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, July 19, 2017
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.