By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CTA Legislative Advocate Pat Rucker (right) is congratulated by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson immediately after taking the oath of office to become a member of the State Board of Education.
The appointment of CTA legislative advocate Patricia Ann Rucker to the State Board of Education by Gov. Jerry Brown will give CTA members an important voice in education policy. This appointment is extremely timely, with major issues such as budget cuts, Race to the Top and the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind looming.
“I am extremely honored,” says Rucker, a former teacher of the year in Sacramento County with 15 years of classroom experience at the K-12 and university levels in California. “My goal is to balance the priorities of student learning conditions and teacher working conditions. You cannot improve one at the expense of the other.”
Rucker’s appointment to the board was based on her expertise regarding state and federal education programs and issues. As a lobbyist, she was instrumental in the passage of laws improving teaching and learning conditions, such as SB 1209 (the Jack Scott bill, which eliminated 150 clock hours of professional growth) and more recently AB 2160 by Assembly Member Karen Bass, allowing teachers who hold a credential authorizing them to teach students with mild to moderate disabilities to also serve students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The appointment of Rucker and other public school educators to the State Board of Education has been described as the beginning of a new era in school politics. As part of the overhaul, the newly elected governor replaced seven of 11 board members with experienced educators, including Dr. Michael Kirst, professor emeritus at Stanford University. All appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate.
“Clearly, the governor’s intent was putting seven expert educators together so that the conversation about schools could be framed by people who understand the conditions of teaching and learning,” says Rucker.
Vitally important, she adds, is the opportunity for teacher input on accountability measures such as linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. As the Common Core State Standards are implemented, she looks forward to working on alignment between standards and the new curriculum and testing materials that will be adopted.
“It is exciting to see this new board and to hopefully see new openness in these important conversations,” says Rucker. “We didn’t have that opportunity before.”
CTA President David A. Sanchez praises the governor for his appointments and his willingness to give teachers a voice in education matters.
“We commend Gov. Brown for appointing educators who reflect and understand the complexities of our public schools,” says Sanchez. “Many of these appointees have worked in the classroom and understand the challenges and needs of California’s students. The voices of educators will be critical as the state faces urgent issues requiring the kind of knowledge and background these educators bring to these vital positions.”