California’s Educators Denounce Ongoing Political Scheme to Further Rig the Economy Against the Middle Class in Janus v. AFSCME Lawsuit

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BURLINGAME – California Teachers Association President Eric Heins issued this statement today about the United States Supreme Court announcement granting certiorari and taking up the case Janus v. AFSCME this term:

Janus v. AFSCME is a case with far sweeping implications for working families, our students and the communities we serve. Janus is simply the culmination of decades of attacks on working people by corporate CEOs, the wealthiest one percent and the politicians that do their bidding to rig the economy in their favor, and its outcome could further send our country in the wrong direction. The forces behind this case are the same forces that have pushed for privatizing public education and limiting voting rights, as well as attacked immigrants and undermined civil rights protections.

“Their goal here, as it was in Friedrichs v. CTA, is no secret: they want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions, because unions give workers a powerful voice in speaking up for themselves, our students, families and communities. Unions have played a critical role in building and protecting the middle class in America. They provide hard-working people economic stability for their families and give them the tools to build a good life, home and education for themselves and their children. For 154 years, CTA has been standing up for working people, our students and the communities we serve. No court case will stop our determination and advocacy for our students and our profession.”

Kansas students candidly unimpressed with DeVos school visit

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KANSAS CITY- Firsthand responses from students subjected to a 90-minute school visit to Kansas City Academy by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos chronicle an event in which students spent weeks in school preparation for what some described as a day filled with protests outside while inside it was little more than a photo op for charter school privatization.

One Kansas City Academy student, Charlie James had this to say; “I think inviting her into our building, a place of education and safety, is a violation of our core principals, and for what? A few minutes of airtime on your local news channel?”

Read the full Salon.com story here

Local Riverside educational leaders plan in Norco

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Local teachers association presidents representing chapters throughout Riverside County met at California Teachers Association (CTA) Region 4 headquarters in Norco to discuss outreach strategies, support systems, and member engagement ideas as they continue developing an effective ongoing relationship with the Riverside County superintendent of schools. 

Members of County Of Riverside Presidents (CORP) are local leaders committed to supporting each other and discussing ongoing challenges in their own districts with an orientation toward meeting and mastering those challenges. 

CTA board member José Alcalá, a longtime proponent of countywide leader programs, explained; “This body will be self-determining, with presidents deciding the course and scope of what will be covered in future sessions based on their local needs.” 

Strengthening relationships and meeting local needs will continue to be the focus for local leaders as they prepare for an almost-certain adverse U.S. Supreme Court ruling early next year. 

Solana Beach teachers say “Enough is enough”

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Frustrated Solana Beach teachers have had enough of the lack of professional respect from Solana Beach School District (SBSD). Solana Beach Teachers Association (SBTA) began organizing at local school board meetings to communicate their displeasure over policies that have allowed SBSD officials to stockpile over ten times the amount of money required by the State of California for economic uncertainties. Instead of the 4% state requirement, the district has hoarded an embarrassing 42%– while refusing to bargain a permanent raise for its outstanding, innovative teachers.

At the recent SBSD board meeting, teacher Tarri Baldwin shared a “Top Ten” list of reasons teachers in Solana Beach must be compensated fairly. (See it here)

Teachers in SBSD give countless additional hours before and after school developing innovative curriculum in this high-achieving district. SBTA members arrive in late Summer, days before their contracted work begins, to prepare their classes for the school year. They spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on materials.

Members of SBTA are questioning their effort in the wake of no support for all their outstanding efforts. Without change, the situation will likely erode further.

Charter-friendly LA School Board president faces felony charges

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Los Angeles- Charter school-supported candidate Ref Rodriguez faces three felony counts related to financial misappropriation during his successful 2015 election campaign. Elected to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board president in July, he currently presides over the first board majority dominated by members who were, like him, elected with major financial support from charter school advocates. Read the LA Times story here.

Public schools use technology to assist communities during Florida hurricane

 

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Key West residents using social media 

 

By using technology and existing social media platforms, public schools throughout Florida communicated data about Hurricane Irma, circulated important warnings regarding access and use of schools facilities for shelters, and kept parents and students informed through the storm’s passage. Follow their efforts in this Education Week article.

California Parents, Administrators, Educators and Community Groups Urge NO Vote on Bill that Creates Private School with Public Funds

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(Sacramento, CA) – California parents, administrators, educators and community groups are calling on legislators to oppose a bill that creates a private school with public funds. The broad coalition opposes AB 1217 by Assembly Members Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) which would establish a new, independently-run science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school in Los Angeles County.

The authors suggest that 15 other states have a similar state STEM school, but the majority of these are voucher states and many charge money for students to attend.

“AB 1217 is another attempt to deliver our public schools into the hands of unaccountable private actors,” said Susan Henry, President of the California School Boards Association. “There are plenty of ways to establish new schools under existing law, but instead of using one of them, this bill sets a precedent that undermines local control of public schools. We encourage the Legislature to defeat AB 1217 and to focus on supporting and strengthening all public schools.”

The state STEM school would have a seven-member governing board, the composition of which is unclear and not well-defined. The timing of this bill is causing deep concerns and creating speculation.

“This is a disturbing billionaire power play at the end of session,” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation. “No one has offered even one coherent explanation as to why the state should disregard local control that protects students and parents. Yet those pushing this bill seem intent on moving forward without any hearings, public debate or scrutiny. These kinds of last-minute shenanigans set a terrible precedent and create an even more cynical view of the Legislature. This is a bad idea with questionable motivations. We call on the Legislature to do the right thing by stopping this effort to push terrible policy under the radar.”

Additionally, AB 1217 provides no authority to shut down the school – even if the school breaks the law by charging money or weeding out certain children or families – and goes against local control. Unlike other public schools, there is no authority to shut down this school even if the school is harmful or unsafe to students. This proposed school is guaranteed to exist for five years. While the school must do reports to the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), the SPI has no authority to shut down the school or to demand that operators comply with agreements.

“Parents and communities should have a say in how their local schools are run,” said Debra Pearson, Executive Director of the Small School Districts’ Association. “AB 1217 would set a dangerous precedent of the State authorizing schools to locate in communities over the objections of local voters and taxpayers. Current law already allows for backers of AB 1217 to create their desired STEM school – they should use that process.”

The Department of Finance’s analysis is opposed to this bill, stating “it would be more appropriate for the school to first seek establishment through its local school district, and if denied, go through the remaining steps of the existing process.”

Finally, this publicly-funded private school proposal could exploit a loophole to skirt good government and other statutes.

The coalition is urging parents and community supporters to call their California Senator at 855-977-0202. The bill could come up for a floor vote at any time prior to the end of the legislative session.

California Teachers Association prepares for SCOTUS assault on fair share fees

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Temecula’s Wine Country was the backdrop for California Teachers Association (CTA) to bring scores of teacher-leaders, board members, statewide officers, and management together with NEA leaders from Michigan to the Southland to participate in a regional summit discussing best practices for engaging members in a future without Fair Share agency fees.

Conservative think tanks and organizations like the Heritage Foundation have long-targeted Fair Share fees unions receive for services they are obligated to perform on behalf of non-members.  While CTA won a 11th-hour victory in U.S. Supreme Court case CTA vs. Friedrichs in 2016 in defense of these fees, it has acted with the understanding the ruling was a temporary reprieve rather than a reaffirmation of the earlier 9-0 Abood decision in 1977.

It appears that assumption was correct; the U.S. Supreme Court will likely hear Janus vs. AFSCME, a case that similarly challenges the constitutionality of fair share fees, and it will do so with a full complement of nine justices- including newly-seated Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. The decision will not be a four-to-four split, but a definitive ruling that will end our current funding structure. CTA has long-anticipated this, and the Summit is another example of the advanced planning that will enable us to be relevant and authentic to our members at a time when public education faces challenges by privatizers and profiteers.

This proactive stance has already shown success for CTA, with the development of the Long-Term Strategic Plan, and its focus on members, their students, and defending quality public education for every California student no matter their zip code. CTA adopted The Public Education All California Students Deserve, a research-based document outlining core principles that enable the next generation of educators to lead the profession and give them the tools to improve and enhance student learning.

At the Summit, participating CTA members and leaders were offered information on the results of the loss of Fair Share funding, its expected impact on members, and ways to minimize that impact. Developing successful member engagement to mitigate that loss was a major goal of the day’s effort; attendees receiving tools and information to make their local a valuable resource that serves all and is relevant to every member.

Presentations by staff and leaders underscored the importance of continuous member engagement work. Staff and local leaders in Michigan faced an overnight loss of both agency fee and payroll dues deduction. Their insights and success in pulling back membership in the aftermath of this event were factual and frank. Polling data made attendees aware of best practices for engaging their members after the loss of Fair Share. New engagement tools developed for new and ongoing members were showcased on the www.CTA.org website at the newly-enhanced Leader Resource Center. CTA’s Institute For Teaching (IFT) linked local success stories of member grant recipients who advanced the profession through innovation and application of their ideas in local schools and institutions to improve professional practice and advance student learning.

At the day’s end, local organizing success stories were highlighted as potential programmatic responses for other like-minded leaders facing similar challenges in their locals. These included successful wage increases and local dues increases in California’s largest teacher union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). South County San Diego’s authentic outreach to immigrant parents who are the target of ice raids along the southern border showed how advocacy for the community makes their local chapters relevant to their most vulnerable citizens. Sacramento City’s community bargaining model has incorporated stakeholder concerns into the negotiations process and opened the bargain to increased member involvement, public view, and comment. Saddleback Valley Educators Association’s SOAR to New Heights Member Engagement Project for the 2017-18 school year illustrated how chapters are using CTA grants to launch chapter-wide programs based on authentic assessments of their members’ needs. Members, staff, and leaders ended the summit by participating in small group discussions on local challenges to member organizing. Success stories of effective local efforts were also highlighted in the group interactions.