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Joe Nuñez | CTA State Council Speech | April 10, 2016


Good morning.

But before I get started, I too must recognize our tremendous victory in Friedrichs v CTA. It’s just amazing the impact that a one sentence ruling can have in the lives of working people and our ability as educators to keep fighting for our students and the promise of public education. I’m going to get this ruling framed. 

And like Eric, I’m so proud of the work of our legal team – Chief Counsel Laura Juran and attorney Jacob Rukeyser …as well as the outstanding effort by our Communications Department in telling our story. It’s just another example of why we have the best staff in the country!

I recently took a little vacation. My husband and I went to Rome, Naples and Pompeii. It was a great trip. The history that you see is just mind blowing. Architecture from 200 BC. It’s kind of a teachers dream. I did see and get blessed by the Pope. Figured it couldn’t hurt.  

I read a headline of an English newspaper that I saw when I got on the plane to come home. Educators there were expressing their concerns about the focus on testing. They are having some of the very same debates and discussions we are having here.  

A lot of work is happening right now in Sacramento and in Washington, DC around implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act … as well as developing rubrics for the Local Control Funding Formula and local accountability plans. 

As both ESSA and LCFF embrace our Governor’s word of subsidiarity, many decisions are pushed down to the local and state levels. This creates important opportunities for educator involvement … and as outlined in CTA’s Strategic Plan … we have the opportunity to lead and transform the education profession.  

But it is not going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. ESSA made many good changes when it comes to assessments. While still mandating states to have tests in reading and math every year from third to eighth grade and once in high school, it eliminated the high stakes attached to those scores … getting rid of the AYP and other sanctions.  

It reduces the power of the U.S. Department of Education and gives states more control over designing and implementing the most appropriate assessments. It allows states to use a variety of indicators to show how students are performing ... and focuses on student growth rather than proficiency.  

It still requires subgroup reporting to highlight achievement gaps, but eliminated closing schools that fail to meet goals. And it recognizes that parents can excuse their children from testing in states that have opt-out laws, including California. States are still required to meet a 95 percent participation rate.  

CTA produced a number of new resources for educators and parents regarding their opt-out rights. I encourage you all to take a look at them. They are available at CTA.org/optout. But as with many new laws, the rubber really meets the road when the federal and state agencies write the regulations for implementation.  

Right now, in Washington, a committee of 24 education advocates and experts, including CTA State Council member Ryan Ruelas, are engaging in what’s called “negotiated rulemaking” on ESSA. This group is reviewing and negotiating with the DOE on the proposed regulations for sections of the new law.  

It’s a great honor to have Ryan representing CTA and NEA on this committee. There are some really tough issues to be resolved. The group is discussing what constitutes a nationally-recognized test. In high school for example, we currently use Smarter Balanced. But a state could substitute the ACT or the SAT ... and might be able to go even further, as there’s nothing in the law that prevents other assessments from being developed and used.  

They’re talking about a provision that would allow 8th graders who are taking advanced math courses to use a test in that subject instead of the Smarter Balanced test. There is a lot of debate around how the regulations will deal with the provision that no more than 1 percent of students with severe cognitive disabilities in any state may take alternative assessments.   

The Feds have never defined "significant cognitive disabilities" before, so we will need to monitor this closely to see how this plays out at a district level. But probably one of the most significant regulations being decided is supplement-not-supplant. They are trying to make clear exactly how federal dollars for low-income students must supplement, not supplant, state and local school funding.  

ESSA eliminated the old requirement that districts itemize the costs of various programs funded by Title 1 money. But the DOE is already trying to write more restrictive rules, including one idea that would appear to dictate a reporting formula based on how much Title 1 money schools are spending per child.  

NEA and other education groups are already warning this approach to the regulation would over-step the intent of the new law. And doesn’t that sound familiar, as in California we continue to have school districts that seem to think supplemental and concentration grant money under LCFF cannot be used for teacher salaries.  

The California Department of Education has clarified this provision a few times now ... but sometimes, with local administrators, as President Heins reminds us, it’s hard to legislate stupid. It’s why you have to be diligent, and if your district tries to make this claim, let a local staff person know, so we can get you the facts. 

I know that all the federal rule-making sounds very technical … and it is … but as these laws allow states and local districts to make decisions ... you need to demand to be part of these decisions. Because once the federal regs are established, we will be having the same discussions over rules in California ... as the new system must be in place by January 2017.  

These changes will impact every State Council committee. In fact, some discussions have already begun. Right now, President Heins and several other CTA members are part of a state task force that is putting together recommendations for a new accountability system that aims at aligning ESSA, LCFF and LCAP requirements.  

It would be an accountability system that gets beyond test scores and even includes non-academic measures, such as student engagement, school climate and safety. You might have seen a news story where California was already being chided for considering a plan that didn’t have an overall ranking number for schools.  

This has upset some groups who want a strict data number, which is still driven by test scores. Fortunately, in California we are supported by a Governor, and a State Board of Education, that is willing to think differently. When asked about giving more weight to some factors like test scores, State Board President Michael Kirst said, “If you are smart enough to look at five things on the dashboard of a car and still drive, you should be able to understand multiple measures for a school.” 

And in an interview just this week with Governor Brown where he strongly defended local control and the absurdity of every student achieving at the exact same level. Brown was asked, If you believe in subsidiarity, then what is the state's role for underperforming schools? 

In classic Brown fashion, “To send down little busy bodies to run down the halls and chide teachers. NO. We have eight goals that form the Local Control Accountability plan. Thousands of meetings that included parents and teachers and community groups developed those plans. That’s democracy. We have to create opportunities. We’ve got to recruit the teachers. You’ve got to pay them. You got to create enough freedom. A lot of people don’t want teachers to have too much freedom. They want to have a recipe, paint by the numbers. You ever see the coloring book that has numbers that if there’s a seven you put a little red. If it’s an eight, you put a little green? And pretty soon without knowing anything, you can fill out that coloring book pretty good. Ok, but that’s NOT a good idea for learning.” 

You would never hear those words from Scott Walker or Chris Christi. There’s never been a stronger advocate for local control and for teachers controlling classroom instruction than Governor Brown. You can read the entire interview at CALmatters.org.

Leading the development of your LCAP is so important because it's your opportunity to engage with the community to set the priorities for your district and to prioritize the issues that improve student learning. If you are looking for evidence to support your LCAP development, I want to point you to the final report on CTA’s Quality Education Investment Act that came out last month. It outlines seven lessons learned from those schools that would be helpful in building your LCAP.  

That includes: 

** strengthening professional development that is teacher driven 
** cultivating teacher collaboration with sufficient time and resources
** expanding class size reduction
** and empowering teachers 

On class size, there’s a great graphic that shows the extended value of smaller classes. So while QEIA has ended, the lessons we learned should be something we strive for in all schools. The report is on the CTA website.  

It’s an excellent resource, and I encourage you to take a look. In your breakfast meetings today, you signed a petition to support teachers at California Virtual Academies or CAVA, the online educators who voted for a union last year are now trying to secure their first contract.  

The charter management company, K-12 Inc., still won’t commit to working with the teachers to fix problems or even recognize their union’s existence. We must help step up the pressure on K-12 Inc. CTA has been actively organizing charter schools for nearly two years. It is part of our strategic plan, and a lot of work has been done or is underway. 

** In a huge victory, in February, CTA members at two charter schools in Alameda run by Community Learning Center Schools voted unanimously to ratify their first ever collective bargaining agreement. After a two year battle, and a near strike … the new contract reduces class sizes … and provides due process, just cause and binding arbitration protections for educators, as well as a salary increase.  

** There are currently first contract campaigns going on at charter schools in Hayward, Oakland, West Sacramento, Modesto, Lakeside, Chula Vista and Redding. 

** CTA has organizing campaigns happening at charter schools in San Jose, Napa, West Sacramento, and in El Dorado County.  

** CTA coordinated charter school teacher blitzes in Oakland, San Diego and Sacramento where educators visited the homes of charter members and talked to them about the importance of belonging to a union. All total they knocked on about 400 doors and completed 60 visits. 

** CTA held its first ever Union Charter Educator Statewide Summit … with more than 100 charter educators from all over California attending. They spent two days talking about coordinated bargaining and the issues charter educators face. This year they plan to launch a coordinated bargaining effort. They also drafted a Charter Educator Bill of Rights.  

** CTA continues to coordinate a Charter School Accountability Campaign aimed at providing more legislative and local accountability of charter schools. Four bills were introduced last year. One was vetoed. The others were rolled over to this year. We have also joined Working Partnerships USA in San Jose to help lead a parent organizing campaign in the Silicon Valley.  

** The CTA Charter Bargaining Workgroup is developing a charter bargaining toolkit.  

** And for the first time, CTA will host a training for charter organizing at this year’s Summer Institute.  

This is a huge amount of work in a very short amount of time. I want to recognize our CTA officers and our CTA Board members Terri Jackson, José Alcalá, Leslie Littman, Toby Boyd, Jim Groth and Erica Jones, who have spearheaded these efforts, along with NODD Manger Mike Egan, Organizer Muni Citron and many other staff in all of our regions who have just done a tremendous job.  

We still have a long way to go, and this organizing is hard work … but it is the future of CTA. It’s how we unite public education in this state and empower all educators to embrace their rights in the workplace in order to improve learning for our students! 

I want to close today with some thoughts about economic and social justice. First, April 12 is Equal Pay Day. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Here in the 21st Century - the year 2016 - women still earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. Over the course of 40 years, that equals a “lifetime wage gap” of $480,000. 

And for African American, Latino and Native American women, the lifetime wage gap doubles. Minority women lose nearly a million dollars compared to men. That would even almost buy you a home in San Francisco. I ask you to join me, as part of the national pay equity awareness campaign, and wear red on Tuesday, April 12 to symbolize how far “in the red” woman and minorities are with their pay.  

And finally, I have to say something about the sanctioned discrimination now happening in North Carolina and Mississippi. In the words of the NAACP it is legalizing hate. After celebrating the decision of the US Supreme Court just last year that made marriage legal for all citizens, this turn of events is heart-breaking.  

Cloaked under the name of the Religious Freedom Act, the Mississippi law has nothing to do with freedom. It allows the denial of services to the GLBTQ community based on three "religious and moral" beliefs: 

** That marriage is between a man and a woman
** That sex is proper only within such a marriage
** Or that people are male and female based on genetics and anatomy at birth. 

Sadly this language is not new. For years, many "sincerely and morally" believed that African Americans are only suited for slavery … they "morally and religiously" believed that people of color should pass a test in order to vote. 

And they "morally and religiously" believed that black and white children couldn’t be educated in the same school … now their target is the LGBTQ community. We must stand up to this hatred, intolerance and injustice before it spreads like an evil virus across the country. One of my favorite artists who I just saw in concert last month; Bruce Springsteen took a stand two days ago and cancelled his performance in North Carolina. He said, “Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry is one of them." 

Let’s join Bruce in raising our voices in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards, instead of forwards!” 

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association