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, August 17, 2016
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.