Opinion: Teachers unions oppose change — why?

wsj-wallstreetjournal-convertedVia Wall Street Journal | By Antonio Villaraigosa

President John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” This message has apparently been lost on some people in our teachers unions who used their recent national conventions in Los Angeles and Denver to argue against desperately needed changes in our public schools.

At a time when only one in 10 low-income children is earning a four-year college degree and two out of three jobs of the future will require one, change is needed. At a time when more than half of young people attending community college need to retake high-school classes because the education they received was not rigorous enough, change is needed. At a time when American 15-year-olds trail their counterparts in 30 countries in math, 23 in science and 20 in reading, change is needed.

For some time now, teachers, elected officials, community, business and nonprofit organizations have advanced bold changes in education. America is raising standards, investing in teachers, rewriting curriculum, bringing technology into the classroom and exploring new learning models like public charter schools that are getting results in higher graduation and college-enrollment rates.

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Commentary: Vergara decision on tenure — and our union

Teacher tenure LAUSD Vergara

Cartoon by David Granlund

By Ron Taw

I came to education out of the business world. Before entering the classroom, I was making my way up the corporate ladder at a Fortune 500 company. But then, over 15 years ago, I realized that I wanted a job where “success and advancement” would mean changing more lives, not just earning more money.

That’s why I came into teaching, and why I stay. So as someone who deeply loves his job and his students, I am disappointed in the reactionary response of many of my colleagues to the ruling in Vergara v. California, in which California’s teacher tenure laws were ruled unconstitutional.

Rather than an attack on teachers, Vergara has given us an opportunity to completely rethink the systems of teacher tenure, support, evaluations and lay-offs. When I received tenure, it was the result of an arbitrary and opaque process, divorced from my work in the classroom helping students. At the moment, tenure remains the only official milestone for most teachers’ careers. So rather than an empty stamp, we want tenure to be meaningful, impactful, and part of a career-long system of professional development.

This ruling presents a rare opportunity for actual classroom educators to own our profession and lead the nation in creating an innovative, student-focused and teacher-driven system for how we hire, evaluate and retain educators.

The impending wave of retirements and decline in new teacher credentials being issued means we have to do something new to ensure that we are not facing understaffed classrooms in the coming years. Changing tenure is not the silver bullet, but it can be a key part of the solution.

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Teachers Unions Chagrin: Waiver Process Left Them Out

Sad-TeacherThe two biggest statewide teachers unions — California Teachers Association (CTA) and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) — have problems with the waivers granted to eight school districts from the federal program, No Child Left Behind. The objections, however, are more about how they came about than what they mean.

“My guess is that there are probably some elements in there that we would embrace, but I think the process itself is flawed,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “Somehow, the women and men who are actually in the classrooms doing the day-to-day teaching were left out of the process of improving our schools. It’s just not going to work.”

The waiver request was put together by superintendents from eight school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, who received guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and other third parties. Elected school boards were not asked to sign off.

Pechthalt added: “It’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all reform.”

The CTA expressed similar objections to the waiver agreement, blaming Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“By approving this waiver, Secretary Duncan once again demonstrates how his rhetoric that educators be actively involved in education change is just that – rhetoric,” CTA President Dean Vogel said in a statement. “Not one of the local teachers’ associations in the eight school districts was included in the discussion or signed the waiver application.”

UTLA President Warren Fletcher declined to comment.

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LA Teachers Proposing Online Voting System for Union Elections

An online voting system in Virginia

An online voting system in Virginia

Less than 23 percent of the 40,000 members of United Teachers of Los Angeles cast ballots in the final round of voting for union president in 2011, the union’s last leadership election. Even fewer, 15 percent, voted in the preliminary round.

A new, online voting system could change all that, says a group of teachers who are taking their case to the membership.

“We’re proposing that all the city-wide elections would be online,” said Marisa Crabtree, a UTLA Chapter Chair and member of the House of Representatives for the East Area. She is spearheading the initiative, which will be presented to union members at the annual UTLA Leadership Conference this weekend at the Westin Los Angeles Airport. “We want to encourage people to vote more and that comes from a more flexible, user-friendly system,” she said.

UTLA’s current voting system is paper-based and differs for various elections. If members vote on a contract change, a chapter chair hosts an in-person election at every school site. Leadership elections rely on snail mail ballots, which have to be turned in by a certain date for counting.

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Morning Read: Lawmakers Stall on Teacher Evaluation Bill

Bill to Alter Evaluations of California Teachers Fails Again in Senate
Legislation that would alter how California schools judge teachers flunked another test on Tuesday, failing to advance for the second time in a week. Sac Bee
See also: LA School Report


Duncan Says It’s Still Possible for State to Get NCLB Waiver
California remains interested in receiving a waiver from sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Wednesday it remains possible for the state to get one. EdSource


L.A. Mayor’s Race: Wendy Greuel Uses Web Chat to Target Women
The chat participants, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, L.A. Unified President Monica Garcia, longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and operatives from the Feminist Majority and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, urged Los Angeles viewers to join their canvassing efforts on Greuel’s behalf. LA Times


Poll: Should Breakfast Be Banned From the Classroom?
Should under-nourished students be allowed to eat in the classroom? The issue became a hot topic this week after Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy passed on making a decision, putting the future of a pilot breakfast program into the hands of the school board. KPCC
See also: LA School Report

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Morning Read: Parents Rally to Save Classroom Breakfasts

Parents Rally to Save Classroom Breakfasts
Union officials representing school cafeteria workers led a noisy rally of parents Tuesday to save a Los Angeles Unified classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by teachers. Los Angeles Times
See also: LA Daily News, CBS


LAUSD Supt. John Deasy Faces Performance Evaluation by Teachers Union
Barely two weeks after delivering a stinging no-confidence vote on the leadership of Superintendent John Deasy, the teachers union announced it will do a first-ever “performance evaluation” of the Los Angeles Unified chief. Daily News
See also: LA School Report


Voters Can’t Let LAUSD Seat Be Bought: Elect Monica Ratliff
For a glimpse of what’s wrong with politics in Los Angeles, look no further than the campaign to fill an open seat in the LAUSD’s northeast San Fernando Valley district. LA Daily News Editorial


Lawsuit Targets Union Fees Collected from Nonmember Teachers
A conservative organization has joined with a group of California teachers in an effort to overturn laws that allow teacher unions to collect fees from those who don’t want to be members. Los Angeles Times
See also: Bloomberg, AP

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Union Re-Launches Deasy Evaluation Effort

Superintendent John Deasy

Apparently not content with its recent poll on LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s performance, UTLA is now embarking on a “Superintendent Performance Review” that calls on teachers to review Deasy’s work.

The union’s announcement of the new Deasy survey appears somewhat more neutral than it was for the last survey, which indicated what the union thought about the superintendent through mocking cartoons. (See the first survey announcement here.)

The union characterizes the new survey as reversing the evaluation tables with a “Stull Deasy” theme. (In LAUSD, to “Stull” someone is to evaluate them, per the Stull Act, which requires teacher evaluations.) The survey asks UTLA members if they think Deasy is “fair,” “effective,” “the best,” or “the worst.” There’s been a spike in negative evaluations of teachers since Deasy has arrived, and no doubt some teachers will be more than happy to return the favor.

LA School Report has contacted UTLA for more details, including why the union is doubling up on its review of the superintendent. The evaluation is scheduled to be distributed by Friday, May 3, and is due back by May 10.

Previous posts: Union “Surveys” Teachers for Deasy Criticism; Teachers Vote Against Deasy, For More Teachers; Teachers Vote on Deasy Tomorrow, Too

Morning Read: Board Likely to Back Classroom Breakfast

L.A. Unified Board Will Back Classroom Breakfast Program
A majority of L.A. Unified School Board members said they will vote to continue a classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by the teachers union. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, KPCC


The Messy Complications of Breakfast in the Classroom
The Los Angeles Unified School District is in a period of tremendous upheaval that, it’s hoped, will result in better education for its students. With so much changing and so much at stake, of course there are more than a few daggers drawn. But when the teachers union and district administration can’t even get together over feeding hungry kids, something sick is going on. LA Times Opinion


Pre-K Funding is Delivered Another Blow
California state funding per child fell by more than than $400 compared with the previous year, and only 41% of 4-year-olds were served by public pre-K programs and Head Start in the 2011-12 school year, the institute reported. LAT


Washington and Sacramento Must End Cold War on Education
It is too late for California to get more than the sliver of Race to the Top funds it has already received. But the administration’s rejection of California’s NCLB waiver request is too important an issue to accept without further urgent efforts on both sides to reach a resolution. EdSource (opinion)


Walton Foundation Gives $8 Million to StudentsFirst
A foundation associated with the Wal-Mart family fortune has expanded its support for the education advocacy group run by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. LA Times

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Morning Read: Classroom Breakfast Program in Peril

L.A. Unified Classroom Breakfasts May Be Axed, Deasy Says
An L.A. Unified classroom breakfast program feeding nearly 200,000 children but sharply criticized by the teachers union will be eliminated next year unless school board members vote to reinstate it, Supt. John Deasy said Thursday. LA Times


Decrease in Pink Slips Thanks to Prop 30
The sharp decrease in the number of pink slips from 20,000 last year to 3,000 this March can be directly attributed to the historic passage of the CTA-supported Proposition 30 in November. CTA Blog


Senate Counters Governor’s Funding Plan for Disadvantaged Students
Brown wants to make sure disadvantaged students get more of the funding pie, but the Senate disagrees with the formula the governor wants to use. KPCC
See also: LA TimesEdSourceSI&A Cabinet Report


Endorsement: Monica Ratliff in L.A. Unified District 6
She would, she said, terminate Supt. John Deasy’s contract and initiate a new search for a superintendent, in which he would be invited to reapply. That would be a mistake. LA Times Editorial


LAUSD Reassigns Valley Superintendent, 3 Other Administrators
Four senior Los Angeles Unified officials, including the San Fernando Valley’s local superintendent, have been removed from their positions pending an internal investigation into “a confidential personnel matter,” a district spokesman said Thursday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, CBS LA

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Deasy Requests Changes to Teacher Dismissal Bill

Earlier this week, the LA Weekly honed in on the outsized influence California’s largest teachers union is perceived to have on education policy issues, including recent efforts to speed the removal of sexual predators from the classroom.

“That’s how CTA infamously killed a [2012] law to fire sex-pervert teachers, SB 1530,” LA Weekly writer Matthew Mullins wrote. “A badly watered-down version, AB 375, is alive — because CTA backs it,”

What the LA Weekly didn’t note was that the “badly watered-down” bill moving through the state legislature was amended last week or that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has proposed several further changes to make sure that districts have a stronger role in the dismissal process and that teachers who review dismissal cases can be removed if necessary.

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Morning Read: Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who’s Best for LA

Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who Can Best Lead Los Angeles As Mayor
The two candidates for mayor of Los Angeles made robust cases for themselves in a televised debate Monday night from the USC Health Sciences Campus east of downtown, but they became most passionate when they squared off, again, on the question of who would be the most independent leader. LA Times


Saving the California Dream: ‘Parent Trigger’ Profiles
Parents at Weigand Elementary School in Watts are the most the recent group to organize and deliver a petition, and they say it’s been a tough fight so far. “The courage it takes to sign a petition when you know there’s going to be a battle is tremendous,” says Alfonso Flores, a former LAUSD “Teacher of the Year.” Fox LA


Attack Shows Education  Reform Gaining Ground
The passage by delegates at this month’s California Democratic Convention of a resolution condemning Democrats, including me, who support education reform illustrates an ongoing battle among Democrats across the nation. O.C. Register Opinion (Gloria Romero)


Burbank Teacher Suspended After Breaking State Standardized Testing Rules
At least one elementary school class has had their test scores invalidated, and the district’s ranking could be in jeopardy. NBC LA
See also: KPCC

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Morning Read: Board Considers Speedier Teacher Investigations

L.A. School Board to Consider Faster Investigation of Teachers
Sexual misconduct allegations at Miramonte Elementary School sparked a surge of investigations of Los Angeles teachers, pushing the ranks of those in “teacher jail” to more than 300 — and prompting officials this week to consider the rights of accused employees. LA Times
See also: AP, SI&A Cabinet Report, LA School Report


Teacher Dismissals: How Do We Protect Children and Safeguard Teachers’ Due Process?
Fire them. Dismiss them. Send them back. Let them languish in “teacher jails” while investigations drag on for months — or even years.  There’s got to be a better, quicker and fairer way to get rid of teachers who truly do not belong in the classroom and support those teachers who do. Huff Po Op-Ed by Tamar Galatzan


Deasy Should Be Thrilled With Union’s No Confidence Vote
It means he’s shaking up the moribund Los Angeles Unified School District and bucking the union that has battled every education reform proposed to protect the livelihood of its teachers – a livelihood that has put a stranglehold on education. LA Daily News Editorial


‘Willful Defiance’ in L.A. Schools
A proposal to prevent the suspending of students for a relatively minor infraction deserves the approval of the school board. LA Times Editorial

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Morning Read: Greuel to Release Education Plan

Greuel to Release Education Plan
Greuel might have wanted her staff to do a little better advance work, because Garcetti is well liked at the school — Camino Nuevo Charter Academy — which he helped get a $700,000 grant to help build a new soccer field,” reports The Times. KPCC


Eric Garcetti Avoids Schoolyard Tussle With Wendy Greuel
On the heels of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calling on the two mayoral candidates to step up and communicate their education platforms during his State of the City address Tuesday night, Wendy Greuel stepped up with a challenge to Eric Garcetti. KPCC
See also: LA School Report, Annenberg News, LA Times


LAUSD Superintendent Fires Lemon Teachers
The speed with which Deasy moves and speaks is well documented. He brings an uncomfortable impatience to the LAUSD supe’s job as he moves to increase the types of schools available to students (known as School Choice), raise achievement on test scores and graduation rates, and require accountability from L.A.’s more than 20,000 tenured-for-life teachers. LA Weekly


Education Coalition Wants to Stay Course in L.A. Unified
A coalition of groups, including the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, has launched an effort to put education at the center of the mayoral race and civic attention. LA Times
See also: LA School Report


Operation Back in School Sweeps up Truant Kids
Operation Back in School, a multi-agency task force in the Harbor area Wednesday to sweep up truant kids who should be in school. No citations were issued in a friendlier approach to the problem that offered counseling for kids and parents. Daily Breeze


Parents Choose Unique School Takeover Model in ‘Trigger’ Vote
In the latest test of California’s controversial “parent trigger” law, South Los Angeles parents have voted to transform their struggling neighborhood school into a charter school hybrid beginning this fall, organizers announced Wednesday. Hechinger Report
See also: LA Times, LA School Report

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Morning Read: Parents Choose New Plan Today

24th Street Elementary Pulling Parent Trigger
The Parent Trigger at 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams keeps chugging along — despite what L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti thinks about it. LA Weekly
See also: San Bernardino Sun


New Analysis Bolsters Case Against Suspension, Researchers Say
The results of a new analysis of out-of-school-suspension data that show staggering rates of the punishment’s use at some schools are even more reason to rethink that common method of disciplining students, researchers said Monday. EdWeek
See also: KPCC, EdSource, Yahoo


LA Unified Off Track to Meet Deadline for College Prep Courses
Los Angeles Unified School District has some work ahead of it to meet its deadline for all students to pass college-preparatory classes in order to graduate. EdSource
See also: LA Daily News


California Federation of Teachers Lobbies Lawmakers
It’s lobby day for the California Federation of Teachers, which means members of the state’s second-biggest teachers union (after the California Teachers Association) are in Sacramento to petition lawmakers. Sac Bee

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Morning Read: Symbolic Teacher Vote on Deasy

Teachers to Vote on ‘Confidence’ in L.A. Schools Supt. Deasy
Members of the L.A. teachers union begin casting ballots Tuesday in a symbolic confidence-vote referendum on L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. LA Times
See also: LA School Report


CTA Goes Hollywood on Teacher Dismissal Bills
An adage in politics is that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Not so for the California Teachers Association, California’s most powerful political special interest. Their mantra seems to be more like, “If you can’t beat ‘em, just overtake ‘em.” OC Register Column
See also: SD Union-Tribune Editorial


What’s Really Scandalous About the School Testing Scandal
Even if we eliminate all the cheating, what remains is a broken system built on the dangerous misconception that testing is a proxy for actual teaching and learning. Time


What Will New Evaluation Systems Cost?
The cost of new teacher-evaluation systems is likely to vary based on how states and districts choose to establish student-growth measures for all teachers, according to an analysis from a researcher at the Value-Added Research Center. EdWeek

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Morning Read: Teacher Dismissal Bill Gets New Champion

Sen. Padilla Drops His Teacher Dismissal Bill
Two days after Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, introduced a bill that would make it quicker and potentially cheaper to fire teachers, Sen. Alex Padillo, D-Los Angeles, has shelved his controversial version of a teacher dismissal bill and signed on as a principal co-author of hers. EdSource


L.A.’s Mayoral Rivals Walk Fine Line in Dealing With Labor
Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are Democrats with long histories of supporting organized labor. But the competition for labor support has upended conventional thinking about the candidates. LA Times


L.A. Unified Officials Let Abuse Allegations Slide, Lawyers Say
Two high-level district employees heard but failed to act on accusations of sexual misconduct by an elementary school teacher, according to attorneys representing alleged victims. LA Times
See also: KPCC, KTLA


LA Unified School Board Blocks Current President From Another Term
The term limit may be the first sign that fewer members on the board of education may support the reform agenda. KPCC

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Union “Surveys” Teachers for Deasy Criticism

Superintendent John Deasy

The teachers union’s on-again, off-again plan to survey its members on what they think about LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s job performance is back on again.

However, this time around the union has a much stronger idea of what kinds of negative views its members should express.

The union first mentioned in January that it planned to survey members about Deasy. At the time, the survey was described in neutral terms: “UTLA members will have the opportunity to rate Superintendent Deasy’s performance.” Less than a month later, UTLA postponed the survey without any explanation.

This time around, the union isn’t being shy about the negative view it has of Deasy and how it hopes its members share a similar perspective: “Time and again, Superintendent Deasy makes decisions that short-change students for the benefit of his private agenda,” the union says on its website. In its newsletter, UTLA urges members to email if they have examples of how “Deasy’s decisions have hurt our schools.”

In April, union members will also vote on an initiative that would call for union leadership to more aggressively oppose Deasy. LA School Report has reached out to UTLA again to get more information. We’ll update you when we hear back.

Previous posts: Union Surveys Members About Deasy; UTLA Calls Off Survey on DeasyApril Vote Will Highlight Union Factions

Parent Revolution Praises Teachers Union

“UTLA has treated the parents, the process, and the law with respect. They deserve real credit for their actions in this regard, and we recognize and appreciate the professional nature in which they have approached this important effort.” - Blog post from Parent Revolution (read full text here)

Previous posts: You Say You Want a RevolutionContrasting Reactions to Parent Trigger

Morning Read: Budget Forecasts – and Pink Slips

Despite Increase in Funding, School Districts Still Sending Layoff Notices to Teachers
Year after year, March 15th has been a date of dread for California public school teachers. The date, wAhich falls on a Friday this year, is the preliminary deadline for school districts to send out “Reduction In Force” notices for cuts to next year’s staff. KPCC


Senate GOP Leader Wants to Reduce Pink Slips for Teachers
State Senate GOP leader Robert Huff of Diamond Bar says he has a way to reduce the annual practice of issuing preliminary pink slips to tens of thousands of California teachers who later are told they will not lose their jobs. LA Times


LAUSD Budget Forecast Is Getting Brighter
LA Unified’s Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee is convening Tuesday morning. The proposed agenda shows financial improvement at the district after five years of devastating cuts — due to a boost from Prop. 30 funds. KPCC


Power Shift on L.A. School Board
Election results for seats on the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District – the largest district in California and second-largest in the nation – will have far-reaching implications for the future of education reform in the Golden State. OC Register Column (Gloria Romero)


Divided Over L.A. Unified
One nasty election later, there is no sign that the divisiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District will abate. If anything, it looks likely to increase, with activists in United Teachers Los Angeles announcing that teachers will vote on a passel of anti-reform positions. LA Times Editorial

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Morning Read: Union May Attack LAUSD Leadership More Aggressively

Teachers Union to Vote on Aggressive Stand Against Deasy Policies
The Los Angeles teachers union has scheduled an April vote for an initiative that would, if passed, call for a more aggressive posture against the leadership of the L.A. Unified School District. LA Times


The Wrong Fight Over Schools
Over the last century, American public education was built on an assumption that it would be apolitical. School districts would not be dragged into the mire of city elections. As last week’s election showed, that picture of leadership doesn’t apply to the Los Angeles Unified School District, and it hasn’t for at least 40 years. LA Times Op-Ed (Charles Taylor Kerchner)


Bill Returns Looking to Push Back the Teacher “Pink Slip” Date
The March 15 deadline for preliminary teacher layoff notices would be changed to June 1 in future years under a bill pending in the California legislature. SI&A Cabinet Report


Harbor City’s Narbonne High Overcomes Underdog Status to Excel in Academic Decathlon
At Narbonne, more than half of the students are poor enough to receive free or reduced-price lunches. Its test scores are mediocre, even when compared against schools with similar demographics. But its Academic Decathlon team has given the school cause to celebrate. Daily Breeze

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