Is the OC Register treating teachers fairly?

On December 4, the OC Register printed yet another negative commentary about educators- this one penned by none other than Cecilia Iglesias, a Santa Ana School Board member who has disparaged teachers on her social media pages as she encourages the efforts of “parent trigger” advocates in the district. The showcasing of these efforts by Gloria Romero and other proponents of school privatization deserve an appropriate counterweight, but after two months of waiting it is obvious the OC Register is disinterested in balance. Is this inequity in the best interests of OC residents?

recall Ceci

The response appears below in its entirety:

It is obvious from her response “Union action not in parental interests” that Santa Ana Unified School District Board Member Cecilia Iglesias will continue her efforts to disparage teachers and their unions with a single-minded purpose, but, to what end? If nothing else, her open contempt for our daily efforts on behalf of students and the falsehoods widely shared by her on social media speaks louder than any criticism she could now level at the dedicated educators and education support personnel serving Orange County students on a daily basis.

Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, our public schools have experienced a steady decline in funding that has left all districts with ongoing shortages and a national per pupil funding level consistently in the bottom 20% of the country. Some states are spending as much as 40% more on each student annually– that is a clear commitment to the next generation of citizens in their states.

It is time we identify the real twin enemies of our education community: chronic underfunding and poverty. It takes long-term effort and funding to address these obstacles. Our teaching colleagues in Santa Ana work diligently each day on behalf of their students and their profession to overcome these obstacles.

In 2012, Education Coalition members locally and statewide stood together to help ensure the Passage of Proposition 30, which returned funding to public schools after years of cuts and neglect and helped to begin the process of restoring school funding. You can bet that teachers and all educators will also work hard, along with parents, to ensure that schools continue to be funded through the extension of Proposition 30 funding in next year’s election.

Board Member Iglesias was given an opportunity by the voters to do her part and lead in a district of significant need- to analyze and determine where her expertise might improve the lives of public school children. Sadly, instead, she appears to have come to the job with a preconceived notion (born of testing data and practices that have since been debunked and abandoned) that our schools are irrevocably broken, and only through “capitalistic competition” would they improve. It is naïve at best to think by simply converting schools to charters you will achieve school reform. If Candidate Iglesias had more clearly and consistently espoused her charter beliefs, Santa Ana’s voters might have been less inclined to vote her into office.

While charters may be one strategy among many to spark innovation and improvement in public schools, they are no silver bullet. A recent large-scale study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University (2009), examining longitudinal student data in 16 states, found that:

  • Only 17 percent of charter schools produced academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools,
  • 37 percent of charter schools performed worse than their traditional public school counterparts, and
  • 46 percent of charter schools demonstrated no significant difference between their students’ achievement gains and those of their demographically similar peers in district-run public schools.

Real investments that improve instruction, curriculum quality and access, school management, and student supports, along with adequate funding to support them, are what is needed to produce educational quality and improve student achievement.

 

Professionals that work in Santa Ana each day take on a challenge that few teachers in the nation face- a student population where nine households in ten speak a language other than English in the home, and the poverty rate that is quite similar. These are challenges that have significant impacts in the classroom. Educators work hard to meet these challenges every day as we build bridges with our students and their families. We encourage Board Member Iglesias to return her focus and her efforts on working with Santa Ana’s educators as a partner to advocate for more proven investments that make a difference in our public school classrooms and the lives of students. The Santa Ana Educators Association response appears in its entirety below:

­­It is obvious from her response “Union action not in parental interests” that Santa Ana Unified School District Board Member Cecilia Iglesias will continue her efforts to disparage teachers and their unions with single-minded purpose, but, to what end? If nothing else, her open contempt for our daily efforts on behalf of students and the falsehoods widely shared by her on social media speak louder than any criticism she could now level at the dedicated educators and education support personnel serving Orange County students on a daily basis.

Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, our public schools have experienced a steady decline in funding that has left all districts with ongoing shortages and a national per pupil funding level consistently in the bottom 20% of the country. Some states are spending as much as 40% more on each student annually– that is a clear commitment to the next generation of citizens in their states.

It is time we identify the real twin enemies of our education community: chronic under-funding and poverty. It takes long-term effort and consistent funding to address these obstacles. Our teaching colleagues in Santa Ana work diligently each day on behalf of their students and their profession to overcome these obstacles.

In 2012, Education Coalition members locally and statewide stood together to help ensure the Passage of Proposition 30, which returned funding to public schools after years of cuts and neglect and helped to begin the process of restoring school funding. You can bet that teachers and all educators will also work hard, along with parents, to ensure that schools continue to be funded through the extension of Proposition 30 funding in next year’s election.

Board Member Iglesias was given an opportunity by the voters to do her part and lead in a district of significant need- to analyze and determine where her expertise might improve the lives of public school children. Sadly, instead, she appears to have come to the job with a preconceived notion (born of testing data and practices that have since been debunked and abandoned) that our schools are irrevocably broken, and only through “capitalistic competition” would they improve. It is naïve at best to think by simply converting schools to charters you will achieve school reform. If Candidate Iglesias had more clearly and consistently espoused her charter beliefs, Santa Ana’s voters might have been less inclined to vote her into office.

While charters may be one strategy among many to spark innovation and improvement in public schools, they are no silver bullet. A recent large-scale study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University (2009), examining longitudinal student data in 16 states, found that:

  • Only 17 percent of charter schools produced academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools,
  • 37 percent of charter schools performed worse than their traditional public school counterparts, and
  • 46 percent of charter schools demonstrated no significant difference between their students’ achievement gains and those of their demographically similar peers in district-run public schools.

Real investments that improve instruction, curriculum quality and access, school management, and student supports, along with adequate funding to support them, are what is needed to produce educational quality and improve student achievement.

 

Professionals that work in Santa Ana each day take on a challenge that few teachers in the nation face- a student population where nine households in ten speak a language other than English in the home, and the poverty rate that is quite similar. These are challenges that have significant impacts in the classroom. Educators work hard to meet these challenges every day as we build bridges with our students and their families. We encourage Board Member Iglesias to return her focus and her efforts on working with Santa Ana’s educators as a partner to advocate for more proven investments that make a difference in our public school classrooms and the lives of students.

 

South Bay board member rewrites the Brown Act

Listen to the audio as Board President Barbara Elliott-Sanders stunned hundreds of parents, educators and community members at the outset of the January 21 board meeting by gaveling down a boisterous crowd and stating in direct violation of law that “…our meeting is to conduct the business of the district. It is our meeting. It is not a meeting for the public.”

South Bay School District in legal trouble?

2012-01-21 02.05.07Chula Vista- South Bay Union School District Board President Barbara Elliott-Sanders stunned hundreds of parents, educators and community members at the outset of the January 21 board meeting by gaveling down a boisterous crowd and stating in direct violation of law that “…our meeting is to conduct the business of the district. It is our meeting. It is not a meeting for the public.” South Bay residents reacted with displeasure and joined in a chorus of “boos” that appear to represent a community that feels a disconnect with its board members and district administration. The complete quote appears below:

“Speaking as the President of the Board, we are extremely interested in the diversity of the audience and the diversity of the voices to be heard. But I do want to- maybe some of you know this maybe some of you are not aware- that the purpose of this meeting is for the school board to conduct its business. We are a meeting that is happening (boos from audience) We are a meeting, our meeting is to conduct the business of the district. It is our meeting. It is not a meeting for the public.”

A disappointed Southwest Teachers Association (SWTA) President Lorie Garcia stated, “The lack of understanding of the board president regarding the general public’s ownership and control of its local schools is troubling. It shows an unwillingness on South Bay administration’s part to appropriately educate the board on the role and responsibility of a school board trustee.”

Education attorney Fern Steinner explained, “The Brown Act makes it clear that the public has a right to attend and participate in School Board meetings. The School Board is required to conduct its business with very limited exceptions in a transparent open manner.  Any suggestion that the meeting is not a public meeting at which the School Board conducts its business misstates the Board’s status under the law.”

SANTEE TEACHERS REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT

Santee’s focus on retaining quality teachers wins community supportcropped-santee-teachers-3.jpg

After months of negotiations and a successful Rally for Students at the January 19 Santee School Board meeting, Santee Teachers Association (STA) and Santee School District (SSD) reached a mediated settlement that will help keep outstanding teachers in the community in this time of growing teacher shortages.

Teachers will receive a 4% increase for 2015-2016, and an additional 4% increase for 2016-2017. The agreement also addresses the issue of substandard healthcare benefits by adding $600.00 to their benefits cap in 2016, and an additional $1200.00 in 2017. STA had raised the concern of teachers leaving the district for better pay and benefits elsewhere.

Their successful agreement reflected a continued focus on student improvement by compensating teachers for state-required certificates that improve teacher effectiveness, changing the work year to facilitate teacher professional growth activities, and adding stipends for activities that teachers perform outside the school day, such as 6th grade camp.

The Tentative Agreement shows strong support and passage is widely anticipated at the ratification meeting set for January 28. STA President Lori Meaux and SSD Superintendent Cathy Pierce commented in their joint release; “Today we found common ground. Now is the time for all of us to reach out and work together to build an even stronger learning environment for our students!”

Santee teachers and district call on state mediator in contract dispute

Santee School District (SSD) and Santee Teachers Association (STA) are in mediation today January 25 over a longstanding contract dispute that has some teachers resigning and taking positions with better pay and benefits in surrounding districts.  President Lori Meaux and Crisis team member Chris Stanley helped organize a successful rally at the Previous SSD board meeting, and spoke to several media oulets regarding the unresolved issues at the table. Meaux explained, “When you rank 43 out of 45 in healthcare benefits in San Diego County, you cannot attract new staff in a time of teacher shortage.”Mediation.1

Teachers are hopeful for a positive outcome in today’s session, and are prepared for further engagement in order to bring a settlement if necessary. STA plans to continue to protest the district policy of retaining 24 percent budget reserves while paying teachers among the lowest in San Diego County. “We want to keep Santee’s outstanding educators in our community, and be able to attract the next generation of teachers too” Meaux said.

If mediation proves unsuccessful, a state fact-finding panel will be certified to conduct a investigation into both side’s claims in the unresolved dispute.

CA Charter school promoter faces felony charges

Former San Diego Mountain Empire School Superintendent and current Sausalito Superintendent Steve Van Zant is facing a felony count of conflict of interest in running a consulting firm that teaches school districts how to make money by opening charter schools outside their own school boundaries. Districts that sponsor satellite charters receive approximately 3% of the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) generated without losing their own district’s ADA. Districts that have lost ADA to this alleged scheme are now angry that their ADA is being siphoned off while dollars needed for students is squandered by exploitation of the language in California’s Charter School Law. This occurs while the public school district has no regulatory influence over the new charter school.

Evidence suggests Van Zant was previously doing his consulting work from his former district office during regular office hours. guy in car

Steve Van Zant (pictured in his Ferrari) and his wife’s interior design firm were hired by at least two of his former employers- all for the purpose of designing and planning charter schools inside other districts’ school boundaries.

The impact? Where the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters Arts and Sciences operates under an agreement with the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District, Paul Cordeiro, superintendent of the Newhall School District in the Santa Clarita Valley where the school is located remarked, “That’s the profile, small districts that need money. The issue is the law that people are exploiting that allows charter schools to be located outside the district boundaries as part of a scheme that’s designed just to make money.”

Sarah Sutherland, an education attorney explained, “He (Van Zant) took this concept and he ran with it, turning it into a business,” she said.

Former SD superintendent faces felony charges in charter school scheme

Friedrich’s Unintended Consequences

Because decades of case law has tempered unions’ 1st Amendment rights, the ruling in ‘Friedrichs’ could actually unleash them from decades of free speech restrictions and penalties against concerted activities. Current law strictly limits or prohibits a host of activities, including job slowdowns and strikes in certain public sector work. In an ironic twist, A ruling for the plaintiff in the Friedrichs case may upend these restrictions and prevent federal and state governments’ fines on unions’ actions as a violation of its right to freedom of speech.IMG_1046

Months of state-required legal procedures took place between bargaining teams before teachers could lawfully strike in San Ysidro in 2014. (above)- SCOTUS’ ruling could eliminate  the procedures as violations of the union’s freedom of speech.

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18796/friedrichs-v-california-teachers-association-free-speech-strikes

South Bay school board member blasts public in open meeting

Jan. 21- South Bay Union School District (SBUSD) board initially attempted to silence about 275 members of the public, gaveling down the regularly-scheduled board meeting’s attendees and stating that it was …”a meeting to conduct the business of the board and not a public meeting.” California Teachers Association Governing Board Member Jim Groth stated “They are getting bad advice-in my forty years of public education I’ve never seen a school board act in such a manner.”2012-01-21 00.00.31

Chula Vista –South Bay teachers have made students their first priority. They are negotiating improved access to counselors, nurses, smaller class size and time to develop well-planned curriculum. Meeting educators’ goals in negotiations will enhance the educational experience for students and educators throughout the South Bay region.

Southwest Teachers Association President Lorena Garcia explained, “We have been at the table since May of 2015, and we will continue to make student learning conditions our priority.”  Garcia also asserted that increasing salaries will be necessary to attract and retain the best educators in this time of growing teacher shortages in California.

To date, despite having a reserve fund in excess of six times the State required amount to be set aside for economic uncertainties, SBUSD has responded to proposals with disinterest. Instead, they informed SWTA they believed they were at an impasse with the chapter and have requested a state mediator be appointed.

On Thursday, SWTA members, parents and community members took to the streets for a two-mile March for Students on Thursday that began at Mendoza Elementary School and ended at the district office.

The behavior and attitude toward parents at the board meeting that culminated the Rally for Students should appear troublesome for everyone, according to Garcia. “Such detachment shows a dangerously dismissive attitude toward the community that typically produces poor results for all stakeholders” she said.

According to SWTA leadership, their  focus will continue to be on improving students’ learning conditions and student achievement by negotiating for additional resources that students and educators need.

Supreme Court’s motive in Friedrichs revealed

“State’s rights” Court begins dismantling of state laws

IN his vitriolic dissent last June from the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, Justice Antonin Scalia accused the majority of having carried out a “judicial putsch.” Justice Scalia should know. He and his four conservative colleagues were then in the process of executing one them.

BushvGoreArt.On

June 30, four days after handing down the marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, the court announced that it would hear a major challenge to the future of public-employee labor unions. That case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was argued last week. As was widely reported, the outcome appears foreordained: the court will vote 5 to 4 to overturn a precedent that for 39 years has permitted public-employee unions to charge nonmembers a “fair-share” fee representing the portion of union dues that go to representing all employees in collective bargaining and grievance proceedings. As the exclusive bargaining agent, a union has a legal duty to represent everyone in the unit, whether members or not; the fee addresses the problem of “free riders” and the resentment engendered by those who accept the union’s help while letting their fellow workers foot the bill.

The stakes are obviously high for the millions of workers and thousands of contracts covered by these arrangements in the 23 states that now permit them. If the court accepts the argument that the mandatory fees amount to compelled speech in violation of the objecting employees’ First Amendment rights, public-employee unions would forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in dues revenue. New York and 20 other states filed a brief in support of California, which is defending its fair-share system, to argue that these provisions “are important to ensuring a stable collective-bargaining partner with the wherewithal to help devise workplace arrangements that promote labor peace.”

I want to focus here, however, not on the implications the Friedrichs case holds for the public workplace, but on what it means for the Supreme Court. Actually, I couldn’t express my concern better than Justice Stephen G. Breyer did last week when he questioned Michael A. Carvin, the lawyer for the 10 California teachers who are challenging the state’s labor law. Justice Breyer was referring to the compromise at the heart of the 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that Mr. Carvin was asking the court to overrule. The court in that case upheld the constitutionality of the fair-share fee as long as it was limited to the union’s collective-bargaining expenses and did not subsidize the union’s political or other “nonchargeable” activities

Indeed. Exactly seven years ago, in a public-employee labor case from Maine, Justice Breyer wrote an opinion that cited the Abood decision and included this sentence: “The First Amendment permits the government to require both public sector and private sector employees who do not wish to join a union designated as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative at their unit of employment to pay that union a service fee as a condition of their continued employment.”

The opinion continued: “The court has determined that the First Amendment burdens accompanying the payment requirement are justified by the government’s interest in preventing free riding by nonmembers who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining activities and in maintaining peaceful labor relations.”

The case was Locke v. Karass. The decision was unanimous.

What changed since 2009? How could the court go from unquestioning acceptance of a long-lived precedent to a situation in which all that remains in doubt is whether that same precedent will be overturned in early June or late June? In the answer to that question lie some disturbing observations about the Roberts court.

It’s no secret that in recent years, major segments of the Republican Party have declared open season on public employee unions — selectively, of course. Police unions and correctional officers’ unions, which have stood in the way of reform-minded policy initiatives in states and cities across the country, have been exempt as targets. Conservative and Tea Party ire has instead been focused on teachers’ unions. It’s not an accident that when Mr. Carvin (a leading figure behind the two failed challenges to the Affordable Care Act) and the right-wing foundations supporting his lawsuit set out to recruit plaintiffs, they looked for teachers and not prison guards.

Reading the transcript of last week’s argument, I felt as though I had stumbled into the inner sanctum of Wisconsin’s union-busting governor, Scott Walker. Both Justice Scalia and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that when it comes to public employment, there can be no real distinction between a union’s workplace activities and its political activities.

“The problem is that everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition,” Justice Scalia said, addressing Edward C. Dumont, California’s solicitor general.

Justice Kennedy elaborated at length: “It’s almost axiomatic. When you are dealing with a governmental agency, many critical points are matters of public concern. And is it not true that many teachers strongly, strongly disagree with the union position on teacher tenure, on merit pay, on merit promotion, on classroom size?” He continued: “The term is ‘free rider.’ The union basically is making these teachers ‘compelled riders’ for issues on which they strongly disagree.”

That’s about as unconstrained and revealing a rant as I’ve heard from the Supreme Court bench. It happens also to be based on some false premises. California labor law does not in fact permit collective bargaining over teacher tenure or standards for termination or budget-driven layoffs. I’m no expert on California labor law; I read it in the union’s brief. But the details hardly matter. What matters is the glaring anti-union animus and the obvious fact that if everything a public employee union does is deemed political, the Abood compromise, based on a distinction between collective-bargaining activities and everything else, necessarily collapses.

And what exactly is it about the California teachers union’s activities that the plaintiffs find objectionable? Impossible to say. The initial complaint referred only to their dislike of “many of the union’s public policy positions, including positions taken in collective bargaining,” but the plaintiffs refused to be more specific or to cooperate with the union in developing an evidentiary record. Instead, the plaintiffs under Mr. Carvin’s direction sought to lose the case as quickly as possible, to speed it on its way to the Supreme Court. They asked the Federal District Court to rule against them, which it did, and they then asked the United States Court of Appeals to affirm that negative judgment, which it promptly did in a two-page summary opinion, observing that the outcome was “governed by controlling Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent.”

To call this litigation pathway unusual is an understatement. But it was hardly a shot in the dark. In majority opinions in 2012 and again in 2014, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — yes, the same Justice Alito who signed Justice Breyer’s opinion back in 2009 — suggested that he was ready and willing to revisit the Abood precedent. In the more recent case, Harris v. Quinn, he called Abood “troubling” and “questionable on several grounds.” But neither of those two cases offered a target for a direct hit. The current case was manufactured to serve that role.

If the political atmosphere surrounding public employee unions has changed, so has the court’s vision of the role of the First Amendment. The court issued the Citizens United decision, with its embrace of a First Amendment right to unlimited corporate (and union) political spending, a year to the day after Justice Breyer’s opinion in the Maine labor case. In the intervening six years, the Roberts court has waved the First Amendment banner ever higher to undermine long-accepted governmental regulatory authority. Not too long ago, it was federalism — states’ rights — that seemed to energize conservatives on the Supreme Court. The Abood regime is in fact more than respectful of states’ rights: states are enabled but not required to adopt a fair-share fee system, and 22 states have chosen against it. But federalism can’t save the unions from the ever more powerful First Amendment.

So what we have here are the majority’s policy preferences conveniently clad in First Amendment armor. But even the best armor is vulnerable, and as the court strides recklessly into a danger zone, I’m left with Justice Breyer’s question: What’s the country to think?

Santee teachers rally at board meeting

With mediation scheduled January 25, teachers share frustrations

Low salaries and sub-standard benefits

Santee Teachers Association (STA) is supporting their bargaining team’s position to retain and attract the highly qualified teachers needed to provide all students with the excellent education they deserve through competitive pay and compensation.

Santee educators have been making the case that low salaries are placing the students and community at risk of losing highly qualified teachers, and as retirements increase, undercutting the ability to attract new employees who are equally skilled. Additionally, Santee School District offers among the worst (14 of 16) healthcare benefits in San Diego County.

Santee District’s offer doesn’t measure up to comparable districts

Compared to colleagues in other districts, Santee teachers are falling further behind. Recent increases in compensation in surrounding districts are leading local educators to consider a move to the higher-paying districts of San Diego County. Students are at risk of losing some of their most experienced teachers.

The district’s offer last year included conditions that were unacceptable. Santee teachers want future salary schedules that reflect gains that keep Santee consistently competitive and ensure retention of their outstanding teachers.

Communication failures have made the current situation worse

During comments at the school board meeting, former San Diego County Teacher of the Year and veteran of twenty years, teacher Chris Stanley spoke about how communication has broken down between educators and the administration. The result has been evident; program changes, expenditures and uneven technology roll-outs that continue to be problematic for educators and the community. Breakdowns in communication were at the heart of each of the failures.  He explained “I enjoy the pioneering spirit along with many others, but without communication, it’s like pioneering with the Donner Party.”

Competitive pay keeps teachers in our classrooms

STA President Lori Meaux spoke about the value of the district’s greatest resource- its teachers. “We want to make sure that we can keep our outstanding teachers from leaving Santee while we attract new teachers in this time of growing teaching shortages in our state. In the end, STA  wants to ensure every student receives a high quality education. We can do this by appropriately compensating our high quality teaching force”.

STA has planned an additional rally on January 25 to coincide with the all-day State Mediation session.