Teachers/Public Sector Unions Under Assault

By Joshua Pechthalt

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that asks whether all workers in public sector unions, be they members or not, have an obligation to contribute to the union’s costs to represent them in grievances and at the bargaining table.
The court has already ruled that unions have an obligation to represent non-members and that is not likely to change. It also ruled that non-members have an obligation to contribute to the costs of representation and bargaining. If the court now rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the justices would be overturning a nearly 40-year precedent.

PechthaltThis may seem like a technical issue with little impact beyond public employee unions. But the implications of this decision could be far-reaching. If the court ends “fair share” union dues, it would hurt our unions’ ability to represent our members and weaken our ability to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.
For those of us in education, it could also undercut our ability to improve learning and teaching conditions by advocating for smaller class sizes, restoring art and music programs and improving teacher training and evaluation. While non-members do not contribute to the political program of their unions, the erosion of union funds will have an impact on our ability to organize in all aspects of union work.

The most obvious example is how the labor movement supported Proposition 30 in 2012. Union support for that historic measure, which raised income taxes on California’s wealthiest individuals, has generated more than $6 billion a year for education and ended years of devastating cuts and layoffs. Millions of students have benefited. Continue reading

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale  is an  8 minute video about how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don’t want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren’t so sure. This land bears a startling resemblance to our land.

It is narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by Mike Konopacki. The video was written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers.  For more info, http://www.cft.org. © 2012 California Federation of Teachers.

Schools: Race to the Top demands too much for too little

By Marty Hittelman
California Federation of Teachers


The California Federation of Teachers has a number of serious concerns regarding Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s proposed “Race to the Top” competition for state education funding. The proposed regulations for federal funding would require changes that could harm California students, are not based on research, and won’t turn around struggling schools. There are two rounds of application, and no need to be panicked by the governor into rushing into the first one without proper discussion. Following are concerns, excerpted from a letter I wrote to the Education Secretary. For the complete text of the letter, go to www.cft.org.

Student Data

The California Federation of Teachers believes that student achievement and student growth data may be worthwhile tools in helping to improve school instruction when the data instruments contain information that is useful to the teacher. We do not believe that current standardized tests being administered as part of the No Child Left Behind Act meet those criteria. In terms of the “firewall” between student and teacher data, California has no restrictions on the use of such data at the local level, where it matters, for such evaluations. California should be judged to be in compliance with this requirement. Continue reading

California AFT Challenges Obama admin. testing

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 22:  US Education Secretar...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

by Duane Campbell

There were hearings on August 26, 2009  in the California legislature to consider changing state laws to comply with the mandates of the Obama Administration rules on funding school reform–the Race to the Top initiative. The Senators asked excellent questions.  They probed some of the important issues.

The administration argues for using student test scores as a measure of teacher quality. Let’s take an example.  If a person has the flu, a nurse takes the person’s temperature. (Like taking a test.) Taking the students’ temperature does not treat the disease, it does not even treat the symptoms.  It only measures the temperature. That is what we are doing with school test scores.  We are investing in testing, not in treating the problems. Continue reading