How A Vote Saved California Schools

California 17,000 Teachers Laid  Off in 2009.

Four years ago California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 30, the emergency ballot measure that Governor Jerry Brown and state education leaders had argued was needed to rescue public schools and community colleges from the fiscal free-fall of the 2008 Great Recession.
The good news, according to the California school teachers and officials, parents, college professors, health-care advocates and economic researchers interviewed by Capital & Main for this series, is that the initiative not only performed as advertised, but it may be the most spectacularly successful ballot initiative in the state’s notoriously uneven history of direct democracy.
Proposition 30 averted thousands of new teacher layoffs during the Great Recession.

By raising income taxes on the wealthy and the sales tax on everyone, Prop. 30 dramatically stabilized school funding in the wake of the recession, averting thousands of new teacher layoffs while beginning the work of restoring the jobs and programs lost during the first years of the crisis. It was also instrumental in allowing the state legislature to balance its budget for the first time in years without slashing social programs.
About This Series

Together with a recovering economy, the temporary tax measure has to date reinvested more than $31.2 billion in preschool, K-12, and community colleges. By boosting per-pupil funding by more than 14 percent, Prop. 30 bumped the state’s Great Recession-battered national ranking from dead last in 2010-11 to 40th among all states at $10,493 per student in 2016-17. It’s still a far cry from California’s long-ago position as a top funder of public education, and a 2016 report estimates that merely moving California to the average funding level of the top 10 states would require roughly a doubling of current state funding under Prop. 30. Continue reading

California Teachers’ Unions Oppose Vergara

Huerta-SliderCalifornia Unions Appeal Decision in Meritless Vergara Lawsuit
Civil Rights Icon Dolores Huerta Joins Educators and Community Supporters in Urging Court to Overturn Flawed Decision for the Sake of All Students

LOS ANGELES — Attorneys representing more than 400,000 members of the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers appeared in the California Court of Appeal today in downtown Los Angeles, to ask that the June 2014 ruling in the deceptive and meritless Vergara v. State of California be overturned for the sake of California’s six million students.

At a press conference before arguments were presented to the Court, Attorney Michael Rubin laid out the case for reversing the faulty opinion of Judge Rolf M. Treu. Appearing with Rubin were longtime union and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta ( A DSA Honorary Chair), southern California elementary school teacher Gaby Ibarra, and Martha Sanchez, a concerned parent who believes current laws work best for students.

Stating that Judge Treu’s decision striking down five California Education Code provisions “is without support in law or fact,” the speakers predicted that Treu’s numerous errors will be clearly visible to the appeals court, and the earlier Superior Court judgment will be overturned. Treu’s decision was stayed pending appeal. But if upheld, it would cause great harm to public education. Continue reading

Democracy, Schools, and Teachers’ Unions

LeoCaseyby Leo Casey. Dec.24,2014.

Over the course of the last 12 weeks, I have been thinking about our conversations here on democracy, schools, and teachers’ unions. We write under the banner of “bridging differences,” and notwithstanding our broad agreement on most important questions we have discussed, there are “differences” that could be teased out of the dialogue.

At the outset, I must confess that I am deeply suspicious of efforts to identify “differences” with those who share most of our view of the world. The impulse to draw “lines of demarcation” around ourselves takes an almost pathological form among many on the American left, a “narcissism of small differences” in which the main political fire is invariably aimed at those who are politically nearest. It creates a political culture where vanguard politics fades into Puritanism: The moral purity of the self-anointed elect is preserved, but at the price of complete political marginality and irrelevance. I have no taste for such political fare.

But let us see if we can arrive at a more productive discussion of our political differences. You ask “Do teachers’ unions truly practice democracy?” I could point to the literature on union democracy and to the organizational features that it identifies as crucial for union democracy, and demonstrate how teachers’ unions not only possess those features, but possess them in greater measure than other unions.[1] Continue reading

Silicon Valley funds anti teacher union efforts in California

ROCKETSHIP TO PROFITS  Silicon Valley breeds corporate reformers with national reach

By David Bacon

Rethinking Schools, Fall 2014

Nearly every metropolitan area these days has its own wealthy promoters of education reform. Little Rock has the Waltons, Seattle has Bill and Melinda Gates, Newark has Mark Zuckerberg, and Buffalo has John Oishei, who made his millions selling windshield wipers.

Few areas, however, have as concentrated and active a group of wealthy reformers as California’s Silicon Valley. One of the country’s fastest-growing charter school operators, Rocketship Education, started here. A big reason for its stellar ascent is the support it gets from high tech’s deep pockets, and the political influence that money can buy.

Rocketship currently operates nine schools in San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It opened its first school in Milwaukee last year and one in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall. Its first two schools in Washington, D.C., where almost half the students already attend charters, open next year.

Vergara v. California: Buying a Judgment Against Teacher Tenure

The valley’s most far-reaching intervention took place this year – a successful legal attack on teacher tenure with chilling national implications. In 2012 David Welch, president of Infinera, a Silicon Valley fiber-optic communications corporation, set up another education reform advocacy group, Students Matter. He then filed a class action suit, representing nine children purportedly harmed by “ineffective teachers” to overturn teacher tenure in California. This past June, L.A. Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled against teachers and in favor of Welch and the students in Vergara v. California.

Welch, whose company has revenue of more than half a billion dollars annually, gave half a million in seed money to Students Matter, and then lent it another million. The Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation kicked in more. In 2012 alone, Students Matter spent more than $1.1 million on one of the state’s most powerful corporate law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which fought the Vergara case. Continue reading

How Teachers Unions Lead the Way to Better Schools

Amy B. Dean

Amy B. Dean

by Amy Dean

Diane Ravitch upends the “bad teachers” narrative.

Part of what I object to is the assumption that somehow the problems in American education are all tied up with teachers. The teachers are causing low performance, and if we could just find the ideal teacher evaluation system, we would be the highest performing nation in the world. I think that’s a false narrative.

I have a concern: Teachers are getting pummeled. Too often, they are being demonized in the media and blamed by politicians for being the cause of bad schools. Right-wing governors, power-hungry mayors and corporate “reformers”—all ignoring root issues such as poverty and inequality—have scapegoated the people who have devoted their lives to educating our children. Moreover, these forces are seeking to destroy the collective organizations formed by educators: teachers unions.

The stakes for our country could not be more profound. The labor movement and the public education system are two critical institutions of American democracy. And they are two that go hand in hand. Teachers unions have played a critical role in advocating for public education, but you’d never know it from mainstream media coverage. Therefore, there is a great need to lift up this tradition and highlight the efforts of teachers to collectively push for top-notch public schools.

To figure out how we can push forward on this issue, I talked with Diane Ravitch, one of the country’s leading education historians and public school advocates. A professor at New York University, Ravitch is a former Assistant Secretary of Education and the author of several books, including 2010’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

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Obama Administration assaults teachers unions

by Duane Campbell

The federal Department of Education directed by Secretary Arne Duncan has proposed rules for school reform money that would prevent states such as California and New York from receiving funds under the so-called “race to the top,”  a $4.3 billion dollar part of the federal stimulus act.

Secretary Arne Duncan has an enormous fund of money and great flexibility to invest in some schools to reform, particularly in the areas of most failing schools.  However, the rules require states to use student achievement data to rate teachers.  The federal Department of Education has proposed rules to prevent states with such laws from getting money from a $4.3 billion-educational innovation fund. Continue reading

Beating the Odds, Independent PR Teachers Union Trounces SEIU in Representation Election

By Micah Landau

The Puerto Rican Federation of Teachers (FMPR) has done the near-impossible: solidly defeating one of the world’s most powerful labor organizations in an election for representation of Puerto Rico’s 42,000 public school teachers.

In results from the election, which took place over the course of several weeks in October and announced on October 23rd, just 14, 675 teachers voted in favor of representation by the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU), while 18,123 voted “no.” Because of its legally proscribed strike activities, FMPR was banned from participating, and instead orchestrated a “Vote No” campaign. Given estimates that some 2,000 “no” votes were stolen, the big plurality to reject affiliation is a stunning defeat for President Andy Stern and the rest of SEIU’s international leadership.

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Teachers Strike in Puerto Rico

Teachers in Puerto Rico walked off the job on February 21, Michael Hirsch wrote about  the background  a week before the strike.  Talking Union will have an update in the near future.

“Underpaid and dissed, Puerto Rico’s teachers may walk out in defiance of anti-strike ban”

After two years of failed negotiations with their Department of Education employers, Puerto Rico’s 32,000 public school teachers in the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), the commonwealth’s largest union representing the bulk of the island’s 43,000 pedagogues, are mulling a strike. The issues: higher wages — the starting salary is $18,000 per year and teachers want an 18 percent raise — and better working conditions. Teachers also want decision-making power on class size and class schedules as well as repairs to much-neglected school buildings.

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