Wednesday, June 15, 2022

 Dear Colleague,

As reported recently by EdSource, “Covid challenges, bad student behavior push teachers to limit, out the door.”

In the last six months of 2020 – after the pandemic began – there were 5,644 teacher retirements, a 26% increase the same period the previous year, according to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. By the end of the school year, 12,785 teachers had retired – 8% higher than the previous year. Data for this school year is not yet available, but CalSTRS reports that the number of retirements has leveled off since 2020.

Most of the retirees who completed a CalSTRS survey said they retired earlier than they had planned. Almost half of the retirees surveyed in the 2020-21 school year said challenges related to teaching during Covid were among the primary reasons for their early departure. 

“I can’t speak for others, but even in our worst years prior to Covid, we did not see the mass exiting that we do now,” said Lindsay Mendoza, president of the Cutler-Orosi Unified Teachers Association. 

These resignations come as California school districts are already struggling with staff shortages that have meant larger class sizes and more teachers giving up preparation and lunch periods to cover classes when other teachers are sick.

To read on, go here.

As teachers leave the profession, they also leave the teachers union. But the California Teachers Association’s finances are in good shape, according to Mike Antonucci who asserts, “California Teachers Union Expects to Lose 4,000 Members, Gain $2.3M.”

The union has lost more than 35,000 members since its high-water mark in 2018. That’s equivalent to the entire membership of the Colorado Education Association.

The California union thinks the bleeding will continue. Its 2022-23 budget assumes a loss of almost 4,000 more working members from March 2022 levels. And there are even bigger worries on the horizon.

In her preamble to the budget, obtained exclusively by The 74, Secretary-Treasurer Leslie Littman singles one out.

“Another growing concern is enrollment in California public schools,” she wrote. “The number of students has been steadily declining for years, which studies attributed to excessive cost of living in the state, declining birth rates and migration patterns. But the pandemic exacerbated the decline as parents’ frustration over distance learning intensified. Certain studies project a 9 percent decline in public school enrollment in California within the next 10 years.”

…But membership losses won’t translate into financial pain for the union’s three executive officers and its 415 employees. State dues are indexed to increases in the state’s average teacher salary. Each member will pay the state union $768 in 2022-23, an increase of $15. Despite the projected membership losses, the union will actually rake in $2.3 million more next year, for a total of $214 million, tax-exempt.

To continue reading, go here.

In the meantime, California is “set to launch hundreds of community schools with $635 million in grants.”

Approved a year ago by the Legislature, the $3 billion California Community Schools Partnership Program will be the nation’s most ambitious effort to create schools serving multiple health and learning needs of children. Community schools have come to be known as schools with “wraparound services.” The underlying assumption is that a holistic approach to education, particularly in low-income areas with unmet basic needs, creates the best conditions for children to thrive emotionally and academically.  Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to increase the community schools program by $1.5 billion – 50% – in his revised 2022-23 state budget, which he released on May 13.

On the recommendation of the California Department of Education, 192 districts, county offices of education and charter schools will receive $200,000 two-year planning grants in the first round.

The other 73 districts, with at least some existing community schools, will receive implementation grants covering 444 schools; each school will receive over five years between $712,500 for schools with fewer than 150 students to $2.375 million for schools with more than 2,000 students. Schools serving at least 80% low-income children will receive priority funding.

To learn more, go here.

Also concerning education finances, “Legislature disagrees with Newsom on how to spend additional billions for education.”

School districts and charter schools would get $4.5 billion more than Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing for the Local Control Funding Formula, under a draft 2022-23 state budget that the Legislature released this week.

But to do it, lawmakers would cut into some of Newsom’s favored proposals like his early literacy proposal for $500 million over five years to train and hire literacy coaches and reading specialists in elementary schools and $200 million to create or expand multilingual school or classroom libraries with “culturally relevant texts” to support reading. The Legislature also wants to cut an additional $1.5 billion to establish community schools in schools with concentrations of low-income families; the 2021-22 budget included $3 billion to launch the program.

The literacy proposals are backed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s task force on early literacy. 

Since legislative leaders are basing their alternative budget on the same revenue projections for 2022-23 that Newsom used, they would eliminate or reduce some of Newsom’s top priorities to make room for the $4.5 billion. 

The Legislature would further slice Newsom’s pot of one-time funding by dropping $1.8 billion for deferred maintenance of K-12 facilities and reducing increased funding for dual enrollment and career pathways. 

To read on, go here.

In a very questionable move, “The California State Senate has passed a bill that would allow schools not to report threats or attacks against employees or officials to law enforcement, despite the ongoing national shock and outrage over the Uvalde, Texas, mass school shooting.”

The bill, SB 1273, introduced by State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles), passed easily last Thursday — just two days after the Uvalde shooting, in which an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school.

The bill repeals a provision of existing law that requires that “whenever any employee of a school district or county superintendent of schools is attacked, assaulted, or physically threatened by any pupil, the employee and any person under whose direction or supervision the employee is employed who has knowledge of the incident are required to promptly report the incident to specified law enforcement authorities.” SB 1273 would make such reports to law enforcement voluntary.

To learn more, go here.

Additionally, the ethnic studies battle rages on here in California. As John Fensterwald reports, “Debate turns hot over UC proposal to set criteria for high school ethnic studies.”

An influential University of California faculty committee has shelved a draft policy to require criteria for high school ethnic studies courses that critics characterized as narrow, ideological and activist.

The professors who wrote the draft are vowing to fight for it, in what could become a combative and very public battle over who gets to decide what California high school students will learn about the heritage, history, culture and struggles of the state’s historically underrepresented groups.

The proposal had gone through several iterations and had appeared to be on track to go before the UC Board of Regents for approval. Instead, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools or BOARS, which initiated the effort, has backpedaled amid continued questions and debate within and outside of UC. 

To read more, go here.

Also in the political realm, Pacific Research Institute scholar Lance Izumi writes, “Woke Math Returns to California.”

Last year, the California Department of Education released the first draft of a new curriculum framework for K-12 mathematics, which would guide teaching in the classroom.

The first draft was widely criticized for politicizing math instruction by inserting "environmental and social justice" into the math curriculum, having students solve "problems that result in social inequalities," and rejecting the notion that math is a "neutral discipline."

Because of intense backlash, including an open letter signed by more than 1,200 mathematicians, scientists, and education leaders, the first draft was pulled back. But now, a second draft has been released and it is still filled with woke concepts and prescriptions.

The second draft says that the goal of teaching math will be to "promote racial justice." Indeed, five of the 14 chapters of the framework are focused on equity, with the CDE saying that "equity influences all aspects of this document."

To continue reading, go here.

Most recently, the results of a Harvard University study, which investigated the role of remote and hybrid instruction in widening gaps in achievement by race and school poverty, have been released.

Using testing data from 2.1 million students in 10,000 schools in 49 states and D.C., the researchers found that “shifts to remote or hybrid instruction during 2020-21 had profound consequences for student achievement. In districts that went remote, achievement growth was lower for all subgroups, but especially for students attending high-poverty schools. In areas that remained in-person, “there were still modest losses in achievement, but there was no widening of gaps between high and low-poverty schools in math (and less widening in reading).”

Another study, by curriculum and assessment provider Amplify, examined test data for some 400,000 elementary school students across 37 states and found a spike in students not reading at grade level, with literacy losses “disproportionately concentrated in the early elementary grades (K-2).” The report also found that minority children suffered disproportionate learning loss. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “During the last normal school year, only 34% of black and 29% of Hispanic second graders needed intensive intervention to help catch up. This school year 47% of black and 39% of Hispanic second graders have fallen this far behind on literacy, compared to 26% of white peers.”

To learn more, go here.

And finally, in a world awash with data, we at CTEN make every effort to keep up with the latest info. If you have any questions, or want more information about anything related to education, please let us know. Also, if you appreciate these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.


Larry Sand

CTEN President


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Dear Colleague,

As we mentioned last month, California’s schools are losing students at a fairly rapid clip, but as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Bay Area schools have been especially hard hit.

Enrollment at San Francisco public schools plummeted this year, from almost 52,000 students in the 2020-21 school year to 49,000 in 2021-22. This follows a decline of over 1,000 students in the previous year, combining for a district-wide drop in enrollment of 7% since before the pandemic.

Enrollment loss, however, is not just a San Francisco problem. Public schools across the state lost 2% of students compared to 2019, and in the Bay Area, districts had a combined 6.5% enrollment decrease, with several seeing more dramatic declines than San Francisco Unified.

The Chronicle compared enrollment data for non-charter public schools at the 10 largest school districts in the nine-county Bay Area from 2019-20, the most recent school year unaffected by the pandemic, to 2021-2022, the current school year.

We found enrollment decreases at each of the 10 districts. San Jose Unified School District had the largest decline, at 11%, followed by 9% at Hayward Unified in Alameda County and 7% at West Contra Costa Unified. SFUSD had the fourth-highest proportional decrease but lost the largest number of students (around 3,600) over the two years.

Much of the enrollment decline was a result of fewer K-8 students. Across Bay Area public schools, K-8 enrollment fell by 9%, compared to just 3% among high school students.

Enrollment changes also differed by race and ethnicity. Statewide enrollment among white students fell the most, at 5%, compared with 3.6% for Blacks, 2% for Asian Americans and less than 1% among Hispanic students.

To learn more, go here.

In Oakland the school district announced earlier this year that it plans to close, merge or reduce classes for 11 schools over the next two years. And recently, seven-and-a-half year Oakland Unified school board member Shanthi Gonzales, one of five board members who have been lambasted for supporting controversial school closures earlier this year, announced her resignation in a letter critical of the district’s teachers union and other board members.

“Most Oakland schools aren’t “meeting students’ academic needs” and that the failure to improve school quality has driven the district’s significant enrollment loss over the last 20 years.

She criticized the school board as a whole for wasting too much meeting time on “issues that, while important, don’t have much to do with how students are doing academically.”

“As long as we are struggling to ensure that students can read at grade level, it is a disservice to our students and families to spend so much time on issues that are not central to our core mission,” Gonzales said.

She also accused leaders of the district’s teachers union, the Oakland Education Association, and their “allies” of “resisting efforts to address school quality” as well as trying to shut down debate on topics they don’t agree with — sometimes “through acts of intimidation.” Her employer was contacted and asked that she be condemned for supporting school closures, she said.

To learn more, go here and here.

Statewide, The 74 reports that “California Voters More Dissatisfied With Local Schools after Pandemic than Voters in Other States, New Poll Finds.”

From their dislike of local teachers’ unions to a lack of confidence in school administrators, California voters are more disillusioned with the state of education than voters nationally, a new poll has found.   

Commissioned by the reform-oriented nonprofit, Murmuration, likely California voters who were also parents were much less satisfied with the performance of traditional neighborhood public schools during the pandemic than in every other state polled, including Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia. 

“Many places in California struggled to get remote learning set up and make it effective. There were also fights with the unions when it came to school reopenings,” said Brian Reich, vice president of communications at Murmuration. “I think that over the course of the pandemic, issues just continued to compound themselves.”

In California, controversy over remote learning and how school reopenings were handled were particularly extreme, Reich said. In San Francisco for example, three school board members were recalled for the first time since 1983 because parents felt the board was prioritizing progressive politics over school reopenings, said Reich.

To read on, go here.

And then there are California school districts that grew during the pandemic and are feeling shortchanged.

While the vast majority of California’s school districts lost students during most of this past decade, hundreds of districts — mostly small and rural — have grown, emerging from the height of the pandemic with higher enrollment.

Most districts would welcome an enrollment increase and the per-student state funding boost that usually comes with it. But these growing districts were shortchanged when the state implemented blanket COVID-19 policies protecting districts that lost enrollment during the pandemic.  

“The decision to hold districts harmless for declining enrollment came from a well-intended solution,” said Peter Birdsall, president of lobbying firm Education Advocates. “Even at the time, the concern was raised that some districts were growing. ‘Hold harmless’ actually hurt them.”

To continue reading, go here.

On the union front, Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) introduced legislation in April to repeal the National Education Association charter.

Banks, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) chairman, and Fitzgerald, an RSC member, introduced the National Educational Association Charter Repeal Act, which would end the federal charter granted to the NEA.

The RSC contends that the NEA has abandoned its core mission to “elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching; and to promote the cause of education in the United States.”

Banks said in a statement on Thursday:

I was happy to partner with Rep. Fitzgerald on this important piece of legislation. There is now no daylight between the NEA’s agenda and the radical left’s agenda. Worst of all, the NEA strongly supports teaching 5-year-old children about adult sexual behavior. Their mission used to be education, now it’s indoctrination and pitting American children against their parents’ values.

Congress represents all Americans, and this bill will end Congress’s tacit support for an organization that now only represents narrow, partisan interests.

“The National Education Association has strayed far from its original mission. Rather than supporting students, the NEA consistently put the interests of progressive teachers’ unions over the learning of students,” Fitzgerald explained in a statement. “It is time for Congress to say enough is enough and revoke the NEA’s federal charter.”

The NEA has increasingly supported Democrat initiatives such as nationwide school lockdowns, abortion, critical race theory (CRT), gender ideology in curriculums, and open borders.

If passed, H.R. 7510 wouldn’t directly affect the union’s day-to-day operation, but it could serve to wake teachers up to the fact that their union is not all it pretends to be. So many teachers think that the bulk of their $1,000 plus yearly dues payments go to their local union to fight for them – pay and working conditions, for example. But nothing could be further from the truth. Depending on the state, a good 80% of teachers’ dues payments are funneled up to the state and national union affiliates where a great deal of the money goes into politics – almost exclusively in a leftward direction.

To learn more, go here and here.

Mike Antonucci is reporting that as in-person instruction has been restored everywhere in the country, and the nation’s schools are dealing with an upsurge in violence and threats against teachers.

The American Psychological Association conducted a survey that found one of every three teachers had experienced verbal harassment or threats of violence from students since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Individual teacher responses were chilling.

“I have been physically assaulted multiple times by students in the building and they know that not only is there no one to stop them, but there will be no consequences either. I ended up in the hospital the last time it happened,” one teacher recounted.

A student in Clark County, Nevada, was arrested for sexual assault and attempted murder of a teacher in her classroom. The district has seen 1,300 incidents this school year where arrests were made or citations issued. Police have confiscated 28 guns on campus.

Teachers and their unions are demanding action, but the actions demanded vary widely in emphasis, degree and harmony with past demands.

In response, the Clark County school district upgraded security cameras, provided teachers with wearable panic buttons, and increased police presence around schools.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, a school shooting of one student by another led a labor relations specialist from the Pennsylvania State Education Association to pen a letter to the district superintendent, demanding, among other things:

  • An increase in security and/or police presence in highly visible and well-trafficked areas.
  • The installation of fully functioning metal detectors. Until that can be accomplished, all students shall be scanned with handheld electronic devices which detect weapons.
  • Written instructions for student removal procedures, distributed to all staff.
  • Fully functioning security cameras.

To learn more, go here.

Are letter grades on the way out at the University of California? According to EdSource, some departments are thinking about using alternatives.

Divisions like UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry and UC Davis’s Department of Mathematics are deliberating whether to change how they grade students. In some cases, that means awarding students a pass or no-pass grade rather than a letter grade. Other times, it may mean allowing students to choose which assignments get the most weight in determining their grade.

At UC Irvine, Academic Senate leaders are currently evaluating long-term options around grading and have met with officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where students don’t receive letter grades for their first semester, to learn about that university’s approach.

Departments at other UC campuses are also experimenting with making changes to how they test students, putting less emphasis on high-stakes exams because some students aren’t good test takers but can demonstrate their understanding of the material in other ways. Some departments have begun using two-stage exams. Students take a standard individual exam before also taking a group test where they work with other students.

The changes are especially being considered for first-year students to give them more time to get used to the rigors of college work and learn the material over the course of a semester rather than discourage them early on with low scores on tests and other assignments.

To read on, go here.

If you have any valuable resources that you would like to share, or report on what your school district is doing – good, bad or indifferent – to deal with the “new normal,” please do so by emailing or posting on the CTEN Facebook page, which can be accessed here.

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