Torlakson/Teachers Support CA Education and Health Care Protection Act

Mt. Diablo teacher Dan Reynolds testifies

SACRAMENTO- On Wednesday, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson spoke before the CA Assembly Education Committee, joining the coalition of education, parent and student organizations, teachers and professors across the State supporting November passage of the Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act (CEHCPA).

Speaking before the Committee, Supt. Torlakson recalled the devastation of the Great Recession, and explained that the initiative would “…prevent more cuts of that kind [and] derailment of gains, including Class Size Reduction, Computers and Summer Programs, and with them a sense of new optimism and hope” he testified.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District teacher Dan Reynolds offered compelling testimony of the affects of the Great Recession on the 30,000 student district. “Between 2009 and 2012 alone there were about $59 million in cuts. Budget chaos caused hundreds of preliminary pink slips [layoff notices] to go out in my district – over 600 in the 2008-2009 school year alone.”

Reynolds offered up another painful product of 56 billion in education cuts- the current lack of teaching prospects throughout California. “It created lasting job market turmoil and uncertainties that have now fueled the current teacher shortage as discouraged educators went elsewhere or left the profession” he said.

Over 200 teachers were laid off, among them 60 elementary and 24 special needs teachers. 23 school librarians lost their jobs as school libraries were shuttered. Intervention specialists in reading and math were also eliminated, with classified staff that supported those programs. Program cuts experienced in Mt. Diablo were replicated in districts throughout California.

CEHCPA couldn’t come at a better time for our students and communities across California. Previous cuts substantially damaged public education, health care and other critical services. Our students, schools and colleges can’t afford to go back to those years of devastating budget cuts, when children of greatest need were hurt the most.





Supreme Court denies request to rehear Friedrichs vs CTA


The eight-member U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request for rehearing CTA vs Friedrichs, the union fair share fee case. In its final conference of the session, SCOTUS dispensed with the case which challenged public employee union’s right to Fair Share Fees charged by unions for the services they are required by law to provide for non-union members.

After the 4-4 ruling in March that let stand a lower court ruling, attorneys for Friedrichs filed a Request for Rehearing of the case once the Court has a full compliment of nine Justices. Counsel argued the “better and more efficient course would be to hold the case this Court has already agreed to decide until it is capable of issuing a decision.”

The Court’s decision marks its determination to clear the calendar despite the untimely loss of Justice Antonin Scalia during this session.

While this marks the official end of CTA vs Friedrichs, those supporting American unions know that other cases challenging unions’ rights to charge fees for services are moving through lower courts. The divided Friedrichs ruling leaves the issue unsettled law.



Torlakson to K12 Charter Corp. “Time for an audit”


SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Thursday that the California Department of Education has contracted with the State Controller’s Office to conduct an audit of California Virtual Academies (CAVA) and related charter schools because of serious questions raised about a number of their practices.

 “The goal of the audit is to make sure these schools are spending public education funds properly and serving their students well,” said Torlakson.

In 2015, CAVA’s corporate parent K12 paid its CEO Nathaniel Davis $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their “performance.”

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons Center for Media and Democracy has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives–comes from Americans’ state or federal tax dollars.

Torlakson said that under the terms of the audit, the State Controller’s office will conduct a review of CAVA and related charter schools to verify whether these non-profit schools:

  •  Are organizationally separate from K-12, Inc. a for-profit company that these non-  profit charter schools contract with.
  •  Accurately reported attendance, enrollment, and dropout graduation rates to the California Department of Education.
  •  Appropriately allocated and reported shared expenses.
  •  Appropriately identified, accounted for, and disclosed related-party relationships.

 The audit is expected to be completed by March 2017.

Why is a billionaire charter school supporter backing Donald Trump?


Hedge fund billionaire John Paulson is listed among the fifty wealthiest people in the U.S. He wants more for-profit charters and Donald Trump in the White House.

Paulson made a big part of his fortune betting against low-income homeowners and on the collapse of the subprime mortgage market during the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. Millions were hurt, but Paulson made money.

Having committed $250,000.00 to a private fundraiser he helped organize for Trump, he will also charge guests $50,000 per person for the event he is hosting for the GOP nominee.

Paulson is now betting against public schools and on Donald Trump. In July 2015, the hedge fund billionaire donated $8.5 million to Success Academy Charter School Network, supposedly to benefit the poor and minority school children victimized by the economic system that so generously awards him. Now, probably out of concern for the poor, working families, and immigrants, Paulson is raising money for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Read the Huffington Post article in its entirety here:

Southwest teachers win contract with student-centered approach



SAN DIEGO- Teachers in South Bay focused a year-long effort around student-centered organizing and won community support for an outstanding contract settlement.

During negotiations that began in May of 2015, Southwest Teachers Association (SWTA) members continually pushed for improvements to district schools in the interest of students and the community. Through advocating for increases in instructional planning time for teachers to increase their instructional skills, increasing counseling and nursing services, along with improving pay, health benefits and stipends, SWTA built grass roots support for their pro-student agenda.

Among the provisions of the three-year contract include a minimum of eight hours of weekly dedicated counseling service time for each school site to address students’ emotional needs. By negotiating class caps for grades K-3, 4-6 and 7-8, appropriate student-to-teacher ratios will be codified and subject to accountability.

To ensure competitive pay to attract new educators during this time of ongoing teacher shortages, SWTA will enhance its salary schedule a total of 11.28%, 5% retroactive in 15-16, 3.19% in 16-17, and 3.09% in the third year of the agreement in 2017-2018.

Bonilla Bill targets teachers’ rights


Educators are urging the California State Senate to Defeat AB 934 (Bonilla Bill) both as an attack on teachers’ rights to advocate for their students and an unnecessary complication to an effective, experienced-based system of lay-offs.

Educators throughout California are deeply committed to educating each and every one of their students and believe every student has the right to a caring, qualified and committed teacher. 

Assembly Member Bonilla’s AB 934 seeks to change current law to do away with the professional rights of educators, eliminates transparency in layoff decisions and does nothing to protect educators from arbitrary firings. No one’s rights should be taken away. Educators have earned professional due process rights and they need them to advocate freely on behalf of their students.

Having these rights also gives teachers the ability to speak out on behalf of their students over issues like safety, class sizes, and adequate supplies, or to teach about sometimes controversial national and world issues without fear of retribution. AB 934 seeks to strip teachers of their due process rights, and at a time of significant teacher shortages throughout the state, is silent on issues of student learning and will make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our classrooms. 

Concerned educators and education professionals should contact their state senators and express their opinion the bill should be defeated.

Southwest teachers rally at mediation session


SAN DIEGO- Southwest Teachers Association (SWTA), parents and community members are rallying in Chula Vista during today’s mediation session to encourage a settlement to the longstanding negotiations stalemate with the South Bay Union Elementary School District (SBUSD), now in its second year. 

Teachers want the district to include the reduction of special education class sizes and need for instructional planning time for teachers throughout the year. Creating teacher driven collaboration programs to improve student instruction also remains an issue. 

SWTA President Lorie Garcia explained, “We chose to address these issues in negotiations because we know as education professionals that these programs make a difference for our students and help them to succeed not only in the classrooms of today, but in their future lives as well.”

After mediation, SWTA and SBUSD may settle their contract dispute or submit the matter to a state-appointed fact-finder to assist in reaching a settlement. After fact-finding, the district may impose its last, best and final offer and teachers will continue to partner with parents on job actions that could include a general teacher strike.