. It is important to stress that the state guidelines are not mandates; it is up to each individual school district to handle matters as they see fit.

The new state budget in California provides $70.5 billion in funding for K-12 schools and also sets fundamental accountability rules by requiring teachers to take online attendance and document student learning. As the Los Angeles Times’ Howard Blume reports:

Whether schooling is online or in person, the rules reimpose the state’s minimum daily instructional minutes requirement of 180 for kindergarten, 230 minutes for grades 1 through 3, and 240 minutes for grades 4 through 12. Distance learning can be documented with student work as well as time online.

Schools also must develop procedures for reengaging students absent from distance learning for more than three school days in a school week. Schools are allowed to develop alternate plans, with input from parents, for achieving these mandates when necessary.

To continue reading Blume’s piece, go here.

Those who insist that children should be back to school in a traditional setting got a boost from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The nation's pediatricians have come out with a strong statement in favor of bringing children back to the classroom this fall wherever and whenever they can do so safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidance "strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

The guidance says "schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being."

The AAP cites "mounting evidence" that transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place.

On the other hand, the AAP argues that based on the nation's experience this spring, remote learning is likely to result in severe learning loss and increased social isolation.

To continue reading, go here.

In fact, according to a Gallup poll taken in late June, a majority of parents favor fulltime in-person learning in the fall.

Fifty-six percent of parents with children who attend a K-12 school prefer their children's instruction be fully in person this fall. Meanwhile, 37% prefer a hybrid program in which students attend school part time and do some distance learning, while 7% want full-time distance learning for their children.

Concern about the coronavirus is a major predictor of what type of schooling parents prefer. Overall, 46% of parents say they are very or somewhat worried about their children getting the coronavirus. Among those parents, 71% prefer their children have part-time (59%) or full-time (12%) distance learning, with only 29% favoring full-time, in-person schooling.

In contrast, 79% of parents who are not worried about their children getting the coronavirus want them to attend full-time, in-person school this fall.

To learn more, go here.

In all likelihood, distance learning will be a part of most school district reopening plans. To that end, the Center on Reinventing Public Education surveyed 82 districts that used some form of online instruction this past spring. CRPE maintains that, “After a slow start, districts have come a long way on remote learning.”

On March 20, we reported that in the first week of closures, the districts we reviewed were focused primarily on school meal distribution plans and student health and safety. About a third (15 of the 46 reviewed) were exploring device distribution, and about half (26 of 46) were sharing links to online general educational resources.

Two months later, 61 percent of a larger sample set of districts (50 of 82 districts reviewed) provide remote learning plans that include formal curriculum, instruction and progress monitoring, and 99 percent of districts we reviewed (81 of 82) are providing students access to a formal curriculum.

But, of course, there are still many challenges. According to the report:

  • Students with special needs and English language learners are often left out.
  • Device distribution and connectivity challenges limit access.
  • Traditional student data tracking systems are largely absent.
To learn more, go here.

In the Wall Street Journal, Manhattan Institute fellow, Daniel Di Salvo writes, “Will Unions Let Schools Reopen?”

The reopening of public schools poses an economic conundrum: If the schools aren’t open, many parents will lack child care and be unable to return to work. If parents can’t work, the economy can’t recover. Teachers unions are thus in a position to hold the economy hostage.

The problem is that pension costs are assured to increase, even as revenue plunges. In the first quarter of this year, public pensions lost up to $1 trillion in market value. Teacher pension plans were in bad shape even before state and local tax revenues collapsed due to the economic shutdown.

As Jonathan Moody and Anthony Randazzo show in an Equable Institute report, the share of education spending on pensions has nearly doubled, from 7.5% in 2001 to 14.4% in 2018. Even as states spend more, less money reaches the classroom. This trend is about to be magnified.

… School districts are also asking for more money and warning state governments that without it they will not be able to reopen. Recently, school superintendents from Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco wrote to California’s elected officials that any budget cuts will keep schools closed even after “clearance from public health officials is given.”

To continue reading, go here.

One result of the coronavirus is that school choice is ascending. As Libby Sobic, director and legal counsel for education policy at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, writes in Real Clear Education:

“This pandemic has reawakened this movement of school choice,” said Calvin Lee of American Federation for Children at a roundtable discussion on school choice in Waukesha, Wisconsin this week. While COVID-19 has not been easy for many families as they have tried to balance work and educating their children at home, it has offered many parents a window into their child’s learning that they never would have had. If nothing else positive comes of this change of lifestyle during the pandemic, parents exercising school choice will be a remarkable silver lining—but there is a lot of work to do before choice is available to all students across America.

To read on, go here.

Also, regarding school choice, the Supreme Court delivered a major victory on June 30th to parents seeking state aid for their children's religious school education.

The court's conservative majority ruled 5-4 that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs. The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month.

The court stopped short of requiring states to fund religious education, ruling only that programs cannot differentiate between religious and secular private schools.

"A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious," Roberts said.

To read more, go here.

If you have any valuable resources that you would like to share, or talk about what your school district is doing to deal with the “new normal,” please do so by emailing cteninfo@ctenhome.org or posting on Facebook if you prefer. The CTEN page can be accessed here, and the CTEN group can be found here.

Best of luck to all of you, your families and your students during these trying times.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dear Colleague,

Last month’s letter began, “Things will get back to normal at some point, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when and what “normal” will look like.” And a month later, that statement still holds. The California state guidelines on schooling in a coronavirus-affected environment were issued last week, and there were 45 pages worth of suggestions.

Students should expect to wash their hands and have their temperature taken often. They will likely wear masks and only attend classes a few days a week with a small group of classmates. Signs and taped marks on the floor will tell them which direction to walk and where to stand in hallways and in the cafeteria.

…The guidance anticipates many districts will offer hybrid or blended models of education, a combination of distance and in-person instruction or a model where some students go to school and others stay home for instruction, Thurmond said at a press conference Monday morning. Many school districts have surveyed parents and learned many want distance learning. Thurmond encouraged districts to accommodate those requests to ensure small class sizes for adequate social distancing.

It is important to stress that the state guidelines are not mandates It is up to each individual school district to handle matters as they see fit.

Also, as Mike Antonucci reminds us of the union angle in “Want to Reopen Schools? Better Be Ready to Bargain.”

Here in California, state officials have made it clear that they will issue guidelines for school reopenings, but the ultimate decision will be left to the individual districts. In the eyes of the California Teachers Association, that means collective bargaining.

Last week CTA issued its stance on school reopenings, listing those things the union wants to see in place before returning to work. These included precautions with consensus agreement, like face masks, deep cleaning, physical distancing and hand washing.

To continue reading the summary, as provided by EdSource, go here. To access the complete 45-page state guidebook, go here. To read about the collective bargaining angle, go here.

Then, there are different takes on the school funding issue. The Los Angeles Times maintains, “California schools face ‘devastating’ coronavirus cuts as they struggle to reopen.”

Even as costs skyrocket in response to the coronavirus crisis, California school districts face major funding cuts that could potentially lead to teacher and staff layoffs and leave some schools struggling to safely reopen campuses in the fall, according to district officials and educators.

The proposed budget hit to schools, about $19 billion split over the next two years, worsens their existing financial challenges and does little to help with pandemic-related costs.

 However, EdSource disagrees, insisting that “Most California districts would get more in federal aid than they’d lose in budget cuts.”

Through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed in March, California’s K-12 schools would receive enough to cover more than 90% of the $6.4 billion that Newsom is proposing to cut from school districts’ and charter schools’ funding in the next state budget to make up for a massive projected decline in tax revenue.

Newsom is proposing a cut of approximately 8% of districts’ general fund, known as the Local Control Funding Formula. It provides a base amount and additional funding for “high-needs” students: English learners, and low-income, homeless and foster students in every district.
Federal aid makes up for state cuts for some California districts

…An EdSource analysis projects that of the 897 districts that receive their funding through the funding formula, 546 school districts and county offices of education — 60.4% of the total — would get more CARES Act funding than they’d lose in cuts to the funding formula. These numbers don’t include the 100-plus mostly wealthy “basic aid” districts excluded from the Local Control Funding Formula because their property tax revenues exceed what they would get through the formula.

While the amount of money districts will receive remains unknown, Los Angeles and San Diego have taken a stand, claiming that they won’t open if their budgets are cut.

The LA and San Diego school districts are among the 1,000 districts in California that would also be impacted by the 19% reduction in funding for K-12 education proposed by Newsom this month.

The districts’ superintendents said in a statement that Newsom’s proposed budget falls short of the necessary funding to properly staff and sanitize schools to reopen.

“More teachers and staff will be needed to do this extra work in schools and to provide both in school and online learning programs,” the statement said. “And the governor’s proposed cuts for public education in the May revise to the 2020-21 state budget come at a time when schools are being asked to do more — not less — to deliver a quality education for students.”

To learn more, go here, here and here.

Some recent polling throws some very interesting ingredients into the reopening stew. In late May, a USA TODAY-Ipsos poll was released which revealed that 18% teachers in the United States say they are unlikely to return to in-person instruction if schools reopen in the fall.

New polling from USA TODAY and Ipsos found that some teachers are concerned that even a return date in fall is still too risky. Roughly one in five (18%) of teachers surveyed said they would leave their job if asked to return in-person in the fall. Among those 55 and older, which correlates to the teachers with the most experience, as well as the ones who might be more susceptible to complications from the coronavirus due to their age, the number rose to one in four (25%).

The data comes from a poll of 505 educators who teach kindergarten through high school.

To learn more, go here.

But then again, there may be fewer kids to teach. A Real Clear Opinion Research survey shows that support for homeschooling is strong, “The results show that 40% of families are more likely to homeschool or virtual school after lockdowns.”

Also, EdChoice, a national organization that advocates for state-based school choice programs, joined with technology company Morning Consult to poll American K-12 parents on how the coronavirus crisis has affected them and their children, particularly regarding education.

Because many more American parents are engaged in at-home schooling with their children, the survey asked, “How have your opinions on homeschooling changed as a result of the coronavirus?”

Among parents participating in the poll, 52 percent said their view of homeschooling was “more favorable,” with 28 percent labeling their opinion as “much more favorable,” and 24 percent stating their view was “somewhat more favorable.”

Of those parents who responded with a “less favorable” opinion of homeschooling, 18 percent said their view was “somewhat less favorable” and 8 percent said it was “much less favorable,” while 22 percent either did not know their view or had no opinion.

To learn more about the two polls, go here and here.

In addition to homeschooling, another way to deal with the pandemic would be to give every child a virtual backpack. As Center of Education Reform president Jeanne Allen explains,

This virus has shown that education needn’t be “place-based,” or dependent on a specific classroom, with a set number of students in order to be learning. Helping a student master a grade-appropriate level of competency in a subject is more important than whether they’re in a classroom for a certain period of time.  

We must make the student our only unit of learning and give every student a virtual backpack that contains all they need to be educated. That backpack must include a device, a hotspot, basic supplies, a meal, and a ticket that gains them access anywhere to any school that has room - public, private, or charter. The funds that the student has “earned” for his or her district would be paid to the receiving school. The only requirement, as long as students are remote and until issues of accountability can be determined, is that the students’ attendance, activities, and results (grades or otherwise) be reported through the school to the state and isolated for that period of time.

To read more about Allen’s plan, go here.

If you have any valuable resources that you would like to share, or talk about what your school district is doing to deal with the “new normal,” please do so by emailing cteninfo@ctenhome.org or posting on Facebook if you prefer. The CTEN page can be accessed here, and the CTEN group can be found here.

Best of luck to all of you, your families and your students during these very trying times.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Dear Colleague,

At the risk of mentioning the obvious, Covid-19 – the disease, the people’s response to it, and its politics – still dominates the news. Just about every teacher in the country’s life has been affected by the pandemic. Things will get back to normal at some point, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when and what “normal” will look like.

The Huffington Post warns us that “School Districts Are Preparing To Lay Off Thousands Amid Coronavirus-Related Budget Shortfalls.”

Individual school districts are primarily funded through a combination of state and local revenue, with a small portion of funding from the federal government. At the local level, school districts are often reliant on dollars generated through property taxes, which can be a disadvantage for poorer areas, inextricably tying districts’ fate to that of their communities’ success. At the state level, education represents one of the biggest items on a budget, often funded through a combination of income taxes and sales taxes.

As states work to revise their budgets amid unanticipated deep revenue losses, school districts have been told to prepare for draconian cuts.

To continue reading, go here.

David Osborne writes that the “COVID slide is going to make the usual summer slide even worse. Time to move to year-round school schedules.”

Districts and charter organizations could switch to year-round schedules, which have developed in some places to combat summer slide. Typically, these schools close for only a month or so at the height of summer. They reopen in early August, then have two-week breaks in the fall, at Christmas, in February and in April. Some charter schools bring kids who are behind grade level in for intensive catch-up work during at least one of the two weeks off each quarter.

Thousands of schools have adopted schedules such as this over the past three or four decades. A report from the Congressional Research Service documented 3,700 schools with year-round schedules in 2012 (out of close to 100,000 total), up from 450 in 1985.

To read more, go here.

The American Enterprise Institute has come up with “A Blueprint for Back to School.”

State policymakers, school leaders, and community leaders should develop plans based on the following assumptions.

•Schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019–20 academic year but will reopen in the 2020–21 academic year (albeit with the potential of localized rolling closures for 14–28 days triggered by additional waves of infections).
•Reopened schools will need modifications based on guidance from national and state health officials, which could include physical distancing, temperature screenings, and frequent disinfecting of classrooms.
•Accommodations will be needed for the one in five teachers, one in four school principals, and other school staff who are over age 55 (and thus in a high-risk COVID-19 category), as well as for those at risk due to other health factors.
•A vaccine might not be available for 18 months or more, meaning that plans should take into account both the 2020–21 and 2021–22 school years.

To learn more, go here.

USA Today writer Erin Richards looks at what the new education normal might be.

The school week looks vastly different, with most students attending school two or three days a week and doing the rest of their learning at home. At school, desks are spaced apart to discourage touching. Some classrooms extend into unused gymnasiums, libraries or art rooms – left vacant while schools put on hold activities that cram lots of children together.

Arrival, dismissal and recess happen on staggered schedules and through specific doors to promote physical distancing. Students eat lunch at their desks. Those old enough to switch classes move with the same cohort every day – or teachers move around while students stay put – to discourage mingling with new groups.

Teachers and other education staff at higher risk of contracting the virus continue to teach from home, while younger or healthier educators teach in-person.

Everyone washes their hands. A lot.

Frequently touched school surfaces get wiped down. A lot.

To read on, go here.

Additionally, it just may be the time to reexamine Benjamin Scafidi’s study on the “staffing surge” in public education. This researcher and economics professor found that between 1950 and 2015, the number of teachers increased about 2.5 times faster than the uptick in students. Even more outrageous is the fact that the hiring of other education employees – administrators, teacher aides, counselors, social workers, etc. – rose more than 7 times the increase in students. Scafidi writes, “If the increase in ‘all other staff’ alone had matched student enrollment growth between FY 1992 and FY 2015—the most recent staffing data available—then a cautious estimate finds American public schools would have saved almost $35 billion in annual recurring savings. That is $35 billion every single year from 1992 to 2015, for a cumulative total of $805 billion over this time period.”

To read on, go here.

One interesting thought on the future involves school choice. Ginny Gentles, founder of School Choice Solutions, LLC., writes that governors should be able choose to allocate federal funds in a student-centered way by establishing K-12 education savings accounts (ESA) to cover families’ remote education expenses.

In the five states with existing ESA programs, the governors could expand the existing programs. In other states, the governor could either provide funds to existing state-funded scholarship programs or create a GEER-funded ESA or scholarship for the next year. Parents could use the funds for technology, curriculum, online resources, tutoring, private school tuition, or summer courses to compensate for the early end to the school year. In areas where school districts are not providing online instruction or therapies for special needs students, parents can use the GEER-funded accounts to meet the needs of their children.

To learn more, go here.

Not surprisingly, the unions have their own ideas about next steps. The California Teachers Association is demanding a lot more money from the Feds.  

There is no solution that does not involve aid from the federal government combined with generating more state revenues. We are calling on the federal government to authorize $1 trillion in the next CARES Act and provide $175 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund to distribute to states.

The American Federation of Teachers has cooked up a 20-page plan to “Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities.”

The American Federation of Teachers has released a detailed road map that, in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, charts a path to safely and responsibly reopen school buildings and other institutions crucial to the well-being and economic vitality of our communities.

The 20-page, science-based “Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” sprung from an intense collaboration of public health professionals, union leaders and frontline workers to prepare for what happens next in the period between flattening the curve and truly eradicating the virus.

It features five core pillars that inform our decision to reopen the country based on the science as well as educator and healthcare expertise—not on politics or wishful thinking.

To read more about CTA’s and AFT’s plans, go here and here.

In other news, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results of the 2018 history, geography and civics test for 8th graders were released. Not pretty. The level of proficiency for our students is scandalous. Less than a quarter are at or above the proficient level in the three subject areas, and only 15 percent are in U.S. history. (The assessment is given predominantly to traditional public schoolers, but some private and charter school students are tested.)

The overall findings were distinctly subpar. In history, students scored lower on all four areas measured by the test—the evolution of American democracy; culture; economic and technical changes; and America’s changing role in the world. The poor results were consistent across all racial and ethnic categories too, with the exception of students identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander.

Across the three subjects, a quarter or more of students fell below the “basic” performance category, meaning they didn’t have even the fundamental prerequisite skills to master the content. Thirty-four percent of students fell below the “basic” performance category in history, compared to 29 percent in 2014. In geography, 29 percent fell below that mark compared to 25 percent in 2014. There was no significant change in civics.

To learn more, go here.

And finally, our friends at the Association of American Educators have come up with a list of coronavirus resources for teachers, including training webinars, virtual educator resource sharing, a grant program for teachers and a lot more.

To see what AAE is offering, go here.

Additionally, if you have any valuable resources that you would like to share, please do so by emailing cteninfo@ctenhome.org or posting them on Facebook if you prefer. The CTEN page can be accessed here, and the CTEN group can be found here.

Best of luck to all of you, your families and your students during these very trying times.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dear Colleague,

As the coronavirus has turned traditional education in the U.S, and elsewhere on its head, we will do our best to provide support and answer questions to the best of our ability until things return to normal.

While no one knows when “normal” will return, pundits have been busy, weighing in on what things will be like when that day comes. In “Coronavirus School Closures Will Cause Irreparable Damage to Students, Schools. How Policymakers Can and Must Soften the Blow,” Ray Domanico, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, ends his piece with a peek into the future:

It is likely that public resources will be limited at all levels of government, and education will be competing with health care, medical research and other essential services for scarcer resources. Our leaders have delivered a message that there are things more important than schooling and achievement. This is undoubtedly true, but they will soon need to deal with the implications for students, parents and teachers for the foreseeable future.

To read on, go here.

Kevin Huffman, a former education commissioner of Tennessee, is even gloomier than Domanico. He sums up his Washington Post piece with a somber message,

Our expectations for the remainder of this school year should be low. Our teachers are trying their best, but their hands are often tied by bureaucracy, limited student access to technology, the lack of lead time to prepare for this situation and the limited effectiveness of delivering school remotely. Results will range from lackluster to catastrophic, with the largest burden falling on the poorest kids.

To read more, go here.

Then there are the optimists. Shawn K. Smith, author of "Wisdom and Influence: Mastering the Digital Convergence Framework," thinks that remote learning can be more than a bandage.
Just as remote work – even well before this crisis – started to become the “new normal” for American adults, remote learning will one day become the “new normal” in K-12 education, and we’ll finally break the bond between where students live and what they can learn. 

These may be dark times, but under better circumstances and with the right approach, the future is bright. We will get through this pandemic. And when we emerge on the other side of it, we will do so not only prepared to never let this happen again, but ready to transform education for the better.

To learn more, go here.

Sean Brooks at American Thinker suggests that the coronavirus could revolutionize education.

It’s my estimation that this will be an awakening for countless American K-12 school students -- and their parents -- that these students actually don’t have to attend a ‘brick and mortar’ public school in order to receive a high-quality education, followed by a diploma.  Once these students begin their online tasks, they may come to the realization that online learning is far more in-depth, far more rigorous, far more interesting, and yet far more quiet, as they don’t have to look to see who is about to get into a physical fight, or detest attending classes where teachers are indoctrinating them with their own personal ideologies.  Therefore, the presence of this virus and the forced school closings that have occurred as a result, have perhaps created the next wave of individualists and online learners in America.

To see more of Brooks’ thoughts, go here.

Wherever you are on this issue, there is no denying that this is a time of great upheaval. What follows is a list of resources, which will hopefully be of help to teachers who have been thrust into areas they never could have imagined just weeks ago.

First, National School Choice Week has posted, “Free Online Resources for Schools Shifting Online During Coronavirus Pandemic.”

As the new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads throughout the country, more and more schools are canceling classes and shifting their in-person instructional time online. Many classroom teachers are now trying to understand the ins-and-outs of distance learning for the first time and looking for free online resources for schools. What does instruction look like? How do I ensure my students are still receiving high-quality education? Will I be able to track the learning that is taking place?

The good news is: help is available! Many companies are offering teachers and schools access to their online platforms for free for the duration of their closure. In the short term, a new education landscape is forming, and we have put together a list of free online resources for schools, educators, and administrators to help them navigate these unfamiliar waters.

To view the resources, go here.

There is tons more info on the net. What follows is just a brief sampling:

Download vs. Streaming, Sans Serif Fonts, Standardized Student Passwords — 10 Things to Know When Converting to an Online Classroom

E-Learning Becomes New Standard as Schools Close Due to COVID-19

NSCW - Educating Students with Disabilities During the Time of COVID-19

CCSA Provides Educators with Special Education Distance Learning Resources

California schools chief recommends that schools prepare for distance learning for rest of school year

Putting Rivalries Aside, Media, Education and Tech Giants Come Together to Offer Free Lessons, Activities During Pandemic — All in One Curated Place

Free, Online Learning Resources When Coronavirus Closes Schools

Online Education That Fits Each Child

Here are a few resources for parents who are homeschooling:

We’re All Homeschoolers Now

Welcome to Homeschooling, America!

Free, Online Learning Resources

Home School Legal Defense Association

Need help sorting through the avalanche of online resources for kids who are now learning at home? 11 sites for parents to look at

Additionally, if you have any valuable resources that you would like to share, please do so by emailing cteninfo@ctenhome.org or posting them on Facebook if you prefer. The CTEN page can be accessed here, and the CTEN group can be found here.

Best of luck to all of you, your families and your students during these very trying times.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President
 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Dear Colleague,

Super Tuesday has come and gone, and the big news for California is that Prop. 13, a “$15 billion bond measure to fund construction and modernization of public schools and universities, has gone down in a stunning defeat. As Mike Antonucci reports,

Supporters raised almost $13 million for the campaign against no funded opposition. The California Teachers Association contributed $1 million, with the California Federation of Teachers and SEIU also chipping in.

The bond also provided funding for charter school facilities, so the California Charter Schools Association kicked in $500,000.

Naturally, the measure also received substantial support from developers, building trade organizations and assorted business interests, including the state chamber of commerce and California Business Roundtable.

But as Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association president Jon Coupal suggests, Californians may be getting weary of ongoing taxes:

According to data from the California Taxpayers Association, voters have rejected nearly half of the 236 local tax and bond measures on the March ballot and another 56 remain too close to call. This is a remarkable statistic considering the history of local revenue measures in California.

According to the website California City Finance, local revenue measures have had at least a 70 percent pass rate in all but two major statewide elections since 2012.

To read Antonucci’s and Coupal’s pieces, go here and here.

Super Tuesday also saw the end of several candidates’ run for president. In fact, it now appears that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the only two who are still standing. Regarding their positions on education, EdSource has a handy guide to all the Democrat candidates’ positions.

To access the guide, go here.

The NEA has just endorsed Joe Biden, and AFT almost has. Back in 2015, after an alleged poll of .04 percent of the membership, the union heartily endorsed Hillary Clinton as its choice for president. That move really nicked thousands of the union’s Sanders’ supporters, and over 4,500 teachers signed a Change.org petition demanding that AFT withdraw its endorsement. The union didn’t budge, however.

Chastened, Randi Weingarten’s union promised to make it more open and democratic this time around. But on Feb 21st, AFT’s “executive council” made a top-down decision to winnow the field to just three candidates, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Then, in a 3,300-word post a week later, Weingarten anointed Warren as her personal favorite. Shortly thereafter, Warren dropped out of the running.

To read AFT’s and Weingarten’s statements, go here and here. To read about NEA’s choice, go here.

On school choice, all the Democratic candidates have been opposed and vehemently so. Whether it be charter schools or vouchers, the candidates, all trying to secure the blessings of the teachers unions, have stressed the importance of maintaining the traditional public school monopoly. But the Educational Freedom Institute has posted a “school choice hypocrisy” map which details how politicians across the country avail themselves of education options. For example, Joe Biden “opposes funding programs that would allow less fortunate kids to attend private schools, even though he sent his own kids to an expensive private school.”

To see the map, go here

Ed Ring, co-founder of the California Policy Center, writes “California’s K-12 Spending Exceeds $20,000 Per Pupil.” He claims that the commonly acknowledged per-pupil figure is inaccurate.

For the most recent available historical data, start with $72.4 billion in spending in 2017-18, an amount that is found on the Ed Data home page on their “Financial Data” tab:

This figure needs to be adjusted as follows:
– deduct pre-school, adult education, and community college spending,
– add the state’s annual CalSTRS contribution,
– add debt service on school bonds (or instead, add capital spending, but a lot of debt funds go into operating budgets (or “deferred maintenance” budgets) so not sure which to pick – it should be one or the other),
– deduct from student headcount all charter school attendees,
– deduct from total revenue all funds directed to charter schools,
– verify that $72.4 billion was the entire gross amount of incoming funds.


To read more, go here.

Also on school choice, one of the area’s greatest secrets is “town tuitioning” which exists in parts of New England. In Vermont, 93 towns – more than a third of the state’s municipalities – have no public schools, and the kids get an excellent education. These “tuition towns” are small. So small that they really cannot support a public school. Instead, tax money goes to parents who send their children to a local private school. And if that school doesn’t comport with parents’ expectations, the parents can place their kid in another school, with the money following the child – all this with no added cost to the taxpayer. As communication strategist Dr. Laura Williams points out, “Because parents, not bureaucrats or federal formulas, determine how funds are allocated, schools are under high economic pressure to impress parents⁠—that is, to serve students best in their parents’ eyes.”

Vermont’s town tuitioning program was launched in 1869, making it the oldest school choice program in the country. Additionally, Maine and, as of 2017, New Hampshire have tuition towns.

To learn more, go here.

As the sex ed agenda goes on unabated in California, parents in other states are fighting back. Fourteen Wisconsin parents represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, public interest legal firms, have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop a policy they say “instructs teachers to assist and encourage children in adopting transgender identities without notifying—and possibly while deceiving—parents.” The suit specifically targets schools in Madison after the district adopted a policy which includes the following provisions:

  • Children of any age can transition to a different gender identity at school, by changing their name and pronouns, without parental notice or consent.
  • District employees are prohibited from notifying parents, without the child’s consent, that their child has or wants to change gender identity at school, or that their child may be dealing with gender dysphoria.
  • District employees are even instructed to deceive parents by using the child’s legal name and pronouns with family, while using the different name and pronouns adopted by the child in the school setting.
Hardly radical, the lawsuit very simply calls for school officials to be transparent and honest when dealing with parents, and “to meet standards of informed consent.”

Unfortunately, California seems to be going in the other direction. The Epoch Times reports that in January, the California Teachers Association changed an existing policy in an internal document, to “explicitly include transgender and non-binary youth among the students who can leave class without parental permission to receive birth control, abortions, and other such services.” While the updated policy does not include a provision for “hormone therapy,” the rationale discussed by CTA’s civil rights committee in making the policy change “indicates that’s the final goal.”

Granted, while CTA is not a law-making body, the powerful union all too often gets its way in Sacramento; as one of the biggest political spenders in the state, the powerful lobby holds great sway of over many legislators.

To read more, go here.

If you, as a parent or teacher, object to the sex ed agenda in California, CTEN may be able to secure you legal representation. Please contact us for more information.

And finally, just a few words on the Coronavirus. With many schools being closed, teachers have certainly been affected. I think the most important thing we can all do at this point, is remain vigilant and sane on the issue. For some perspective, go here. To track the spread of the virus, go here.

Due to union “opt-out windows,” which are very possibly illegal, this may be the time to quit if you are planning to do so. If you have any questions about the process, or have experienced any problems because of your decision to leave your union, please let us know and we will do our best to help you – possibly getting you legal assistance, if necessary. We will also be able to share your concerns with other teachers across the state. And talking about sharing, please pass this email along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Sincerely,
Larry Sand
CTEN President