Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dear Colleague,

California is frequently the first state to pass some kind of legislation which may or may not be beneficial. The newest such effort is a law that mandates later school start times.

“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.” 

The law will take effect over a phased-in period, ultimately requiring public middle schools to begin classes at 8 a.m. or later while high schools will start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The law does not apply to optional early classes, known as “zero periods,” or to schools in some of the state’s rural districts.

The new start times will be implemented by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year or when a school’s three-year collective bargaining agreement with its employees comes to an end, whichever is later. Schools that have recently negotiated agreements or are in the midst of negotiating new agreements with teachers have the option of adjusting to the later times when their contracts end.

Interestingly, CTA called Newsom’s decision to sign the bill “unfortunate,” saying it creates significant challenges that will ultimately affect students.

To learn more, go here.

A report released earlier this month by the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center on “targeted school violence” doesn’t add much to what we already knew. Nearly every attacker “experienced negative home life factors.” Most were victims of bullying and had a history of school disciplinary actions. The perpetrators typically had a grievance and a plan, that usually involved the use of a gun. But ultimately the report finds, “There is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school that has been targeted.”

As Stephen Sawchuk writes in Education Week, the analysis generally confirms the conclusion of the agency’s 2002 publication on school safety that “checklists of characteristics supposedly common to school shooters were not helpful in preventing violence.”

About a month before the report was released, Florida became the latest state to allow teachers who pass psychological and drug screening, and complete at least 144 hours of training to carry guns at school. The volunteers receive a stipend of $500 for participating.

While American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten insists that teacher carry makes our children’s classrooms less safe, John Lott, founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center, disagrees. In a report released in April, he concludes, “Since at least as far back as January 2000, not a single shooting-related death or injury has occurred during or anywhere near class hours on the property of a school that allows teachers to carry.” He adds, “There are currently 20 states that allow teachers and staff to carry guns to varying degrees on school property.”

To read the report, go here. To learn more about Lott’s findings, go here. To read Weingarten’s thoughts, go here.

The NAEP scores were released a few weeks ago and the results were not pretty, especially here in California. As EdSource reports,

In 2017, California education leaders heralded the significant increase in the state’s 8th-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a sign that the state’s investment in education and its adoption of the Common Core standards had taken hold.

Curb that enthusiasm. In 2019, California’s 8th-graders gave back the gain, as did much of the nation, underscoring that progress on state and national standardized tests is best measured over a decade, not in single years.

In math, both California’s and the nation’s 8th-grade scores fell less than 1 point. The nation’s 4th-grade math score rose 1 point and California’s rose 3 points — though it was not considered statistically significant because of the sample size.

The biggest change was in reading and the news was not good. Joining 30 states whose 8th-grade reading scores also fell, California’s decline of 3 points, the same as the nation, about matched its point gain in 2017.

In 4th-grade reading, the national score fell 2 points, which was considered significant, while California’s 1-point rise was not. Only one state, low-scoring Mississippi, saw a gain in 4th-grade reading.
To learn more, go here.

While California’s students struggle, at least one teacher union leader’s thoughts and efforts would seem to be elsewhere. In a recent post on the California Federation of Teachers website, new president Jeff Freitas talked about his union’s priorities. 

When I was elected CFT President in March, I said in my speech to Convention delegates: “I believe that when we fight for education, we also fight for social justice, racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and climate justice.” 

To be a social justice union, we must not only consider the complex lives of our members and the challenges they face, but look beyond the doors of the schoolhouse to consider the ways our campus communities intersect with our larger communities. When we fight for labor, we must fight for our communities, too. 

To read more on Freitas’ thoughts, go here.

The leftist agenda in education stretches far beyond the teachers unions, however. In a revealing piece in Real Clear Investigations, John Murawski writes, “Woke History Is Making Big Inroads in America's High Schools.”

Like growing numbers of public high school students across the country, many California kids are receiving classroom instruction in how race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship status are tools of oppression, power and privilege. They are taught about colonialism, state violence, racism, intergenerational trauma, heteropatriarchy and the common thread that links them: “whiteness.” Students are then graded on how well they apply these concepts in writing assignments, performances and community organizing projects.

Students at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale are assigned to write a “breakup letter with a form of oppression,” such as toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, the Eurocentric curriculum or the Dakota Access Pipeline. Students are asked to “persuade their audience of the dehumanizing and damaging effects of their chosen topic.”

Students at schools in Anaheim, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco are taught how to write a manifesto to school administrators listing “demands” for reforms.

To learn more about “woke history,” go here.

As NAEP scores decline and politics in the classroom ascend, Carl Cannon at Real Clear Politics writes, “K-12 Education Falls Short, and Hope for Gains Lags.”

A majority of registered voters are dissatisfied with the performance of the elementary and secondary education system in this country, according to a detailed new survey. Moreover, Americans have little confidence that public schools will improve any time soon.

“Looking ahead on education, few people are optimistic about the future,” said John Della Volpe, who designed and directed the poll. “Only about one in 10 voters believe America’s K-12 education will be a model of excellence by 2040.”
To read on, go here.

Not surprisingly, as confidence in traditional public schools declines, school choice is ascendant. Chapel Hill-based education writer Kristen Blair reports:

A new federal report, School Choice in the United States 2019, provides long-term proof on enrollment claims. Culling years of data, the report shows choice has been a major engine of enrollment growth nationwide, fueling maverick models of schooling. Public charter growth is the stuff of reformers’ dreams, skyrocketing 571% between 2000 and 2016. Homeschool enrollment nearly doubled. Most students, 47 million, still attend traditional public schools, but enrollment has increased just 1%. Private school enrollment decreased 4% during similar timeframes.

Voters’ attitudes defy partisan pigeonholing. A new poll from Education Reform Now of likely 2020 voters show 57% want “new ideas” and “real changes” in how public schools operate, in addition to more funding. Eight in 10 Democratic primary voters and nearly nine in 10 black Democratic primary voters want expanded access to choices and options in public education, including charter schools.

To learn more, go here.

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN. In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them to be informative, please pass them 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 -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dear Colleague,

Andrew Biggs, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a D.C.-based public-policy analyst, have written “The Truth about Teacher Pay,” an essay for National Affairs, that unmercifully destroys mountains of emotion-based clich├ęs that are education establishment mainstays.

The authors dispel myths like the “teacher pay gap,” which allegedly leads many educators to take second jobs, as well as other tall tales of woe, including the “teacher shortage,” that “teachers are leaving the field in droves,” that “teachers work more than other professionals,” et al. For example, citing an Economic Policy Institute study, which claims that teachers are victimized by a 21 percent pay gap nationwide, they write,

Finally, if teachers were truly underpaid by 21% on average, we should expect large wage gains when they move to the private sector, especially since the teachers who would most gain from switching jobs are the most likely to actually switch. But the evidence shows nothing like these kinds of wage increases. Our analysis of the Survey of Income and Program Participation finds that teachers who switch to a different profession earn 3% less in their new jobs. Separate studies using administrative records in Florida, Missouri, and Georgia also find no average wage increase for ex-teachers.

To continue reading this eye-opening report, go here.

Chris Stewart, CEO of Education Post, has written a series of pieces about the role of parents in education. His September 3rd entry was particularly riveting. He writes,

For decades parents have allowed the $600 billion public education cabal to professionalize them out of the educational equation, basically demanding we shut up, hand our children over, and let the experts do their work. It hasn’t worked out. Schools today remain mediocre and education policy offers little hope for systemic change.

Focusing on the three R’s of parental sovereignty isn’t a sly way of blaming parents or scolding them. To the contrary, it is to acknowledge their struggle, their marginalization, and admit that the deck is often stacked against their kids. The only way out that I see is for parents to fully step into their power, make demands, and be ready to do the work of saving their kids that government and its lovers have yet to do.

To read Stewart’s essay, go here.

On the school choice front, the Trump administration's Education Freedom Scholarships, which would create federal tax credits for state-selected scholarship-granting organizations to support a variety of educational services, are in trouble.

While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asserts the scholarships wouldn't create or fund a new Washington program, they would “still be administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. And in order for the Treasury Department to oversee the Freedom Scholarships, Congress would have to appropriate money for the purpose; this could be done without increasing the department's overall budget.”

However, in their fiscal 2020 appropriations bills, neither the House nor the Senate make any mention of money being appropriated to the Treasury Department to administer these scholarships. You won't find any reference to the Education Freedom Scholarships in the bill language or in reports with key details about the legislation.

To learn more, go here.

In November 2020, California could be hit with dueling propositions. The “split roll” initiative would gut Prop 13 protections for businesses, but spare individuals the massive tax hike. Since 1978, Prop. 13 has limited property taxes on all forms of property – private and commercial – to 1 percent of assessed value, and limits increases in that value to no more than 2 percent a year, except when properties change hands. Proponents claim the tax would raise $11 billion a year for schools and local governments. But a March 2012 study from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy showed that adopting such a “split-roll” property tax would result in a loss of 400,000 jobs and $72 billion in economic activity in the first five years.

At the same time the California School Boards Association is pushing to get the Full and Fair Funding initiative on the 2020 ballot. As reported by EdSource’s John Fensterwald, CSBA asserts that their initiative “would increase funding for K-12, early education and community colleges by raising income taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $1 million.” This initiative would set Californians back $15 billion. And yes, it is conceivable that both initiatives could wind up on the ballot in 2020.

To learn more, go here and here.

Needless to say, the California Teachers Association will be spending heavily on all the above. According to Mike Antonucci, CTA is pledging to collect 150,000 signatures once the split roll measure is ready to go. Antonucci also writes that CTA is flush with cash.

CTA has more than $40 million available for various aspects of its political agenda, with more on the way at the end of every teacher pay period — and it can be supplemented by grants from the National Education Association.

Money doesn’t always guarantee success in the political arena, but CTA will never be able to credibly complain it couldn’t raise enough cash.

For details about CTA’s deep pockets, go here.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles is gearing up for the 2020 election by holding an “advisory vote” for president on November 13th, and it looks like Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders will be their pick.

“Sanders is shaping up to be the candidate with the best chance not just to win the White House, but to actually change the conditions of massive inequality and underfunding of public education,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl says. “The process approved by our Board and House makes clear our broad union leaders’ recognition of Sanders’ unique platform while also going to our most important resource—our members and chapter leaders—for dialogue and advice before making this important decision.” 

“Bernie is the only candidate with a concrete, progressive K-12 educational plan, including a massive infusion of funding and a moratorium on charters,” UTLA Elementary Vice President Gloria Martinez says. “Bernie’s anti-privatization stance on education and healthcare addresses the needs of our students and the long-term viability of our healthcare and healthcare for all.” 

To learn more, go here.

Life in Local, Inc. recently announced the opening of a new online community focusing on education with a unique crowdfunding marketplace. President and co-founder David Jemison writes,

Our idea is to bring together all aspects of the offline education “community” and bring them online to help them interact better- not just the students and faculty/staff, but alumni, local businesses, residents, and other organizations. We want to make it easier for schools and members of the community to interact with each other and create new opportunities for non-traditional learning, as well as fundraising/advancement. Besides getting individual student clubs to use the site, we are looking for schools/organizations interested in having their own branded online campus community.

To learn more and sign up, 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 -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others.
Thanks, as always.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dear Colleague, 

On September 9th, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 419 into law, which extends the current K-3 ban on suspensions for “defiant and disruptive” behavior in California to grades 4-8. The law suggests that “restorative justice practices, trauma-informed practices, social and emotional learning, and schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support, may be used to help pupils gain critical social and emotional skills” as a way to right the wayward student. It’s important to note that the statute doesn’t pertain to violence, robbery and other more serious offenses.

The impetus behind the bill appears to be race-based. While black students made up 5.6 percent of the total enrollment in California for academic year 2017-18, they accounted for 15.6 percent of total suspensions for willful defiance, according to the state education department. Of course, it goes unmentioned that black kids actually commit a disproportionate amount of the suspense-worthy offenses. Black teachers understand this. A recent Fordham Institute teacher survey showed that they, more than white teachers, feel suspensions aren’t used enough.

To see the text of the new bill, go here. To read a contrarian view, go here.

On the school choice front, Education Post CEO Chris Stewart has written a powerful piece about “The Three R’s of Parents Who Want to Raise Free Children.”

One of my favorite Gandhi quotes is, “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” I’ve never found a person who disagrees, even among the most ardent believers in the transformative power of public schools. Parents matter most.

Yet, if we believe parents and guardians are the first and most important teachers in the lives of children, why do we allow the various authorities to limit their options and usurp their desires?

Because, of course, while we say we believe in parents, trust them, and respect them, in truth, there is a collective suspicion about “bad” parents who deserve none of the trust and respect.

But, if our goal is to find solutions to the educational failure that compounds year by year, all logical roads lead back to parents or guardians and their ability to access educational opportunities.

That means school choice (and even the right to choose no school at all), and that scares people to death.

To continue reading, go here.

The California State Senate has passed AB 1505 and is one step closer to Gov. Newsom’s desk for his signature. The original bill would have been a death knell for the state’s charter schools, but after negotiations with all interested parties, a compromise was reached. The California Charter School Association is upbeat, assuring parents “that the most critical protections were maintained and that new provisions would be focused on our values of equity, quality, predictability and co-existence within our public education system.”

 AB 1505 ensures that:
  • Charter schools that are closing the achievement gap are granted a streamlined renewal, with the ability to now be renewed up to seven years.
  • There is restoration of an appeals path to counties and the State Board of Education when a new or renewing charter school petition has been denied.
  • Any consideration of the fiscal impact of a new charter school petition must be balanced with the academic needs of the students who are going to be served.  
  • A five-year transition exists for non-core charter school teachers to secure appropriate certification.
To learn more, go here. To see the bill’s history, go here.

Regarding teacher pay, Newark, NJ did something interesting in 2012. With the help of Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg, Newark teachers signed off on a contract that linked pay to student achievement. It was a interesting plan that gave teachers a choice. According to Chalkbeat, “About a third of Newark teachers took advantage of an option that let them remain on the traditional pay scale. And fewer than 200 teachers per year – about 7% of the current teaching force – received the ‘highly effective’ bonuses, while a similar number of low-rated teachers were prevented from earning raises, according to union and former district officials.”

The plan worked. Newark retained almost all of its top-rated teachers: In the 2016-17 school year, 97 percent of teachers who were rated “highly effective” the previous year stayed in the district, but 54 percent of teachers rated “ineffective” were gone.

Now, with the Zuckerberg money drying up, a new contract has been signed, and sadly PFP has been eliminated. Local teacher union president John Abeigon pulled no punches in a note to his members, “This contract removes the last vestiges of corporate reform from the district,” and is a “message to our enemies that your evil is not welcome in Newark or any other public schools.”

To read more, go here.

In the “better late than never” department, Mary Grabar has written a book excoriating “A People’s History of the United States.” Howard Zinn’s book, which was first published in 1980 and has sold some 2.6 million copies, is aimed at high school and college students. In a review, Federalist executive editor Joy Pullmann writes that Zinn’s book is “concentrated poison.”

Using a careful review of his source materials and claims, as evidenced by her nearly 1,000 footnotes, Grabar documents quite clearly and conclusively that Zinn is not only a plagiarist but a liar. His presentation of key events and figures of American history, such as Christopher Columbus, slavery, the NAACP, World War II, and the civil rights movement, also straight-up regurgitates Communist propaganda.

Here’s just one example, from page 222 and 223 in Grabar’s book. She shows how Zinn selectively quoted from American documents to make it look like the United States was interested in getting Vietnam’s natural resources, not in defending it from a communism our nation understood to be evil and dangerous. The very same documents Zinn quotes actually prove the opposite of the points he makes with them when one reads the material he left out.

To read more, go here.

Earlier this month, Mike Antonucci posted a most interesting document: “The California Teachers Association 2019-20 Membership Handbook.” This 46-page “guide to membership processing” is loaded with minutia, some of which may affect you. For example, it mentions “Commitment Cards.”

By signing a Commitment Card, a member agrees to the Maintenance of Dues provision, where a member may revoke their annual dues obligation during an annual 30-day window period, which is not less than 30 days and not more than 60 days before the anniversary date of signing the Commitment Card.

Local chapters can use the Commitment Card as part of its member engagement efforts when having one-on-one conversations with a member about the local chapter’s successes, what is planned next, and how the member’s involvement and support strengthens their union’s efforts.  Locals that are successful in getting members to commit can be more confident in having the support of its active members for each year, and in return better plan the budget and activities to support those members.

To see the entire document, go here.

A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal also concerned itself with union membership. Authored by Mark Janus’ lawyer, Bill Messenger and National Right to Work Foundation president Mark Mix, the op-ed claims that a specific aspect of the Janus decision has been overshadowed. The authors claim that while the ruling affirmed that state and local workers have the legal right to stop such payments, the decision also requires that the government “obtain proof that workers voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived their First Amendment rights not to subsidize union speech before deducting union dues or fees from their paychecks.”

“To be effective, the waiver must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “Unless employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them, this standard cannot be met.”

Yet the federal government and many states and localities continue to deduct union dues without evidence that workers waived their speech rights, usually based on pre-Janus authorization forms that come nowhere close to demonstrating a waiver. Labor Department figures suggest unconstitutional deductions could be coming out of the paychecks of as many as 7.2 million government employees nationwide. The fix is simple: Governments must cease transferring wages to unions until they amend their dues-deduction policies to comply with Janus.

To read the op-ed, go here.

On that note, if you have any questions, 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 -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks, as always. 

Larry Sand
CTEN President