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.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
“Steve Bannon Tried
to Recruit Teachers Union to Trump’s Agenda While in the White House” reads the
eye-catching headline in a post on The
Intercept earlier this month. From the piece:
“Look, I will meet with virtually anyone to
make our case, and particularly in that moment, I was very, very concerned
about the budget that would decimate public education,” Weingarten said. “I
wanted it to be a real meeting, I didn’t want it to be a photo-op, so I
insisted that the meeting didn’t happen at the White House.”
Weingarten didn’t take notes at the meeting,
which was held at a Washington restaurant, but told The Intercept she and
Bannon talked about “education, infrastructure, immigrants, bigotry and hate,
budget cuts … [and] about a lot of different things.”
She came away a bit shook. “I came out of
that conversation saying that this was a formidable adversary,” she said.
He was looking, Weingarten said, for some
common ground that could assist him in realigning the two parties, his
long-term goal in politics.
advocate E.D. Hirsch, who argues that “only a well-rounded, knowledge-specific
curriculum can impart needed knowledge to all children and overcome inequality
of opportunity,” has written a compelling piece on the subject.
Our schools now exhibit a diminished sense,
once widely held, that a central goal of American schooling is to foster
national cohesion—“out of many, one.” The loss of that sense of mission in the
early grades has occurred because of two intellectual changes that have gained
ascendancy during the past 80 or so years. The first and most important change
was a shift, starting in the 1920s and ’30s, from an emphasis on initiating
children into the mores of the national tribe to an emphasis on developing the
nature of the individual child.
According to the
Learning Policy Institute, the U. S. annual teacher attrition is about 8
percent and LPI finds this number alarming. Should this be a cause for concern?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2016, the “quit rate” for
teachers was indeed 8.8 percent. But other fields didn’t fare nearly as well.
In manufacturing the rate was 14.6 percent, in real estate 18.5 and in retail
trade it was over 35 percent. In fact, BLS reports that 25 percent of all
workers left their jobs in 2016. So teachers quit their jobs only about
one-third as much as all workers.
Nothing really new here, as Mike Antonucci
wrote about the issue in 2007. Using numbers from a 2004-2005 National Center
for Educational Statistics report, he acknowledges that while some teachers do
leave the profession because of education-related issues, most leave for
non-education related reasons – to pursue a position other than that of K-12
teacher, retirement, pregnancy or
reasons,health and changed residence, etc.
Is the Youth Entrepreneur program right
for you? It “equips young people
with the values and vision to pursue their dreams. We strive to change the
mindsets of young people, so they believe in themselves and what they can
accomplish. Our experiential education model instills entrepreneurial and
economic principles built for prosperity. We inspire students to overcome
barriers and seize opportunities for good.”
Additionally, YE is not just a
business class. It is “an engaging elective course and alumni program that
prepares students from fragile communities for success in the workplace and in
The Independent Institute’s Vicki Alger has
released a report on the value of educational savings accounts. She writes that
“California is among the bottom five states in the nation in reading and math.
Currently, nearly one out of five high school students does not graduate, and
just 43 percent of those who do graduate meet California’s four-year college
course requirements.” She continues,
proven policy-path for dramatic improvements in student achievement is parental
choice: giving parents the ability to choose the methods and means of their
children’s education, including the freedom to use education savings accounts,
On the union front, if the Janus v AFSCME case, due for a hearing
early next year, is successful, no teacher or any public employee in the U.S.
would have to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. The American
Federation of Teachers is getting ready for the worst case scenario andsent its director of
field programs Rob Weil to speak to the Baltimore Teachers Union. In a
presentation titled “Janus, Unions, and the Rest,” Weil details the potential
ramifications of the lawsuit. In one of his more interesting comments, he posits
that “Unions may be forced to spend larger amounts of time and money on
membership maintenance instead of other more progressive union activities.” He
adds that the progressive moment (sic) as a whole, and many specific groups,
“will lose resources (both $$ and people) which will lessen their impact. Some
social partners may, unfortunately, no longer exist.”
In other words, without forced dues,
the unions may actually have to pay attention to their members and their
political preferences. Mike Antonucci has a different take, however. He writes,
“Although their overall numbers will be reduced, it is conceivable that unions
will become more progressive organizations. Those who pay dues out of personal
choice, rather than mandated obligation, are more likely to support their
unions’ political goals as well. There will be less union, but it could be
So will the unions become even more
politically strident? Or will they soften their political positions to attract
more members? Only time will tell.
For an in-depth look at the history of
labor reform going back to 1935, Sean Higgins has written an excellent piece on
the subject for the Washington Examiner.
It includes an interesting quote from former SEIU President Andy Stern:“If states are going to adopt
right-to-work laws, they should release unions from the responsibility of
representing non-members in collective bargaining. If you are not a member of
something, you shouldn't get the benefits.”
For CTA agency fee
payers, the November 15th deadline has passed, so we hope you have
already submitted your 2017 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
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.
As many of you know, teachers throughout most of the country
are paid by the step-and-column method, whereby salaries are based on the
number of years on the job. Teachers can also increase their salaries by taking
“professional development” classes, despite conclusive research that these
classes have little if any effect on student learning.
When teacher salary schedules first came to be about 100
years ago, they were designed to eliminate discrimination due to race,
ethnicity and gender. With such discrimination illegal today, is there really
any need for them?
Not according to the Brookings Institution, which has come
out with a report that shows the detrimental effects of the step-and-column pay
evidence presented here demonstrates a strong association between inequalities
across teacher compensation, school funding, and pension benefits that we
believe warrants greater attention. In light of an aging workforce creating a
growing number of teacher vacancies, and a new generation of increasingly
mobile millennial teachers, these findings have important implications about
how public resources are allocated across teachers and students.
data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a study
released in September by the Fordham Institute delves into the depths of the
teacher absentee problem. On average, teachers miss about eight school days a
year due to sick and personal leave, while the average U.S. worker takes only
about three-and-a-half sick days per annum. The study shows that 28.3 percent
of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent, which is
defined as missing 11 or more days of school per year due to illness or
personal reasons. Interestingly, in charter schools – most of which are not
unionized – the corresponding number is just 10.3 percent.
within charter schools, the study reveals a glaring disparity. Teachers in
unionized charters are almost twice as likely to be chronically absent as their
colleagues in non-unionized charters – 17.9 percent to 9.1 percent.
study’s author, David Griffith, stresses that there’s a direct link between
teacher attendance and student achievement. He writes,
There are roughly 100,000 public
schools in the United States, with over 3 million public school teachers and at
least 50 million students. So every year, at least 800,000 teachers in the U.S.
are chronically absent, meaning they miss about 9 million days of school
between them, resulting in roughly 1 billion instances in which a kid comes to
class to find that his or her time is, more often than not, being wasted….
While this year’s Smarter Balanced test scores are nothing
to rave about in California, there is one bright spot as EdSource’s Carolyn Jones points out: 3rd graders’ math
scores. She writes,
47 percent of 3rd-graders met or exceeded the math standards, the
highest number of any grade level. By comparison, only 32.14 percent of 11th-graders
— who spent most of their school years studying the old standards — met or
Over half of California students are not meeting
English standards on the test, and perhaps we need to try a different approach.
To that end, early
literacy specialist Patrick Herrera has some ideas.
He writes that all teachers are language teachers, and when teachingvocabulary,
definitions are not enough. He writes,
objectives include a purpose, an instructional plan and assessment.A common vocabulary assignment is a list of
words and definitions to memorize for a quiz.This includes science, history, etc.
information will be quickly forgotten.Also, you want to insure that the lesson becomes part of their speaking
and writing communications.
Let’s review the complete process:
•Assign vocabulary with definitions and sentences
that reflect the definitions.
•Review in class, and ask for volunteers to
create another sentence using the word. Students add the sentence to their
•Quiz: Provide sentences from the original
assignment (not the definitions) with the vocabulary word missing. They supply
the missing word.
is more than words and definitions; vocabulary needs context. Context helps you
think. You can’t think without vocabulary.
On the school choice front, there is good
news coming from Florida, where a recent study conducted by the Urban Institute
shows favorable long-term outcomes for students who enroll in the state’s Tax
Credit Scholarship Program – the largest private school choice program in the
country. As the American Federation for Children reports:
a student stays in a private school via the FTC for two years, college enrollment
increases by 9-14 percent compared to public school students.
a student stays in a private school via the FTC for three years, college enrollment
increases by 19-25 percent compared to public school students.
a student stays in a private school via the FTC for four years or more, college
enrollment increases by 37-43 percent compared to public school
The big union news
over the past month is the announcement of the Supreme Court’s willingness to
hear the Janus v AFSCME case. Mark
Janus, a child support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of
Healthcare and Family Services, is compelled to send part of his paycheck to
the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus, who is
being represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work
Foundation, says, “When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I
wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when
money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”
The lawsuit is a sequel to Friedrichs v CTA, which
was headed to a SCOTUS victory last year until Antonin Scalia’s death
short-circuited the case. But right-to-work proponents are optimistic that Scalia’s
replacement, Neil Gorsuch, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of
employee freedom. As things stand now, public employees in 22 states are forced
to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
Many teachers unions
are preparing for the worst, and some state affiliates are going to rather
drastic lengths to protect their turf. Anticipating an unfavorable Janus
decision, Education Minnesota, the National Education Association affiliate in
the Gopher State, has come up with a new form that includes the following
I agree to submit
dues to Education Minnesota and hereby request and voluntarily authorize my
employer to deduct from my wages an amount equal to the regular monthly dues
uniformly applicable to members of Education Minnesota or monthly service fee,
and further that such amount so deducted be sent to such local union for and on
my behalf. This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be
automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the
union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and
the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and
ends on September 30.(Emphasis added.)
The new American
Federation of Teachers U.S. Department of Labor report has been disclosed. As
RiShawn Biddle writes,
The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union
spent $44.1 million in 2016-2017 on political lobbying activities and
contributions to what should be like-minded groups. This is a 29.6 percent
increase over the same period a year ago. This, by the way, doesn’t include
politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called
union gave a whopping $1.2 million to the Atlantic
Monthly, double the amount it gave to the magazine the prior year. Biddle
You have to wonder if Weingarten and her
mandarins are kicking themselves for not offering to buy a stake in the
Atlantic, which will soon be controlled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ reform-minded
Emerson Collective, which has become a landing spot for U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan and his former honcho on civil rights enforcement,
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 a refund. For details, go here - http://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html
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,”
which has been updated on our website – all with original sources. To see it,
go to http://www.ctenhome.org/cheatsheet.html
you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something
added, please let us know. As always, thanks for your continuing interest and
A recent study from New York City has the education establishmentarians in a tizzy. Alex Zimmerman summarizes the results in Chalkbeat. “The study finds that being closer to a charter school led to small increases in math and reading scores, boosts in reported student engagement and school safety, and fewer students being held back a grade. The test score gains increased slightly more in traditional public schools that are co-located with a charter.”
So not only don’t charter schools hurt traditional public schools, they make those schools better. Sarah Cordes, a professor at Temple University and the study’s author, thinks a close proximity “might really get administrators to get their act together.” She adds that the charter sector “is working as it was intended: creating pressure on administrators to improve the quality of their schools.”
Cordes’ study is not the first on the subject. Brian Gill, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research in Cambridge, MA, looked at 11 studies in 11 different states which compared the effects of charter schools on traditional public schools and found that “six studies found some evidence of positive effects, four found no effects, and one found negative effects.”
Also on the school choice front, a 1995 interview with the late Apple founder Steve Jobs has just resurfaced and is available on YouTube. While the interview, conducted by Computerworld’sDaniel Morrow, went on for 75 minutes, the brief time Jobs spent talking about education is memorable. The Silicon Valley visionary and strong universal voucher proponent saw the unions as a stumbling block.
The problem there, of course, is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible….
Twenty-two years later, not much has changed – at least in strong union states – where there is little choice for parents, massive school districts are entangled in bureaucracy, and meritocracy is just an eleven-letter word. Jobs went on to explain the effect that a monopoly has on a customer.
What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country, is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said “We don’t care. We don’t have to.” And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.
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The shows and stories the students create run on broadcast television reaching 18 million viewers in 7 Southern California counties and stream online. This is valuable TV News experience and exposure that many professionals would love to have! Students can include this on their resumes and will look great if they decide to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. They'll be head and shoulders above their competition!
Are public schools really public schools? EdChoice President Robert Enlow doesn’t think so.
The legend says that public schools accept all comers. That is simply not true, and it never has been.
In fact, the entire system is set up to ensure that public schools don’t really accept all comers. That’s because attendance in public schools is based on geography—on where people live. What this means in practice is that public schools accept all kids who look like each other or who live in similar types of houses and whose family income is the same. K-12 public schools are more segregated by race and income than ever before.
It’s no secret that illiteracy is a growing problem in the U.S. In fact, according to The Literacy Project, there are currently 45 million Americans who are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th grade level, and half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th grade level. Professor Patrick Herrera would like to do something about this.
Latinos and blacks continue to show a lack of achievement in reading. These two communities represent over 35% of the 48-plus million children in our schools. Over half will drop out of school due to lack of reading skills. Millions face low-paying jobs.
Reading requires a pre-reading foundation, which begins with phonics. This is a cognitive, neural skill that links a group of sounds to a group of letters, both representing a word. The second skill is converting sounds into writing. A third skill is converting text into speech. This is the preparation for the reading skill, which usually begins at home.
Many disadvantaged parents have limited literacy skills. They are not able to prepare their children for first grade. It becomes the responsibility of the schools. The answer lies in teacher training and the right curriculum. There is a solution.
CTEN is again participating in National Employee Freedom Week, which begins August 20th and runs through August 26th. 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. 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 tohttp://www.ctenhome.org/how-to-opt-out-teachers-union-nea-cta-aft-cft.html
On the subject of employee freedom, is this the time for Congress to push for the Employee Rights Act? A Wall Street Journal editorial thinks so and describes one facet of the bill:
The House bill would require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining. Current labor law lets unions deduct money from worker paychecks to fund political activities. Workers then must go through the tortuous process of requesting a refund for the share not spent on collective bargaining, which unions may broadly define to include member engagement that boosts voter turnout. No other political outfit enjoys this fundraising fillip.
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.
The never-ending teacher shortage debate goes on, and,
accordingly, there is a raft of bills that lawmakers
have put forward this session meant to increase the supply of teachers or keep
existing ones in the profession. Just a few of the many:
▪ Assembly Bill 169 creates the Governor’s Teaching
Fellowship Program, offering $20,000 grants to would-be teachers who commit to
working in math, science, bilingual education or other high-need fields.
▪ AB 1182 offers down-payment assistance to
teachers in counties with high housing costs.
▪ SB 436 creates a new program to recruit and
retain science and math teachers.
But as the Sacramento
Bee’s Jim Miller points out,
California had 332,640
teachers as it climbed out of recession during the 2010 school year. By
2015-16, the state had 352,000 teachers.
The number of public
school students, meanwhile, has barely changed from several years ago, with
enrollment of 6.22 million in 2010-11 to 6.23 million in 2016-17.
AB 1220, a tenure
bill which we have been following, has taken a weird turn. As Ed Source’s
John Fensterwald writes, “The latest attempt in the Legislature to lengthen the
probation period for new teachers has stalled for the year. On Wednesday, the
author of a bill (Shirley Weber) to add an optional extra probationary year
pulled her bill amid the surprise emergence of a competing bill by Assemblyman
Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, a candidate for state superintendent of public
instruction.” After, Weber pulled her bill, Thurmond yanked his, which adopts
the position of the California Teachers Association. To be continued in the
next legislative session.
One more bill, AB
119, has already become law and is pretty well summed up here: “…the ability of an
exclusive representative to communicate with the public employees it represents
is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of state labor relations statutes, and
the exclusive representative cannot properly discharge its legal obligations
unless it is able to meaningfully communicate through cost-effective and
efficient means with the public employees on whose behalf it acts.”
In other words, the unions want time with new employees so
that they can pressure them to become members. The bill also stipulates that
the employer must give the union the “name, job title, department, work
location, work, home, and personal cellular telephone numbers, personal email
addresses on file with the employer, and home address of any newly hired
employee within 30 days of the date of hire….”
The mechanism of delivery – when, where how, etc. – for the
union spiel will be have to be worked out by each union local and the school
district. If terms can’t be resolved, an arbitrator will be called in, the
costs of which would be shared by the union and school district.
The yearly National
Education Association convention is on the books and, while typical in many
ways, this year’s meeting seemed a bit more angst-ridden than usual. NEA
Lily Eskelsen García expressed great dislike for and distrust of Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos. Additionally, the union passed a motion that if DeVos
doesn’t address its concerns, it will demand her resignation. While NEA
had also called for the head of her predecessor, Arne Duncan, the tone
this year was considerably harsher.
The NEA rolled out a new charter
school policy which is similar to its old one, but the 2017
version is more strident. If the union had its way, charters would be just like
traditional public schools, which, of course, would render them meaningless.
a rather bizarre turn, the union adopted Resolution A-4 which states, “The Association further believes
that public education should be publicly and democratically controlled, without
undue influence in decision-making on the part of any private interests,
including, but not limited to, business concerns and philanthropic
as Mike Antonucci notes, the NEA itself is a private interest. So is this
something of a murder-suicide pact?
Howard Fuller, Derrell Bradford and Chris Stewart have collaborated on a
powerful essay about “Liberating Black Kids From Broken Schools – By Any Means
Education reform is at a crossroads in this
country. And it seems the issue of parent choice – who
should have it, how much of it there should be, and for what schools – will determine the direction many reformers
While some may have difficulty defining where
they stand on “choice,” others of us – who have spent years, decades,
and lifetimes advocating for the liberation of Black children from schools that
have not worked for them – do not
suffer this crisis of clarity. Our belief is that low-income and working-class
families need, as one of the few levers of power at their disposal, the power
to choose the right school for their children – and that those choices should include traditional public, public
charter, and private schools. Our belief is grounded not just in our
understanding that no one type of school is the right fit for every type of
child, but in the frank, stark, brutal reality and history that colors the
pursuit of education by Black people in this country.
Also, on school
choice Matt Barnum has penned a thought-provoking piece, “Contradictions of the
School Choice, Food Choice – Er, Food Stamps – Debate.”
It’s a government program that funnels public
dollars to private, usually for-profit companies that critics say lack
appropriate accountability and oversight and leave recipients to make poor
decisions with taxpayer money.
Supporters counter that it’s a necessary
lifeline that empowers low-income families, via the free market, to make
decisions that best suit their needs.
The program is food stamps, but the
description and the critique could just as easily be applied to school choice
Some observers see striking parallels between
the debate about school vouchers and food stamps, while others point to a
number of important differences. The arguments also scramble ideological lines,
with conservatives generally supportive of vouchers for schools but skeptical
of subsidies for food, while progressives take precisely the opposite view.
The late Cato
Institute scholar Andrew Coulson devoted his final years to a project which
first saw the light of day on selected PBS stations across the country in
April. But now, all three installments of School
Inc. are available online. According to the Free To Choose Network, the
Coulson takes viewers on a worldwide personal
quest for an answer to the question—if you build a better way to teach a
subject, why doesn’t the world beat a path to your door, like they do in other
industries? The three-part documentary exposes audiences to unfamiliar and
often startling realities: the sad fate of Jaime Escalante after the release of
the feature film Stand and Deliver; Korean teachers who earn millions of
dollars every year; private schools in India that produce excellent results but
charge only $5 a month; current U.S. efforts to provide choices and replicate
educational excellence; and schools in Chile and Sweden in which top K-12
teachers and schools have already begun to “scale-up,” reaching large and
ever-growing numbers of students.
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,”
which has been recently updated on our website – all with original sources. To
see it, go to http://www.ctenhome.org/cheatsheet.html
you have information that counters what’s there or would like to see something
added, please let us know.
always, thanks for your continuing interest and support.