Welcome to the blog of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. CTEN is a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the public at large with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
The big national education story continues to be Donald
Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Her Senate hearing
was moved from January 11th to the 17th and it will be a
few more days before a confirmation vote is taken. The extra six days gave
teacher union leaders additional time to vent about DeVos, who scares them to
death. Speaking to the Washington Press Club, AFT president Randi Weingarten
said, “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as
secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably
destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our
children.” Weingarten adds, “She’s devoted millions to elect her friends and
punish her enemies, and, at every critical moment, she has tried to take the
public out of public education.”
Despite the union
animus toward private school education, many teachers don’t agree. In fact, teachers send their own kids to private schools in greater
numbers than the general populace. According to a survey released in
January, 2016, Education Next found “No less than 20 percent
of teachers with school age children, but only 13 percent of non-teachers, have
sent one or more of their children to private school.” And not surprisingly, 42
percent of teachers who don’t send their kids to a traditional public school
back vouchers, as compared to only 23 percent of the teachers who send their
children to traditional public schools.
On the subject of choice, it is
important to note that many naysayers insist that voucher programs cost the
taxpayer money, but studies refute this. Most recently, a study from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty,
decided to look at the cost/benefits of choice schools. They found that:
…students participating in Milwaukee’s voucher program will
provide the city, state and students nearly $500 million in economic benefits
through 2035 thanks to higher graduation and lower crime rates.
Using data from a crime and graduation study by Corey
DeAngelis and Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas, the
Milwaukee study finds that through 2035 Wisconsin will receive a $473 million benefit
from higher graduation rates by choice students. More education translates into
higher incomes, more tax revenue and a lower likelihood of reliance on
government welfare or other payments. Meanwhile, greater economic opportunity
also prevents young adults from turning to crime, which the study estimates
will save Wisconsin $1.7 million from fewer misdemeanors and $24 million from
fewer felonies over the same 20 years.
Speaking of choice, January 22-28 is National School
Choice Week, the aim of which is to “raise public awareness of all types of
education options for children. These options include traditional public
schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private
schools, and homeschooling.” There are 21,392 events planned this year,
rallies, science fairs, school tours, policy forums, and rallies in more than
25 state capitals. These celebrations will be attended by tens of millions of
Americans in all 50 states over just seven days.
Of the 21,392
events, 16,758 are planned by schools, 2,168 by homeschooling groups, 1,358 by
chambers of commerce, and many more by individuals, along with coalitions of
policy, advocacy, and education organizations. Each event reflects the community
and mission of the individual event planners, focusing on themes like parent
information nights, registration fairs, and workforce readiness.
voted to bring back bilingual education in November, few acknowledged that
there are not nearly enough teachers equipped to teach it. And now that it is
the law, there is a search to fill many needed teaching slots.
Greg Forster has written a detailed five-part series on accountability: the
best way to measure it, who should be in charge of it, etc. In Part 5 he
firing and paying of teachers must attract and retain wise professionals with
a commitment to nurturing children’s ability to achieve and appreciate the
true, good and beautiful. It should not place a high priority on more
utilitarian metrics like small fluctuations in test scores.
Holding teachers accountable requires us to
hold schools accountable. Schools need to have strong institutional culture.
School leadership must instill shared moral commitments pointing to the higher
purpose of education, and defining the rules of acceptable behavior for
educators and students implied by that higher purpose.
The big challenge for school accountability
is that these moral commitments cannot be simply imposed by force. The school
must be a free community in which students genuinely internalize the
transcendent goals of education rather than merely conforming reluctantly
to the grown-ups’ demands. This means accountability systems must have strong moral and social connections to
schools. That way educators and students will accept their decisions not
as a hostile outside force but as part of, and supporting, the free moral
community of the school itself.
Also on the subject
of accountability, the Washington Post’s
Esther Cepeda writes “Teacher evaluation system is failing.” She concludes
that, “Until teacher evaluations can be reliable, apolitical and rigorous — and
provide accountability while being objective and fair — fixing systems where
ineffective teachers are almost impossible to fire will continue to be a pipe
In any event, if you enjoy
these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your
colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in
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as always, for your interest and support.
Undoubtedly the biggest national education story of the
last few weeks is President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to
be the Secretary of Education. The reform-minded crowd by-and-large lauded the
pick, while the teachers unions have been in a state of grief. The NEA has been
pillorying DeVos every chance it gets on its website, asserting that she is an “ardent
supporter of ‘school choice’ privatization schemes, despite a complete lack of
evidence that privatizing public schools produces better education.” The union
also claims that she has “invested millions lobbying for laws that drain
resources from public schools…fought against the regulation of charter schools…and
is not a good fit for a position overseeing the civil rights of all students.”
Responding to the charges, Arkansas writer Paul Greenberg
delivers an op-ed in which he states that “Betsy DeVos is a fighter and a
winner.” I threw in my two cents, responding to the union’s charges and think
that she – with a few caveats – is a good choice for the job.
The Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) tests reading, mathematics and science and is administered
every three years to 15 year-olds in 72 countries by the Paris-based
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The latest results were
announced a couple of weeks ago, and the news wasn’t good. U.S. students
performed in the middle of the pack in reading and science, but well below
average in mathematics. Many make excuses for our poor showing by claiming that
the U.S., unlike other countries, tests all its children, not just the elite, has
large proportions of immigrants and English-language learners, and has a huge
proportion of children in poverty. But Robert Rothman, writing in the Hechinger Report, disagrees.
The fact is that these criticisms are
inaccurate. Nearly every country enrolls nearly all 15-year-olds in school, and
the U.S. is on the low side, with 84 percent of 15-year-olds in school. Many
countries have higher immigrant populations than the United States, and in some,
such as Singapore, immigrant students outperform native-born students.
And poverty does not explain the U.S.
results. Yes, child poverty rates in the U.S. are high, but they are about at
the average for OECD countries. Some high-performing regions, like Hong Kong,
have much higher poverty rates. And some, like Hong Kong, have managed to break
the connection between socioeconomic status and achievement. In Estonia, for
example, 48 percent of low-income students are “resilient”; that is, they score
at top levels. In Canada, the resiliency rate is 39 percent. In the U.S., it is
32 percent—and the good news is the rate has gone up over the past decade.
On December 8th,
the National Council on Teacher Quality released new ratings for 875
undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs. One of NCTQ’s findings
is that these programs “still have far to go, particularly in preparing
elementary teachers in mathematics…. The new findings do little to quell the
notion that teaching is an ‘easy major,’ open to anyone who applies in many
institutions. Only one quarter of the programs (26 percent) are sufficiently
selective, generally admitting only the top half of college goers.” To access
the NCTQ report, go to http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c9b11da2ceffae94e1dc196f6&id=5e42db5a3d&e=9dc9a1baf8
The same day NCTQ
came out with its teacher prep analysis, the Fordham Institute released a
report on the difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from public school
classrooms. The results of the study showed that in some school districts it is
virtually impossible to get rid of an under-performer. The Fordham analysts
used a ten point metric based on three simple questions:
tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?
They then used
this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran
teachers in 25 diverse school districts across the country and found three
major obstacles. In 17 of the 25 districts, state law allows teachers to
achieve tenure and never relinquish it, even if poor performance reviews
follow. Also, it takes forever to cut through the red tape involved in a
teacher dismissal. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, it can take five or more
years to complete the process. And finally, teachers have multiple appeals to
their dismissal in many districts.
Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas
B. Fordham Institute, has
written a forceful piece for U.S News
& World Report in which he suggests that we “Let Poor Parents Choose
Too.” Making the case for parent power in the current political climate, he
If it's education reform technocrats and
accountability hawks versus parents this time, the mood, the moment and the
moral argument would seem to favor parents. If this year has taught us nothing
else, it's that Americans have had just about enough of their betters deciding
what's best for them and expecting them to play gratefully along. Reformers
might have to start accepting that our greatest point of leverage is to help
parents choose wisely, rather than trying to police their choices by means of
aggressive accountability schemes.
choice is on the move in other states, California is lagging. EdSource’s Louis Freedberg suggests, “Trump
school voucher plan would face huge obstacles in California.” There are many
questions: Would a voucher program be legal in California? Where would the
federal funds come from? How much would the plan as proposed by Trump cost in
California? Where would students
be able to use the vouchers? To see how Freedberg answers these and other
questions, go to https://edsource.org/2016/trump-school-voucher-plan-would-face-huge-obstacles-in-california/573691
Scalia died in February, the Friedrichs case
went with him. But there is another case on the horizon that is trying to
accomplish the same end: giving workers a choice whether or not to pay dues to
a public employee union as a condition of employment. According to Choice Media,
Enter Illinois plaintiffs Mark Janus and
Brian Trygg and a case called Janus
v. AFSCME. With the legal counsel of Jacob Huebert of the Liberty
Justice Center, they are suing Illinois public sector unions for the same
reason as the Friedrichs plaintiffs
— forced union fees. The plaintiffs are employees of the state of Illinois;
Mark Janus is a child support services worker at the Illinois Department of
Healthcare and Family Services, and Brian Trygg is a transportation engineer.
Attorney Huebert told Choice Media that if they win their case, the precedent
would apply to public school teachers as well.
“If the court were to rule in their favor
[Janus and Trygg’s], it would extend to all government workers who’ve been
forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment,” Huebert said. “That’s
really the issue at the heart of the case: Can the government force its
employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment? If it can’t force
Illinois state workers to do that, it’s not clear how it can force any other
kind of government worker to do that.”
Anyone wishing to make a year-end
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through the generosity and support of people like you. (And to those of you who
already regularly donate – our heartfelt thanks!)
It has been another exciting year for
CTEN -www.ctenhome.org/ and we look forward to an even more
vigorous 2017. We remain grateful for your interest and involvement, and wish
you and your families the happiest of holidays. See you next year!
Eight days ago, Donald Trump became our president-elect. And
just what will this mean for educators? Hard to say because very little of the
campaign was spent on K-12 education issues. Our soon-to-be 45th
President did say that school choice is a priority, however.
nominee Donald Trump is pledging that, if elected, he'd be the "nation's
biggest cheerleader for school choice" and would offer states the chance
to use $20 billion in federal money to create vouchers allowing children in
poverty to attend the public, charter, or private school of their choice.
"There is no
policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education
Trump said. "The Democratic Party has trapped millions of
African-American and Hispanic youth" in struggling schools.
"We want every
inner-city child in America to have the freedom to attend any school," he
Trump said that the
$20 billion in federal funds could be combined with more than $100 billion in
state and local money to create vouchers of up to $12,000 annually for the
nation's poorest kids.
Of note to
Californians, the three education-related measures on the ballot all passed.
Prop. 58 will largely undo Prop 227, and restore bilingual education. Prop 55
will continue Prop 30, the “temporary tax” on people earning over $263,000 a
year through 2030. And Prop 51, a school bond measure, will “help to repair, upgrade and improve
California’s K-12 public schools and community colleges” according to
On the subject of
school choice, many in the education establishment contend that any
privatization of education hurts teachers. Not so, says University of Arkansas’
Corey DeAngelis, who makes the case that “School Choice Benefits Teachers Too.”
resources to private schools must harm teachers in public schools, right? This
is debatable, especially since public school teachers do
not face a serious threat of dismissal or
decreasing salaries. Moreover, even if this caused a realistic dismissal
threat, the high-quality teachers would certainly remain shielded. What is
unquestionable, however, is that this diversion of resources benefits teachers
in private schools voluntarily chosen by families.
Which group of teachers
should benefit more? The ones that forcefully receive resources from the
taxpayers, or the ones that produce educational outcomes that are desired by
children and parents?
To state the
obvious, as charter schools and other forms of educational choice proliferate,
traditional public schools lose market share. While some school districts complain
to legislators and the media about the loss of students and revenue, the more creative
ones have turned to marketing.
Joel Dahl, an administrator in the
Westonka district, said his small school system outside of Minneapolis was
losing children to charters, private schools and neighboring districts for
about six years before the flow subsided around 2014, in part because of the
outreach to young children.
In addition to sending out about 100 baby
bags every three months, the district also sends birthday cards to newborns
through their fifth birthday and offers programs to children from birth. One
class involves a teacher leading parents and newborns in playtime and singing
to help the babies with communication and socialization skills.
“We try and start young and recruit them, and
hope they try to stay all the way through,” Mr. Dahl said. “Our goal is to get
One of the edu-myths
making the rounds these days is that teachers are burning out because of tougher tests and evaluations. Mike
Antonucci looks at the evidence and finds the claim to be essentially not true,
with perhaps one exception.
…as one review of the published
evidence put it: “Research to date suggests that accountability has not
dramatically changed the career choices of teachers overall, but that it has
likely increased attrition in schools classified as failing relative to other
schools.” There is less research on teacher evaluation policies, but what
exists suggests that turnover and dissatisfaction may be particularly acute for
teachers who receive poor ratings.
On the subject of
testing, the always provocative Jay Greene has written a most interesting blog
post, “Evidence for the Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing
Later Life Outcomes.”
Over the last few years I have developed a
deeper skepticism about the reliability of relying on test scores for
accountability purposes. I think tests
have very limited potential in guiding distant policymakers, regulators,
portfolio managers, foundation officials, and other policy elites in
identifying with confidence which schools are good or bad, ought to be opened,
expanded, or closed, and which programs are working or failing. The problem, as I’ve pointed out in several
pieces now, is that in using tests for these purposes we are assuming that if
we can change test scores, we will change later outcomes in life. We don’t really care about test scores per
se, we care about them because we think they are near-term proxies for later
life outcomes that we really do care about — like graduating from high school,
going to college, getting a job, earning a good living, staying out of jail,
Earlier this month, the California Charter Schools
Association released a ranking of every
school – charter and traditional – in the state. As reported in LA School Report,
Each school is ranked
from 1 to 10 as a statewide rank and a “similar student” rank, which compares
schools with similar demographics, including race and socioeconomic status.
CCSA’s senior vice president of achievement and performance management, said
the “similar student” rank tells more about how a school is educating its
students. Students who have educated parents and are from higher socioeconomic
backgrounds are more likely to do better on standardized tests. Schools that
are “beating the odds” rank high on the similar students rank, meaning students
are scoring higher on tests than students from other schools with similar
For CTA agency fee payers, the November 15th
deadline has passed, so we hope you have already submitted your 2016 rebate
form. However, if you are a first time filer, you may resign from the union
after the 15th. You will not get the full amount, but rather a
prorated one depending on how long after the 15th you file. For more
information, please visit http://www.ctenhome.org/know.htm
anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money
order or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.htmlAs a non-profit, we
exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.
There are a load of
education bills that became law in California at the end of last month, as well
as quite a few that failed. AB 2329, one of the more interesting bills that
passed, involveslaying the groundwork to
expand computer education in all grades. Another, AB 2246, mandates that “school
districts serving 7th through 12th grade students to
adopt a suicide prevention policy that specifically addresses prevention
procedures for youth who are at high risk of mental health issues and suicidal
thinking, including those who are bereaved, homeless, experiencing
discrimination based on sexual orientation or struggling with substance abuse.”
bill of note that died in the legislature, AB 2835, would have required school
districts and other employers of public employee unions “to hold annual
in-person orientations for all new workers, at which unions would be allowed to
make a 30-minute pitch for union membership.” Another high-profile bill that
didn’t make it (Governor Brown vetoed it), was AB 2548 which would have given the legislature “a
role in overseeing the new statewide school accountability system, based on
multiple measures of school success, by locking in statute the work that the
State Board of Education is doing on its own through rules and regulations. It
would have placed more emphasis on test scores for identifying
low-performing schools needing assistance than the state board favors, and it
would require a summary ranking of a school’s performance, enabling parents to
readily compare schools – a position the state board opposes.”
And speaking of accountability, an educator
in Los Angeles penned a thoughtful piece on the matter for LA School Report. Tunji Adebayo, a high school charter teacher who
made his case before the state school board in Sacramento, writes,
told the board that we need an accountability system that will provide families
with clarity and equity. I spoke about Marco’s mom, who works multiple jobs and
has half the eighth-grade education Marco has achieved. Marco’s little sister
once translated his mother’s question to me, “What high school should Marco go
to?” An equitable accountability system is one where Marco’s mom could easily
understand the performance of schools in her district to make the right
educational choice for her son.
also told them about my mentee Jayson’s mother, who deserves to know that the
school he attends potentially performs in the bottom 20 to 30 percent of
schools statewide. An equitable system would give her the tools and information
to help her steer her son to greater educational opportunity.
The teacher shortage issue seems to be a
rumor that just won’t die. Responding to the latest lamentation from the Learning
Policy Institute, Mike Antonucci deftly refuted it. While he agrees that are
shortages in certain areas, he writes that the national teacher shortage story
is nonsense. In fact, Antonucci asserts that there is a teacher surplus in
elementary education. “If you aren’t specific in identifying shortage areas and
providing incentives to fill those areas, the result may be an unneeded
increase in elementary school teacher candidates who cannot find jobs.”
school choice front, the Nevada Supreme Court delivered a split decision on the
state’s universal Education Savings Account program. The ACLU had argued the law was unconstitutional, on
the grounds of separation of church and state, alleging that the program would
unconstitutionally divert money to religious schools that proselytize or can
discriminate against students or staff. The Court denied that claim, but did
rule that the legislature can’t use money earmarked for public education to
fund it. So the ESA program remains on hold pending the state’s lawmakers’ effort
to find a different funding mechanism. To learn more about Nevada’s ESA law, go
here - https://lasvegassun.com/news/2016/oct/05/in-wake-of-esa-ruling-funding-issue-looms-large/
At the end of September, the American
Federation of Teachers filed its 2015-2016 financial report with the U.S.
Department of Labor, and once again, it spent a lot of teachers’ dues money on the
Clintons. As reported by RiShawn Biddle,
The union gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea
Clinton Foundation, the controversial philanthropy run by the Clinton family
that has garnered widespread scrutiny during this year’s presidential campaign
for receiving donations from corporations and foreign governments that also had
business before the former Secretary of State during her tenure in the Obama
Administration. AFT gave another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative….
Altogether, AFT has doled out $2.2 million into
Clinton-controlled nonprofits over the past four years.
The question then becomes: Is the AFT categorizing
this as “political spending?” In other words does an agency fee payer have to
pony up for what would seem to be a blatant political contribution? The best
way to find out the funding source of the Clinton donations would be to check
out a Hudson notice. If you are an
AFT/CFT member and have a recent Hudson notice, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also on the union
front, an interesting point was raised in another bill that didn’t get passed
into law during the 2015-1016 legislative session. AB 2754 would have required
“public unions to hold an election every
two years to determine if the current labor union should continue to represent
its members. The election would also allow workers to select another public
employee union to take its place.” This seems only fair since probably not one
person reading this email voted to be in the union that represents them. An
excellent paper on the subject was written in 2012 by the Heritage Foundation’s
James Sherk. He looked at several states to see how many teachers still
employed voted in their union.
passed legislation giving government unions collective bargaining powers in
1974, and by 1975 the state’s 10 largest school districts had unionized. Just 1
percent of current teachers were on the job in 1975. Fully 99 percent of the
teachers in Florida’s largest school districts had no choice about being
represented by their union.
gave government unions collective bargaining powers in 1965. Seven of the 10
largest school districts in the state had already unionized (even without full
collective bargaining powers) before then or organized that year. One of the
state's largest school districts unionized in 1971, and two others did so in
the 1980s. Across Michigan’s 10 largest school districts, just 1 percent of
teachers had the opportunity to decide who would represent them.
the subject of unions, a reminder: now
is the time for agency fee payers to claim their rebate. Or if you are a
full-dues payer but want to withhold the political share of your union dues,
now is the time to get busy. Existing CTA fee payers have until November 15th
to request your refund. For details, go here - http://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html
If you are still using a school email to receive these
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If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these
newsletters or on our website – http://www.ctenhome.org – please let us know.
Now that NCLB has been replaced by ESSA – the Every
Student Succeeds Act – California is readying a new school rating system and a
lot of people think it’s way too confusing.
“… a number of
parent activist groups and others are pushing the state board to adopt a
summative rating for schools based on the chosen indicators and that without
it, it will be difficult for families to compare schools or know how well their
school is educating their students. They also point to the “sea of colors” on the proposed school report
cards covering 17 categories, each of which is rated by one of five colors.
“In the absence of
a summative rating for a school, it becomes very difficult for families to hold
schools accountable for what happens within the walls,” said Seth Litt,
executive director of Parent Revolution, an organization that helps parents
push for better educational opportunities in their neighborhoods including
using the “parent trigger”
law to take over low-performing schools.
A parent writes,
finally going to measure every school based not only on test scores, but also
on their school safety and climate, graduation rates and efforts to engage
families. This new potential system, however, has been designed in such a way
that it will be virtually impossible for most families to easily understand
their school’s overall performance.
For example, the
new system does not include any overall rating for each school. Instead, the
plan is to give every family a report card with seventeen different categories,
each of which is rated by one of five colors. Every family will have to look at
this sea of colors and figure out for themselves whether their school is
excellent, about average or low performing.
teacher pay gap is wider than ever,” subtitled “Teachers’ pay continues to fall
further behind pay of comparable workers” is a 29-page report released by
the Economic Policy Institute, whose mission is “to inform and empower
individuals to seek solutions that ensure broadly shared prosperity and
opportunity.” But in fact EPI is nothing more than a union front group
whose board includes AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry,
American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, National Education
Association’s Lily Eskelsen-García, et al.
Not surprisingly, the EPI report is flawed. Perhaps the
most honest and well-researched study done on teacher pay, including
the time-on-the-job and benefits factors, was done in 2011 by Andrew Biggs, a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a
senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In their report, they destroy
the teacher union-perpetuated myth of the under-compensated teacher. Their
study, in fact, found that teachers are actually paid more than private-sector workers.
California’s Prop. 55, which would extend the “temporary”
tax hikes ushered in by Prop.30, would seem to be on track to pass in November.
Many voters, including a majority of Republicans, are in favor of the
Voters are also showing strong support for Proposition 55, a
measure on the November statewide ballot that would extend for 12 years an
income tax increase on individuals earning $250,000 or more per year to help
boost education and healthcare funding. Sixty-nine percent of voters showed
support for the measure.
One other initiative of note for educators is Prop. 56. If
passed it would increase the cigarette tax by
$2.00 per pack, with equivalent increases on other tobacco products and
electronic cigarettes. The tax revenue generated would go to “funding existing healthcare programs; also for tobacco
use prevention/control programs, tobacco-related disease research and law
enforcement….” However, opponents have a very different take. They say that,
“California’s Constitution (through Proposition 98), requires that schools get
at least 43% of any new tax increase. Prop 56 was purposely written to
undermine our Constitution’s minimum school funding guarantee, allowing special
interests to deceptively divert millions a year from schools to health
insurance companies and other wealthy special interests.”
AB 2835 was
birthed when CTA leaders were frightened that the Friedrichs decision
was going to go against them. They decided they needed to carve out an
opportunity to deliver a sales pitch to teachers who would no longer be
forced to pay money to the union as a condition of employment. But with Antonin
Scalia’s death and the Supreme Court’s subsequent refusal to rehear the case, the
bill became irrelevant; CTA and CFT still have a captive audience.
Did you know that Clovis, a city of about 100,000 located in
California’s San Joaquin Valley, home to the 16th largest school
district in the state, with 41,000 students, 47 schools, and 1,800 teachers,
functions without a teachers union? In fact, there has never been a teachers
union in Clovis, but teachers nevertheless have a prominent voice and role in the
district’s governance. Instead of a union, they have an elected Faculty Senate,
in which each school has a representative. The mission of the Faculty Senate is
to be “an effective advocate for teachers at all levels of policy making, procedures,
and expenditures, in partnership with our administrators, fellow employees, and
community as a quality educational team.” To learn more, please read my op-ed
in the Orange County Register – http://www.ocregister.com/articles/teachers-726147-clovis-california.html
And finally, as you well know, information is frequently
used to score political points and make cases for various causes. To that end,
CTEN has a “cheat sheet” on our website – with original sources. To see it, go
to http://www.ctenhome.org/cheatsheet.htmlIf you
have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something
added, please let us know.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to CTEN can do so very
simply through a personal check or PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.html As a non-profit, we exist and operate only
through the generosity and support of others. Many thanks to CTENers who have
already donated and a special shout-out to those of you who do so on a regular
As many of you are back to work now, we sincerely hope
that you had an enjoyable summer and that the always busy start of a new school
year has gone well.
CTEN is again participating in National Employee Freedom
Week, which began August 14th and runs through August 20th. NEFW is
a national campaign whose purpose is to let employees know that they have the
freedom to opt out of their union and become agency-fee payers or religious/conscientious
objectors. This year, 102 organizations in 42 states are participating. An
important objective is to reach those in union households nationwide who are
unaware they can opt-out of union membership without losing their job or incur
any other penalty. For more information, please visit the NEFW website – http://employeefreedomweek.com/For
info specific to teachers in California, go to http://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html
In addition to the Democratic and Republican conventions,
July saw the National Education Association hold its yearly convention followed
by the American Federation of Teachers biannual get together. These meetings
tend to be especially boisterous in election years, and 2016 was no exception.
AFT president Randi Weingarten spoke at length, extolling the virtues of
the most urgent issues confronting our country. Her bold economic plan puts
unions front and center. She will level the playing field for the middle class,
raising incomes for hardworking families, creating debt-free college for
students, and lifting children out of poverty.
In addition to praising Clinton, NEA president Lili
Eskelsen García spent time slamming Republican candidate Donald Trump. From the
Fear and divisiveness has always been used as a
cudgel by politicians, but the ascent of Donald Trump – and his toxic brand of
racial demagoguery – has magnified the stakes of the upcoming election.
“I am terrified that this man has made it this
far. This unfit, unworthy man will be the Republican nominee for president of
the United States of America,” Eskelsen García said during her keynote. But on
July 5, delegates were visited by presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton, who “believes that as a nation, we’re stronger when
we’re together,” Eskelsen García added.
Ready for California to start
teaching kids about sexual consent? Well, it’s coming.
This school year,
the state will be the first in the U.S. to require that high schools teach
sexual consent — what it is and how it’s established. While some high
schools already taught consent, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in October 2015
requiring all schools that mandate health courses to do so beginning in the
2016 school year.
‘Our dedication to
a more comprehensive approach to sex ed — principles that are evidenced based,
culturally appropriate, nonjudgmental, the whole thing about establishing
parameters about not having sex — is really revolutionary, positively
revolutionary….’ said Claire Brindis, a pediatrics professor and adolescent
health policy researcher at University of California, San Francisco.
Also, bilingual education is back on the ballot 18
years after California voters passed
Prop.227 in 1998. The proposition mandated that ESL students be taught in
English only, rather than in bilingual programs, which instructed students
primarily in their native language while they gradually picked up enough
English to enter mainstream classes. Supporters want to “make it easier for
schools to establish bilingual programs for both English learners and native
English speakers seeking to gain fluency in a foreign language.” But there are
forces that maintain that Prop 227 worked, including Latinos who were frustrated that their children were “getting
caught in essentially Spanish-only classrooms where they never became adept at
English.” To learn more, go here - http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article94068542.html
Can civic education save America? Robert Pondiscio,
Senior Fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, certainly thinks so and he
makes a good case for it. He sums up his argument:
I have often
observed that the first and most important relationship a child builds with a
civic institution is with his or her school… It is not an overstatement to
suggest that if we are threatened by intolerance and slouching toward
authoritarianism, the civic mission of education is elevated—immediately and
urgently—not merely to a priority for education itself, but something very much
like a matter of national security.
The problem with our schools of education is an ongoing
theme in this newsletter. The latest installment is from our friends at the National
Council on Teacher Quality. In a report released in late July, Michigan State
University professor William H. Schmidt and his colleagues “look at the
mathematics that American middle school teachers took during their teacher
preparation and produce some hard evidence of prevailing substandard
study looks more closely at US preparation, examining how many US programs
deliver this essential content. Even on this basic question, Schmidt finds
enormous, inexplicable variations among institutions in what they consider to
be essential content. Schmidt estimates that only about a third of
America's middle school teachers took coursework addressing this content. For
the rest of teachers, a sizeable portion of the content never gets covered.
Compare that to some of our international counterparts which include a number
of countries where 80 percent of all teachers learned essential content.
The educational savings account battle rages on in
Nevada. On July 29th, both defenders and opponents of a school choice law passed by the
2015 Nevada Legislature “drew equal optimism from the pointed questions… during
two state Supreme Court hearings over the controversial measure’s
The seven justices carefully
avoided offering a clear indication of how they eventually will rule. But each
took their turn grilling attorneys on whether the law illegally diverts money
from funds deemed sufficient by the Nevada Legislature to fund public schools,
or if it is in conflict with a constitutional prohibition against taxpayer
dollars being used for sectarian purposes.
While the rulings will come
at a later date, the oral arguments emboldened both proponents and critics of
In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them
informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are
many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative
sources of information. Many thanks, as always, for your interest and support.