Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CTEN - October 2011 newsletter


I just returned from the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference in San Francisco. For education reformers, this was the certainly the place to be – teachers, think tankers, charter operators, legislators, etc. convened for a day and a half, compared notes and planned reform strategies. I’m not sure what the future of education will look like, but I can tell you with great certainty that the status quo will not continue to stand for long. The conference, which was streamed live, is available as a podcast - http://wpc.230d.edgecastcdn.net/00230D/august2/fee/webcast/index.html

Perhaps the greatest threat to business as usual is digital learning, which is already being utilized in some states on a limited basis. Perhaps the greatest boon to learning via computer came accidentally. Sal Khan, a former hedge fund analyst, made a couple of YouTube videos to help his younger cousins get through some troubling math areas. Soon Mr. Khan learned that it wasn’t just his cousins that he was helping. He then made more videos on different subjects and people from all over the world began to watch and learn from them. Bill Gates became a supporter and Khan is now known to millions.  To get the full story, I urge you to watch this video in which Mr. Khan gives an overview of what he has accomplished in a very brief time -   http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html  His website, which now has over 2,600 videos, is a must visit - http://www.khanacademy.org/

No Child Left Behind has been in the news recently; due for yet another renewal, people from both sides of the aisle are fighting about the best course to take. The government, which wants to give waivers to states that are not going to able to live up to the original dictates of the 2001 law, is supported by some. But others are just plain tired of the government’s involvement in what they feel should be an issue left up to the states. The following articles sum up both sides of the discussion - http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-federal-takeover-of-education/2011/09/30/gIQAdKYBBL_story.html  and http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/03/opinion/la-ed-nclb-20111003

Teacher preparation programs have been in the news lately and mercifully so. Too many of our schools of education do a horrible job of readying teachers for life in the classroom. The National Council on Teacher Quality reports that, “In response to growing demand from its state customers to offer a new elementary generalist licensing test, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) will be releasing a considerably improved alternative to the current Praxis II ‘content knowledge’ test now used by 25 states.” The hope is that with a more rigorous assessment, the states will do a better job of teaching the next generation of teachers. 
Additionally, President Obama has thrown himself into the ed school fray. “The Obama administration announced a new $185 million competition Friday that would reward colleges for producing teachers whose students perform well on standardized tests.”

This competition “would require states to provide data linking collegiate teaching programs inside their borders to the test scores of their graduates' students. Under the proposal, to be eligible for the money, states would have to ratchet up teacher-licensing exams and close persistently low-performing teacher-training programs.” To continue reading this Wall Street Journal article, go to http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576602992880869786.html
And finally, there is a union angle to the ed school follies. While NEA President Dennis Van Roekel constantly complains about poor teacher preparation, NEA gave $381,576 in 2009-2010 to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which oversees teacher training programs. To read more about this double-dealing, please go here - http://redcounty.com/content/tragedy-and-farce-american-schools-education

On the subject of teacher quality and teacher pay, education researcher Marcus Winters claims that a compensation system “based on additional academic credit and experience makes sense only if those factors are actually related to classroom effectiveness. They aren't.” This article, which explains that the way most teachers are paid is wrong, is a must read - http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/02/opinion/la-oe-winters-teachers-pay-20111002  

Long time friend of CTEN, Palm Desert High School teacher Ossil Macavinta has suggested that if you are interested in starting a “No Cussing Club” at your school to let him know. He is very interested in expanding the clubs and would be willing to help you get one off the ground. More info can be found at http://palmdesert.patch.com/articles/city-extends-influence-of-no-cussing-club and http://PDHSNoCussing.com  To contact Dr. Macavinta, you can email him at ossil.macavinta@dsusd.us or info@pdhsnocussing.com or call him at 760-333-2139.

Final reminder: If you are considering becoming an agency fee payer, it is a two step process. First, you resign from the union (thus becoming an agency fee payer) and then request that the political part of your dues be returned to you. Sample letters for both steps are available here - http://www.ctenhome.org/knowMembership.htm#exoptions  (As a first timer, you must take care of both steps by November 15 to get a full rebate.)

If you already are an agency fee payer, you must request your rebate this year (and every year!) by November 15th. If you are even one day late, you will not get a penny back. Also, because liability insurance is very important for teachers, we suggest joining the Association of American Educators http://www.aaeteachers.org/  or Christian Educators Association http://www.ceai.org  Both AAE and CEAI are professional organizations, not unions, and are apolitical. (Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with AAE for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $180 first year membership.)

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.

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.

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support and feedback.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CTEN - September 2011 newsletter

Dear Colleague,

Welcome back! By now all school districts in California are in session. We know that some teachers have taken a pay cut, and many will have to yet again make do with fewer materials in their classrooms.  But it would appear that due to AB 114, no teachers have been laid off, at least for the time being. If you are not aware of AB 114, we did a complete story on it in our July newsletter - http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/CTENLTL7-11.pdf

While this is an election off-year, CTA is still very politically active. If your politics don’t happen to jibe with CTA’s, or you don’t think that a teachers’ union should be spending money on issues that have nothing to do with teaching or education, you might want to consider not giving them the 30% or so of your dues that go toward politics. If you’d like more information about your options, please go to http://www.ctenhome.org/know.htm

If you are making this move, it is a two step process. First, you resign from the union, thus becoming an agency fee payer, and then request that the political part of your dues be returned to you. Sample letters for both steps are available here - http://www.ctenhome.org/knowMembership.htm#exoptions  If you already are an agency fee payer, you must request your rebate this year (and every year!) by November 15th. If you are as much as one day late, you will not get a penny. Also, because liability insurance is important for teachers, we suggest joining the Association of American Educators http://www.aaeteachers.org/  or Christian Educators Association http://www.ceai.org/  Both AAE and CEAI are professional organizations, not unions, and are apolitical. (Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with AAE for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $180 first year membership.)

Speaking of resigning from your union, here is an inspiring story from an articulate teacher in Wisconsin who did just that - http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/article_8333100d-c468-52bc-8fe2-9890e857274a.html?mode=story
Laurie Rogers is an education advocate who runs a provocative blog that we think is well worth checking out. “Betrayed is a forum on public education designed to inform the public about critical education issues affecting students, teachers, community members, and the country.” It can be found here - http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/2011/09/politics-driving-math-classes-not.html
She also posted the following on the CTEN Facebook page, “I'm seeking out education professionals who work for rigorous academics and an effective, efficient teaching approach. I think the public needs to hear about you. Perhaps others would be inspired. You can be anonymous, but I have to know who you are. There is so much in public education to be angry about, even frightened about ... But many professionals ARE aware and are working on behalf of the children. Let's celebrate the good.” She can be reached at wlroge@comcast.net

For those of you who are reform-minded, there is an excellent new education news and opinion website started by Bob (“The Cartel”) Bowdon. A one-stop shop for matters pertaining to education reform, one can find original stories, state-by-state happenings and listings of every reform conference, event, etc. in the country. Just unveiled yesterday, it’s sure to be a well trafficked site - http://ChoiceMedia.TV

One of our subscribers, Rhory Lamboy, has been a special ed teacher for over 20 years. She is of the opinion that special ed teachers are inundated with paperwork and regulations, leaving them little time to teach. She would like to know if you have similar concerns. What are you dealing with in the area of special education? Are you feeling more like a lawyer, secretary, or educator? (General education teachers – feel free to respond also.) TheSchoolWorkGuru@gmail.com

Recently a teacher in Florida posted some anti-same sex marriage comments on his Facebook page - http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/08/19/florida-teacher-suspended-for-anti-gay-marriage-post-on-personal-facebook/#ixzz1VUbbIys1 He was suspended from teaching, but reinstated in short order. However you feel about this story, it does bring up some important questions about social media that all educators using Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. should be aware of and concerned about.  Here is what Missouri is doing on the subject - http://hazelwood.patch.com/articles/mo-school-social-media-bill-compromise-at-core

Whatever your feelings on value added measures, this way of measuring student achievement seems to be gaining traction. This article in the Wall Street Journal gives a good overview - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903895904576544523666669018.html

A story definitely worth watching: termed out United Teachers of Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy, long known for his virulent stance against charter schools, has signed on to be the president of a charter school outfit that promises to open one or more schools by September of 2012. Equally shocking to friends and foes alike is his stance on tenure, which is considerably tougher than the one he held during his six years as UTLA chief. For more on this story, go to http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/01/local/la-me-0901-duffy-20110901

CTEN has two Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue amongst teachers is an effective way to spread information and experiences and share ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts
Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here - http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts

If you were away over the summer and did not read the July and August letters, we encourage you to get caught up.  Please visit http://www.ctenhome.org/newsletters.htm to do so.

Finally, we hope that everyone has gotten off to a good start and that 2011-2012, despite the ongoing fiscal turmoil, will be a great one for you and your students.  As always, sincere thanks for your continued interest and support.

Very best,

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Monday, August 22, 2011

CTEN August 2011 newsletter

Dear Colleague,

We know that many of you are back to work already, but quite a few are still enjoying your summer, so we will wait till September for our official back-to-school letter. In the meantime though, there is plenty happening.

The SOS March on Washington came and went without creating so much as a ripple from a policy standpoint. The small crowd carried signs criticizing President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, capitalism, corporatizers, privatizers, the rich, charter schools and every education reform imaginable as you can see here - https://picasaweb.google.com/113193310602533838134/SOSMarch73011?authkey=Gv1sRgCMfyu8ab68j4sgE&feat=flashalbum#

In a just released book that has received raves from every quarter, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools, author Steven Brill claims that former education reformer, turned union shill Diane Ravitch is “in it for the money.” It seems that Dr. Ravitch has been well paid for being the unions’ head cheerleader. In any event, Brill’s book promises to be a most interesting read.

One other book, a very brief one, is also well worth reading.  Jay Greene, education researcher and head of the Education Reform Department at the University of Arkansas, has written Why America Needs School Choice, which refutes all the usual arguments with a well reasoned and researched approach.

The American Federation of Teachers’ sleazy tactics used to successfully neuter a Parent Trigger law in Connecticut came to light because someone within AFT decided to put its strategy in the form of a PowerPoint on their website. Education writer RiShawn Biddle posted a story with an embedded link before AFT realized what happened. They pulled the PowerPoint immediately, but fortunately Mr. Biddle saved a copy. All is revealed here - http://dropoutnation.net/2011/08/02/the-afts-real-feelings-about-parent-power/

Teachers unions playing hardball is hardly new. Perhaps the most egregious example of this phenomenon is a training tape, clearly inspired by Marxist community organizer Saul Alinsky, made by the Michigan Education Association, an NEA affiliate, in the 1990s for union negotiators who collectively bargain with school boards. I urge you to listen to the audio and not just read the text. The creepiness of actually hearing the trainer pitch his uncompromising tactics adds a dimension that is missing when you just read the words - http://www.mackinac.org/9405

Also noteworthy is a new study just out from the National Center for Education Information - http://www.ncei.com/Profile_Teachers_US_2011.pdf  According to the Orange County Register, the poll reports that,
“Nearly one in five U.S. educators say they support abolishing teachers unions, and one in three support ending tenure for teachers, according to a new survey by the think-tank National Center for Education Information.
“The survey of 1,076 public school teachers nationwide indicates that educators are becoming increasingly supportive of doing away with unions and tenure, with support growing by four to five percentage points over the past 15 years, to 19 percent and 33 percent, respectively.”( http://articles.ocregister.com/2011-08-03/news/29852188_1_teacher-tenure-math-teacher-public-school-teachers  )
The National Council on Teacher Quality has come out with yet another extensive, scrupulously researched report. This time NCTQ tackles the issue of “Student Teaching.”  If your less-than-satisfactory experience was anything like mine, I think you’ll find plenty to chew on here - http://www.nctq.org/edschoolreports/studentteaching/

In another interesting story, NCTQ claims that the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system in Washington D.C. is working out quite well. For more info, go to http://www.nctq.org/p/tqb/viewStory.jsp?id=27431

And finally, I had an op-ed published in the San Jose Mercury News about the Commission on Teacher Credentialing Commission scandal which curiously got very little media coverage - http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/SJMN%20-%20CTC%20scandal%5B1%5D.pdf

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support. Please visit our website – www.ctenhome.org regularly. If you any need information that you can’t find on the website, please send an email to cteninfo@ctenhome.org  or call us at 888-290-8471 and we will get back to you in short order. Thank you.


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CTEN - July 2011 letter

Dear Colleague,

Since our last newsletter, two major pieces of legislation have become law. On June 30th, Governor Brown signed AB 114 ( http://toped.svefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/StateBud-TrailerBillAB114Text063011.pdf ), which prohibits laying off any teachers. As such, school districts have been given mandates that will be difficult for many to carry out. Educated Guess writer John Fensterwald says there are three ways that AB 114 steals power away from the local district.

First, it requires that each school district “assume the same level of funding as last year and maintain staffing and program levels consistent with that. Legislators are dictating this even though they admit there’s a good chance that revenues may not bear that out.”

Secondly, AB 114 eliminates the option that “districts would have over the next 45 days to make staff adjustments if they view this as necessary. Instead, the legislature is suspending that capability under the law for the next year. As School Services noted, ‘This provision is clearly designed to protect union positions, even if the district cannot afford to pay for the services.’”

Finally, the new law will “suspend key provisions for one year of AB 1200, under which school districts must self-certify that they can balance their budgets in the current year and one and two years into the future. Those that cannot must work with their county office of education to align revenues and spending. This year 13 districts were negatively certified in the latest filing, indicating they could not balance their budgets this year and next. An additional 130 districts – nearly one in seven – acknowledged trouble balancing their budgets two years out. AB 114 would require districts to assume the same revenue as this year and prevent county offices from seeking evidence of financial stability for the next two years.”

There seems to be little doubt that CTA is behind this bill, which ultimately could spell disaster for many local school districts. The California School Boards Association is already starting to talk about counter legislation.

Regarding the other major new law, back in April, we wrote the following:
As of this writing, SB 48 very well may become law in California. According to the legislative analyst, this controversial bit of legislation “would require instruction in social sciences to also include a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.” To read the exact wording of the bill, go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0001-0050/sb_48_bill_20110329_amended_sen_v98.pdf
Last week, Governor Brown signed this CTA-supported bill into law. Hence, it would appear that curriculum and textbooks will undergo some rather interesting changes and SB 48 will most certainly be the topic of many a staff development come the fall.

One other legislative note from last week: The hotly debated Parent Trigger law, which needed some clarification, was addressed by the state Board of Education. The changes put forth were accepted and it would appear that this law originally signed into being by Governor Schwarzenegger in January 2010 will now proceed pretty much in tact.

Longtime LAUSD sub Rob Schmidt, has taken on some important work. He has been documenting cases of students who abuse teachers, and has created several videos which deal with this very sad issue. Thus far, Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) and John Phillips (KABC Radio) have covered Rob’s stories. A Los Angeles Television station has green-lighted a project based on the videos and would like to hear more personal accounts from teachers. So, if any of you have recent stories related to this subject or know someone who does, Rob would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact him at rob.schmidt@earthlink.net His website is www.RobSchmidt.org

Periodically, the National Council on Teacher Quality focuses on a given school district. In June, it was Los Angeles’s turn. They reported,

Probably the most jaw-dropping finding is LAUSD's approach to teacher raises. While all American school districts give raises to teachers who head back to graduate school, LA's approach is a new one on us. In LA, there's actually little incentive to earn a honest-to-goodness master's degree, but instead teachers accumulate what are deceptively termed "credits," which teachers earn for visiting the opera or the zoo during their off-hours. No wonder that so many teachers have reached the top of the pay scale in LAUSD--decidedly unlike any other district we've seen.

Is this really very different from the way your district handles teacher raises? (Perhaps this would be a good topic to discuss on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com )
In any event, to read more about the study, go to http://www.nctq.org/tr3/consulting/losangeles.jsp

Also, in an article I wrote for City Journal - http://www.city-journal.org/2011/cjc0707ls.html - I contend that class size does not have an effect on student achievement. I suspect that some of you will take issue with my position, and invite you to post any comments on the CTEN blog for all to see - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com

Regarding our recent CTEN Survey Monkey poll, while many of your responses were pretty much what we had expected, one result however, was a bit of a surprise. Sixty-one percent of respondents said that they were full dues payers. Considering that almost 72 percent identified themselves as Republican or Libertarian, we would be interested in learning why those respondents would choose to stay in a union, paying for politics that don’t reflect their views.

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support. Please continue to provide feedback so that we can continue to keep you informed, provoke discussion and meet your needs. Thank you very much.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Orgasm for the Children

NEA’s reprehensible sexual agenda goes on unabated and the MSM is MIA.

At a time when teachers’ unions are battling for their collective bargaining lives, courtesy of Governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie, John Kasich et al., it’s hard to go a day without reading a newspaper account of the latest union news. However, there is a story involving the National Education Association that has flown under the mainstream media radar.

I could not find a single MSM account of a talk given at a UN conference on March 3rd where Diane Schneider, representing the NEA at the “Commission on the Status of Women” said:

“Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a panel on combating homophobia and transphobia.  Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools, with curricula based on liberal hetero and homosexual expression.  She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.  

Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.”  “Gender identity expression and sexual orientation are a spectrum,” she explained, and said that those opposed to homosexuality “are stuck in a binary box that religion and family create.”

A woman wants to teach children as young as eleven about oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms in a public school setting and it’s not news!!??!!

A little digging finds that Ms. Schneider is a high school health educator and very active with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in upstate NY, where she is its co-chair. She is also proud of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) that she advises in her high school. Her presentation at the UN conference was part of her training from the NEA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Trainer of Trainers.

The NEA’s LGBT Trainer of Trainers??

After my initial outrage, it quickly came back to me: the NEA has had a perverse agenda for many years now, taking pride in the fact that they are at the forefront of a movement to sexualize pre-pubescent children. With the MSM silent, I wrote in 2005 about GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings and his relationship with the country’s largest teachers’ union. In Outing the NEA , I wrote that 

…at its 2004 convention the National Education Association gave its prestigious Human Rights Award to Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). This is the group that presided over the infamous “Fistgate” conference held at Tufts University in Massachusetts in March 2000, where state employees gave explicit instructions (about “fisting” and other forms of gay sexual activity) to children as young as 12. The conference was secretly recorded and can be heard here. The contents are extraordinarily vile.

Unfortunately, “Fistgate” was not an isolated incident. On April 30 of this year GLSEN held an event at Brookline High School in Massachusetts, and distributed an obscene booklet to hundreds of middle and high school students. With headings like F**kin’, S**kin’ and Spit or Swallow?, it describes various sexual practices that can only be described as perverse. 

Mr. Jennings’s career as a sleazy activist has never suffered – not even with his support of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), an organization dedicated to the joys of pedophilia.

In fact, he was promoted. Currently, he is President Obama’s hand-picked “school safety czar.”

While it is imperative that we address collective bargaining and its attendant evils, we must not lose sight of the fact that a teachers’ union is pushing a sordid agenda and is involved with people whose values many Americans find repulsive and abhorrent. Maybe one day the MSM will take notice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CTEN - June 2011 letter

Dear Colleague,

In our June 2010 newsletter, we opened with this statement:

As the 2009-2010 school year grinds to a close, it is apparent that the recession has taken a toll on education and educators – layoffs, cuts in salaries, larger class sizes, loss of music and arts programs have become part of the diminishing landscape for teachers and students at all levels. And there are many different opinions as to when the economy will turn around.

Unfortunately, the same paragraph is still relevant. However, there are twists this year. While the June 15th budget deadline is not new, the fact that legislators won’t get paid if there is no agreement is a new wrinkle. Also, by June 15th, a new bipartisan commission (created by a 2008 ballot initiative) will release California's new redistricting map.  This could radically alter the character of some lawmakers' districts. This could also have an effect on the budget. And then of course there is the off-again, on-again aspect of a ballot initiative that would extend the temporary tax cuts.

Mike Antonucci had a very interesting piece in his May 31 Communiqué which puts things into perspective regarding the number of teachers we employ. He writes, “The latest Census Bureau report provides details of the 2008-09 school year, as the nation was in the midst of the recession. That year, 48,238,962 students were enrolled in the U.S. K-12 public education system. That was a decline of 157,114 students from the previous year. They were taught by 3,231,487 teachers (full-time equivalent). That was an increase of 81,426 teachers from the previous year.” To read more of this factual piece – no grandstanding - go to http://www.eiaonline.com/archives/20110531.htm

In May, we told you about the budding Commission on Teacher Credentialing scandal. Among other things, auditors found that in August 2009 there was a three-year backlog of 12,600 arrest or prosecution reports to be entered into commission records. Finally, heads have begun to roll. Among the major players to leave their posts were CTC Executive Director Dale Janssen and General Counsel Mary C. Armstrong, but hopefully the fallout won’t end there. There seems to be too much gone wrong for just two people to leave their jobs.

Regarding the pension tsunami, the National Council on Teacher Quality has posted a chart which lists how fully funded teacher pensions are on a state-by-state basis. Not surprisingly, California is not doing well. As your teaching career rolls on, please be cognizant of possible ramifications of underfunded pensions. For more, go to

Several education reform issues have been in the news recently. AB 401, sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers and supported by CTA, is rolling along. Authored by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, this bill would arbitrarily cap the number of charter schools in CA at 1450. The proposed law would sunset in January 2017 unless a subsequent law deletes or extends that date. So just when charter expansion could be beneficial, the teachers unions are trying to strong-arm state legislators into applying the brakes. The bill, passed by the Assembly on May 19th, is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Education Committee on June 15th. For more about this bill, go to http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/290957

The Parent Trigger wars continue, now replete with a CTA monkey wrench. With the latest developments in this ongoing saga, Ben Boychuk has an excellent piece on the City Journal California website - http://www.city-journal.org/2011/cjc0607bb.html

About a year ago, I was on a conference call with a group of terrific young education students at Princeton called Students for Education Reform. They were a dedicated group of teachers-to-be who were going into the profession with the idea of reforming it. We have just learned that SFER has branched out and are now on 20 campuses and hope to expand to 100 by 2012. To learn more, go to http://www.studentsforedreform.org/

The following is an email from a CTEN subscriber. If you’d like to offer input, please do so on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com

As a possible issue to address with respect to the newsletter, I would like to know why California schools are essentially forced to buy new textbooks every few years when the California Content Standards have not change since, I believe, 1997? The average cost of a textbook has to be around $70; multiply this by the number of students in California public schools using textbooks. The numbers become staggering very quickly. The new textbooks are essentially reshuffled versions of the current text; the standards drive the curriculum-content of the textbooks. If every textbook since the standards were created covers all the standards, why do we need new textbooks unless they are physically worn? Could you find out what the total monetary impact of this ridiculous practice is and why it is occurring when State of California is so impacted by the lack of financial restraint of our lawmakers?

In any event, if you enjoy these letters, 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.
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.

Some of you have asked and yes, as usual, we will be sending out the newsletter in July and August. We will certainly do our best to update you on any important educational issues. As such, even if you are traveling this summer, please try to stay in touch. Thanks -- and have a great summer!


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Survey Results Are In!


Recently, CTEN conducted the first poll of its members. I would like to thank the 142 of you who responded. A link that will let you see all the results of the poll will follow at the end of this email.

First, I must acknowledge that there was a careless error in question # 22. Choice C read “I don’t believe teachers should awarded seniority.” It should have read, “I don’t believe teachers should be awarded tenure.”

Just a few observations on the results:

  • Almost ¾ of you are between 46-65 years old.
  • Only one in six live in an urban area.
  • Male-female? Just about 50-50.
  • Over 90% of you have been on the job for over 10 years.
  • Over 3/5 are full union dues payers.
  • The most one-sided results were contained in the questions about union and politicking; you feel that the unions don’t belong in politics and that one should have a choice to join a union in the first place.

Also, please note that for questions where response boxes were used, you can see all the responses that teachers entered in those boxes.

We will put a link to the results on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com/ If you have questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please post them there. Thank you very much.

Larry Sand

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CTEN - May 2011 letter

May 17, 2011

Dear Colleague,

Please note that in addition to the traditional emailing of the CTEN monthly newsletter, we will once again have it posted on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com/  Since there are several controversial issues covered in this letter, we think it would be a good time for people to share their opinions with other teachers.

I would like to start by thanking all the teachers who participated in our Survey Monkey poll. The results will be sent out in a separate mailing in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest education story of the month in California is the ongoing funding battle being waged in Sacramento. Deep cuts to the K-12 education budget could mean widespread teacher layoffs as early as next month. Last week we got a heavy dose of union demands to raise taxes as CTA led statewide protests, proclaiming that CA is in a “state of emergency.”   The hope is that this week, Governor Brown will be able to forge a deal with the legislature. Clearly the state is in dire straits fiscally, but are increased taxes the only way to deal with it? Maybe not. I offer some different ideas in an article published by City Journal - http://www.city-journal.org/2011/cjc0510ls.html

One way to save some money would be for schools to go to a four day work week. This is a controversial idea that has worked in other states. This editorial in the Los Angeles Times seems to think that it might be worth trying here in CA -http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-week-20110508,0,1663767.story

There is a major scandal brewing in Sacramento regarding the CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing. According to the Sacramento Bee, “State Auditor Elaine Howle appeared at the hearing Tuesday to present her office's findings of flaws in how the commission launches investigations, updates files, gathers facts, tracks cases and revokes credentials. Auditors also found that in August 2009 there was a three-year backlog of 12,600 arrest or prosecution reports to be entered into commission records.” For more, go to http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/05/ricardo-lara-teacher-credentialing.html

In a very interesting story in Time Magazine a few weeks ago, Andrew Rotherham wrote an article called “Better Teachers: More Questions Than Answers” in which teacher effectiveness is examined. As you can tell by the title of the article, there are no easy answers, at least not at this time. To read the article, go to

Speaking of teacher quality, the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report are partnering to “build better teachers.”  As such, they are launching a website to learn which schools of education are “graduating teachers who are 'student ready'--and which are not.” Considering what passes for rigor in many of our ed schools, I think this is an idea whose time has most certainly come. For more info, go to http://www.nctq.org/transparency.do
The national standards argument goes on… and on and on. The anti-common core folks have ramped up their efforts. Recently a manifesto was issued to combat the federal government’s plan for a nationwide curriculum. To read the manifesto, go to http://www.k12innovation.com/Manifesto/_V2_Home.html

As reported by Education Next, a recent Harvard study came up with some findings that run counter to current orthodoxy. “Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement” makes the claim that “8th grade students in the U.S. score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers allocate greater amounts of class time to lecture-style presentations than to group problem-solving activities.” To read more about the study, go to http://educationnext.org/harvard-study-shows-that-lecture-style-presentations-lead-to-higher-student-achievement/

As I think is obvious, education will remain a very hot topic in the media in the foreseeable future, as we try to figure out what works, what doesn’t and what the cost of it all should be. One of the problems becomes how to figure out whether or not what you’re reading is true. The Media Bullpen is a new website that addresses this issue. They say, “Each day nearly 500 stories—and sometimes many more—are produced in the media about education, but they often lack the context for the public to get engaged. The Bullpen will empower the public to put in context what they see and hear. The problem is not that education is under-reported; the larger issue is that all too often, it is misreported. Balance, context, sound data, and an institutional knowledge of the many issues are often missing.” To learn more about this novel website, go to http://mediabullpen.com/

If you know anyone who doubts the vast power and influence of the National Education Association, a look at a post by Mike Antonucci will probably change their mind. In “The National Education Association and State Affiliates: A $1.5 Billion Annual Enterprise,” he lists the NEA and state affiliate revenues for 2008-2009. Eye-opening to say the least. To read the post, go to http://www.eiaonline.com/archives/20110425.htm

Talking about the power of the unions, Terry Moe has an excellent new book, “Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Schools.” The American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess very accurately describes the book when he says, “"An exquisitely researched, compellingly reasoned treatise on the role of teachers unions and their impact on America's schools. Terry Moe has read everything, collected mountains of data, and thought more deeply on this topic than anyone in America. Special Interest immediately becomes essential reading for policymakers, would-be reformers, and anyone concerned about the future of American education."

In March, CTEN cosponsored an informational event about the Parent Trigger. The panel discussion with four experts on the topic is now available on video. To see it, go to http://www.vimeo.com/22185926

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from our home page - http://www.ctenhome.org/index.htm  Or, if you prefer, we will be happy to send you as many as you need. Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through PayPal - http://www.ctenhome.org/donate.htm  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of like-minded educators and supporters.

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.

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. Thanks.


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Thursday, April 21, 2011

CTEN - April 2011 letter

Dear Colleague,

Please note that in addition to the traditional emailing of the CTEN monthly newsletter, we will once again have it posted on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com/  Since there are several controversial issues covered in this letter, we think it would be a good time for people to share their opinions with other teachers.
In some circles, Salman Khan has become something of a legend. Born in New Orleans to immigrant parents, he set up Khan Academy where he has posted over 2,000 educational videos which are popular with students all over the world. The Harvard MBA and former hedge fund manager has an easy style and a gift for teaching that is matched by few. The idea is for students to learn from his videos and then have the classroom teacher help with any problems, reinforce what has been learned, etc. This type of “blended learning” enables students to learn at their own pace and relieves teachers of the duty of ensuring that everyone is at the same place at the same time. Additionally, taxpayers will be happy because fewer teachers will need to be on the payroll. To learn more about Khan and what he does, please read http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB10001424052748704101604576248713420747884,00.html  To see a video of Khan, Bill Gates’ favorite teacher, go to http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html
In what would appear to be counterintuitive, Mike Petrilli, Fordham Institute’s Vice President for National Programs and Policy, reports that “Losing Their Rights Will Not Send Teachers to the Poorhouse.” He contends that teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually make more money than those in districts with collective bargaining contracts. To read the article, go to http://www.educationgadfly.net/flypaper/2011/03/losing-their-bargaining-rights-wont-send-teachers-to-the-poorhouse/
On March 21, CTEN hosted an informational event at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles about California’s new Parent Trigger law - http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/PT%20Event%20Flyer.pdf  The modest but knowledgeable crowd included several reporters. Rachel Heller wrote about the event here -  http://www.jewishjournal.com/education/article/lausd_schools_accountable_to_new_law_20110405/
In a New York post op-ed, Koret Task Force scholar Eric Hanushek discusses how best to deal with our fiscal budgetary woes in education. His essential point can be summed up in these two paragraphs, “…lay off the least-effective teachers in order to meet the budget shortfall. This policy would have enormous beneficial effects on achievement. By estimates I have done, eliminating the bottom 5 percent to 8 percent of teachers could move achievement of US students from below the average for developed countries to near the top.

“We all know a few teachers are just plain bad; students in those classes would be much better off learning from a competent or superior teacher in a slightly larger class -- and the students in that class would suffer little (if at all) from having one or two more classmates.”  To read the entire op-ed, go to http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/saving_the_schools_T40VJwzgmWlQfKOBB1X4oN/1

The California Teachers Association is most definitely unhappy with the strong possibility of deep spending cuts to education and it will be putting its displeasure front and center for an entire week – May 9th-13th.  Early last week, Mike Antonucci posted a couple of items about planned CTA activities which could be very disruptive to education and the state in general - http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2011/04/11/cta-declares-state-of-emergency-plans-occupation-of-state-capitol/  and  http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2011/04/11/california-teachers-association-1-million-state-of-emergency-protests-may-include-road-closures-plus-labor-union-flavored-ice-cream/  However, after reconsidering, it seems that CTA has modified some of their activities -  http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2011/04/14/the-power-of-ridicule-california-teachers-association-trims-80-protest-ideas/

As of this writing, SB 48 very well may become law in California. According to the legislative analyst, this controversial bit of legislation “would require instruction in social sciences to also include a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.” To read the exact wording of the bill, go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/sen/sb_0001-0050/sb_48_bill_20110329_amended_sen_v98.pdf

In an exceptional blog post that every math teacher should read, Matthew Tabor writes about the type of question that every math teacher gets sooner or later. “Am I ever going to use this?” Or, “Why do we have to learn this?” Tabor answers these questions quite effectively. To read his post, go to http://www.onlineschools.org/education-debate/will-you-ever-use-math-after-high-school/

In late March, I had an article published in City Journal about the ACLU ruling in Los Angeles which clarified the state education code’s seniority rules. Now children in some of the lowest performing schools in the state will be exempted from losing any teachers due to layoffs. But unfortunately, the remaining schools will proportionately lose more. To read the piece, go to http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0322ls.html
We have updated and cleaned up the blog area on our Resources page - http://www.ctenhome.org/resources.htm  If you have any education blogs that you would like to see on that page, please let us know.

Please look for our Survey Monkey questionnaire as soon as all teachers have returned from Easter break - the first week in May.

In our last newsletter, some of you experienced formatting problems. We think the issue has been resolved, but if any of you still experience these issues, be sure to let us know.

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. If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – http://www.ctenhome.org – we would greatly appreciate your letting us know. Thanks.


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Appropriate Dress At School

Does the way teachers dress have any impact on the school environment, or are classroom management, rapport, subject matter knowledge, and pedagogical prowess all that's important?  See what one teacher has to say here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

California Teachers say Free Mumia!

I have to admit, I am more familiar with the work of the California Teachers Association (CTA), but apparently, there is also a California Federation of Teachers (CFT). During their recent annual convention, the CFT got down to business and approved a resolution where they expressed their support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the perennial death row inmate who in 1982 was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

In the almost 30 years since Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook) was sentenced to death, he has become a cause celebre for the lunatic fringe. The morally bankrupt people at the CFT are convinced that Mumia Abu Jamal is innocent of his crime and that he is a political prisoner.

Just check out their resolution:

Resolution 19
Reaffirm support for death row journalist
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial in Philadelphia was characterized by illegal suppression of evidence, police coercion, illegal exclusion of black jurors, and unfair and unconstitutional rulings by
the judge; and
Whereas, the trial judge, Albert Sabo, has been quoted in a sworn statement to have vowed at the time of the trial to help the prosecution ‘fry the n-----;’ and
Whereas, subsequent appellate rulings have bent the law out of shape to sustain the guilty verdict of that trial; and
Whereas, the appellate courts have also refused to consider strong evidence of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence that has emerged continuously in the years subsequent to the trial; and
Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court, in denying relief to Mumia Abu-Jamal, ignored key precedents such as its own ruling in Batson v Kentucky, which was supposed to prevent exclusion of jurors on the basis of race; and
Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal still is incarcerated on Death Row while awaiting a decision from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that could remove a stay on his execution; and
Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal has for decades as a journalist fought courageously against racism and police brutality and for the human rights of all people and has taken strong stands in support of working people involved in labor struggles and in support of well-funded, quality, public education;
Whereas, the continued unjust incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal represents a threat to the civil rights of all people; and
Whereas, the CFT has at a previous Convention voiced its support for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal;
Therefore, be it resolved, that the California Federation of Teachers reaffirm its support and demand that the courts consider the evidence of innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal; and
Be it further resolved, that the CFT introduce and advocate on behalf of a resolution at the 2012 AFT Convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal should he not have been cleared of charges and released by that time.

If you just read that and nothing else, you might think that this poor guy got railroaded. But then of course, there is the other side of the story. These Mumia myths put forward by the CST and the rest of the "Free Mumia" crowd are thoroughly debunked here in case you are interested.

In the meantime, while our educational system is falling down in ruins around us, this is what some of our teachers are focusing on. Ludicrous shenanigans like these sometimes make me ashamed to tell people I am a teacher.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One Small Strike Against Teacher Seniority

Publish by City Journal 2 days ago - http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0322ls.html

Larry Sand
One Small Strike Against Teacher Seniority
A court ruling in Los Angeles offers some hope for students in failing schools.
22 March 2011

Like many other cities, Los Angeles is subject to a state education code requiring that, in the event of teacher layoffs, the last hired is the first fired. Because they invariably have a high percentage of new hires, the lowest-performing schools usually take the brunt of the layoffs under this system, destabilizing them further by requiring a revolving door of substitutes.

When the Los Angeles Unified School District, facing municipal belt-tightening, sent out “reduction in force” notices in 2009, three middle schools—Gompers, Liechty, and Markham, each ranking in the bottom 10 percent of California schools by academic performance—were particularly hard hit. Sixty percent of the teachers at Liechty, 48 percent of the teachers at Gompers, and 46 percent of the teachers at Markham received them. By contrast, the LAUSD sent layoff notices to just 17.9 percent of its teachers system-wide. The notices resulted in a large number of teacher vacancies at all three schools. By 2010, according to an AP story, “More than half of the teaching staffs at Edwin Markham, John H. Liechty and Samuel Gompers middle schools lost their jobs . . . at Markham, the layoffs included almost the entire English department along with every 8th grade history teacher.”

Alleging that the last-hired, first-fired policy violated poor students’ right to a quality education, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a class-action lawsuit. Last month, Superior Judge William Highberger ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The judge cited a previously unacknowledged clause of the education code stating that a district may deviate from seniority “for purposes of maintaining or achieving compliance with constitutional requirements related to equal protection of the laws.”

According to the ACLU, “The settlement reached between the plaintiffs and LAUSD and the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, protects students in up to 45 Targeted Schools in the unfortunate event of budget-based teacher layoffs.” Determined annually, the 45 schools will be comprised of 25 under-performing and difficult-to-staff schools. Up to 20 additional schools will be selected for protection from layoffs based on the “likelihood that the school will be negatively and disproportionately affected by teacher turnover.” Many, like incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, were thrilled, calling the decision “historic.” Others claimed that it was the beginning of the end of the seniority-based staffing system.

Predictably, teachers’ unions were outraged. “This settlement will do nothing to address the inequities suffered by our most at-risk students,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles Elementary Vice President Julie Washington. “It is a travesty that this settlement, by avoiding real solutions and exacerbating the problem, actually undermines the civil and constitutional rights of our students.” New State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson—the California Teachers Association’s choice for that position—echoed the union line, stating, “The ruling could hurt students by requiring them to be taught by inexperienced teachers rather than finding ways to bring in more experienced and arguably more effective teachers.”

Some perspective is in order. Despite the winners’ elation and the losers’ laments, seniority has not been dismantled. The court ruling protects students at the 45 lowest-performing schools, but not students at the remaining 800 LAUSD campuses. Thus, the unjust seniority system remains in force in about 95 percent of the district’s schools. The LAUSD recently announced that it could lay off almost 4,500 teachers—all based on seniority—in June. No doubt many fine teachers will leave the profession, while many of lower quality stay on. To the detriment of hundreds of thousands of school children, seniority remains alive and well in the Los Angeles public schools. For now, the winners are the children at the bottom-performing schools, who will not lose any teachers due to seniority. The losers are the children at all the other district schools, which will incur more layoffs to accommodate the bottom 45. These schools will no doubt lose some excellent teachers.

Judge Highberger’s ruling, then, isn’t quite the “landmark decision” some claim it to be. But if it ultimately becomes the first step in dismantling a system that discriminates against good teachers—and ultimately children—it may yet earn that status.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

CTEN - March 2011 letter

Dear Colleague,

Please note that in addition to the traditional emailing of the CTEN monthly newsletter, we will have it posted on the CTEN blog - http://www.ctenteachers.blogspot.com/ Since there are several controversial issues covered in this letter, we think it would be a good time for people to share their opinions with other teachers.

The story of the month for educators has to be the dismantling of collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Whether or not you agree with Governor Scott Walker’s actions, there is no doubt that is a story that will impact teachers in Wisconsin and possibly have long lasting ramifications for teachers elsewhere. Many other states -- New Jersey, Indiana, Ohio, et al. -- have been watching with more than just passing interest as they are considering similar type legislation. With 29 Republican governors, a sagging economy and general antipathy toward public employee unions, this is a good time for those who think collective bargaining is not healthy for society to put an end to what many in the union think is their “right.”

While CTEN is not taking a position on collective bargaining, we can’t help but be disappointed in the way many Wisconsin teachers behaved in protesting Governor Walker’s actions. They certainly haven’t helped their cause with the kind of behavior displayed in this brief video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71gsnLfsbbM&feature=player_embedded#at=47

Another very contentious issue, this one in California, is the Parent Trigger battle underway in Compton. In a nutshell, the Compton parents got the required number of signatures to force a change in school governance, but the school district, the state school board, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Governor Jerry Brown and various state legislators objected and announced their intention to clarify (read: eviscerate) the new law. However, the landslide of articles sympathetic to the parents from newspapers all over the state has softened the positions of opponents to the point where it would now appear that the law might survive in tact. Here is a bit more information about Parent Trigger from our October newsletter:

Earlier this year, without much fanfare, a new law went into effect in CA. The "Parent Trigger" could have major ramifications for teachers, parents and students. Under this law, if 50.1 percent of parents at a school sign a petition, the school must initiate one of four turnaround options as prescribed by the federal government. To learn more, go to http://parentrevolution.org/?page_id=7 . Also, the Heartland Institute has put out a policy brief explaining the promise and possible pitfalls of the Parent Trigger - http://www.heartland.org/custom/semod_policybot/pdf/28202.pdf

There is still much confusion about the new law, and CTEN is sponsoring an event in Los Angeles on March 21st at which we hope to set the facts straight. We will have four experts discussing the law and its ramifications. For more information, please go to http://www.ctenhome.org/PDFdocs/PT%20Event%20Flyer.pdf

San Gabriel Valley State Senator Bob Huff is proposing a new law. SB 355 (http://cssrc.us/web/29/news.aspx?id=10388&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1) would allow California school districts to base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority. Needless to say, the state teachers unions will fight this tooth and nail. Seniority as staffing mechanism is at the heart of collective bargaining and is written in the California State Education code. While not dismantling the seniority system in its entirety, it would let local districts determine how they want to handle their own staffing decisions.

In a time when student testing has gotten a very bad name, a new study has emerged which shows that testing actually helps students learn. The study claims that testing and a reading theory developed in 1946 remain great learning tools. To read more, go to http://www.openeducation.net/2011/01/25/latest-study-validates-testing-forced-retrieval-and-sqrrr/

In the reasonably near future, you will be getting a special mailing from us - a brief Survey Monkey questionnaire. We would very much appreciate it if all teachers who are on our list would participate. By doing so, you will help CTEN in our efforts to show that there are independent-minded teachers in California and that not all are happily represented by the two state teacher unions here.

As always, we at CTEN want to thank you for your ongoing support. Please visit our website – www.ctenhome.org regularly. If you any need information that you can’t find on the website, please send an email to cteninfo@ctenhome.org or call us at 888-290-8471 and we will get back to you in short order.


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Friday, February 25, 2011

How Safe is Your CalSTRS Retirement?

Not very, if some politicians and the Little Hoover Commission have their way.  From the major Sacramento newspaper:
California's state and local governments should roll back pensions for existing employees, dump guaranteed retirement payouts and put more of the burden for pension benefits on workers, a bipartisan watchdog commission said Thursday.

Any attempt to reduce pensions for current workers would prompt a legal battle royal. Still, the 12-member Little Hoover Commission concluded that government pension funds are in such dire financial straits that they'll never right themselves without cutting into benefits for those working now. The proposal wouldn't affect benefits drawn by current retirees...

Public employee unions counter that guaranteed pensions make up for government's generally lower wages. They say the Little Hoover report and politicians like Dutton overstate the pension problem to pursue an anti-union agenda and undercut collective bargaining.

Six unions representing about 170,000 state workers have already agreed to contracts that offer lowered retirement benefits for new hires and increase what employees pay toward their pensions...

The report caps a year's research and a series of hearings that included testimony from actuaries, union officials, pension reform activists, retirement board members, labor union leaders, public employees and others.

It notes that the state's 10 largest public pension systems, including the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the California State Teachers' Retirement System and the University of California pension fund reported in 2010 a collective $240 billion spread between their obligations and assets.

"In another five years, when pension contributions from government are expected to jump 40 to 80 percent and remain at those levels for decades in order to keep retirement plans solvent, there will be no debate about the magnitude of the problem," the report says.

It's clear to all but the most rabidly partisan that the current model of public employee retirement funding is not sustainable and must change.  How would you do it?  How would you strike the necessary balance between promises made and the state's ability to keep those promises?