The Blog

Students or Billionaires First? Investigative Reporters Provide Answer

 

(Photo above) Michelle Rhee attacks teachers unions during a January 2012 “listening tour” of Sacramento.

Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools, calls her organization “StudentsFirst,” but a new white paper by investigative reporters at the Center for Public Integrity suggests “Billionaires First” might be a more appropriate name.

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Wealth Disparities Balloon: Working Poor, Our Students' Parents, Have Hard Time

(Graphic above: source – Economic Analysis and Research Network.)

A recent San Francisco Chronicle article highlights a new study by the Economic Analysis and Research Network  that finds the income disparity between the wealthy and everyone else in California has grown.

The state now stands 17th nationally in terms of income disparity, with the top 1 percent averaging $1.2 million annually, versus $46,000 for everyone else.

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Sacramento educators protest outside StudentsFirst Headquarters

Protesting Students FirstAs part of the national “Raise Your Hand for Our Schools” a group of hale and hearty Sacramento-area educators braved the chill Monday afternoon to leaflet outside the offices of StudentsFirst, the lobbying and education reform group founded by divisive public education critic Michelle Rhee. Teachers called attention to proven education reforms like smaller class sizes and investing more in schools and community partnerships. Rhee’s proposed, unproven policies would weaken teachers’ ability to advocate for students. And since Rhee and StudentsFirst are determined to silence educators, it comes as no surprise that Rhee’s staffers called in the police to investigate the peaceful demonstration. 

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Educators Urge State Board to Maintain Flexibility in Local Funding Regulations

(Photo above) Kendall Vaught, a 39-year teacher of English Language Learners and other students, stresses to the State Board of Education the importance of drafting regulations that maintain the flexibility and local decision-making that are the essence of the Local Control Funding Formula.

(Photo above) Nikki Milevsky, a school psychologist and president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, discusses her testimony about the LCFF regulations with John Fensterwald, a Sacramento-based education reporter.

CTA President Dean Vogel, CTA Board Members, and more than 160 other educators, education support professionals, parents, and students addressed the State Board of Education Thursday in Sacramento. The testimony came as the education policy body heard from the public about its proposed regulations on the Local Control Funding Formula.

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Rhee's Road Show Offers Nothing New

Last night StudentsFirst founder and self-proclaimed education reformer Michelle Rhee held the first of a series of nationwide “teacher town halls” in Los Angeles, in what Rhee describes as an effort to move beyond “the extreme rhetoric and personal attacks overshadowing what’s important: getting every child into a great school with great teachers.” Ironic given the extreme rhetoric and blaming of “bad” teachers and principals Rhee uses as the cornerstone of her "reform" ideas.

Rhee’s co-panelists last night were Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet school, who uses what Rhee apparently considers un-extreme rhetoric when he refers to teachers unions as “roaches", and George Parker, the former Washington DC teachers union president who is now a paid Rhee staffer. As expected, last night’s event was very controlled. Audience questions were pre-screened on cards and Rhee and her co-panelists chewed up 90% of the speaking time. How is that a "town hall"?

The panel spent most of the evening talking about accountability and the need to get rid of bad teachers, and how unions were an obstacle to "real" reform. There was little if any discussion of supporting teachers or providing our public schools the resources they need.

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Capitol News: CTA Co-Sponsored Bill to Protect Students from Misconduct Approved by Senate Education Committee

Assembly Bill 449 by Assembly member Al Muratsuchi passed out of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday on a bipartisan consent vote. The bill strengthens current law requiring superintendents to fulfill their duty to report to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing any allegations of misconduct by certificated staff when warranted.

CTA's main concern is to keep students safe while safeguarding the professional rights of educators. On Monday, Alicia Williamson, Vice Chair of CTA's Credentials and Professional Development Committee, and fellow lobby team member Tim Sergent successfully lobbied nine members of the Senate Education Committee to vote in support of the CTA co-sponsored bill.

AB 449 now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee where CTA will continue to seek support for passage of this important bill to remedy deficiencies in current law to ensure the welfare and safety of our school children.

 

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Senate Education Defeats Two Opposed Measures; Third Moves Over Educators’ Objections

At the urging of educators, the Senate Education Committee  on Wednesday again defeated two measures that would have respectively undermined effective teacher evaluations and undercut educators’ right to a fair hearing on misconduct allegations.  At the same time, despite educators’ objections, the panel approved an opposed measure that would privatize higher education online coursework.

All three bills were slated for “vote only” proceedings, but the author of one, Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), offered some amendments and testimony aimed at moving his CTA-opposed  SB 441.

Continued objections by representatives of Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, CTA and other employee organizations led Senators to defeat the measure.  That action came despite extraordinary efforts by StudentsFirst – the so-called “education reform” group started by disgraced former Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee – which brought dozens of witnesses to the Capitol in hopes of swaying lawmakers.

The defeat of SB 441, a flagship bill for StudentsFirst, is widely viewed as a rebuff to the organization, which has been reported to rely heavily on anti-union groups for funding.  Recent news reports have uncovered the fact StudentsFirst has received millions of dollars from the Walton family, founders of the non-union WalMart superstore chain.

The panel also defeated SB 531, by Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale).  That bill would have rolled back  due-process protections for certificated faculty and eliminated the May 15 deadline for layoff notifications related to reductions in force.  The bill would also have let school boards ignore the rulings of impartial panels reviewing their personnel actions.

The panel’s approval of SB 520, the CTA-opposed higher education measure by Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), sends the online privatization measure to the  Senate Appropriations Committee.

Educators will seek to defeat the bill there.

 

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Capitol News: Rhee, StudentsFirst Launch More Attacks on Teachers, Public Schools

Legislators "Rhee-ject" CTA-opposed measure

A week after lawmakers soundly defeated two parent trigger bills supported by corporate reformer Michelle Rhee and her StudentsFirst organization, they were back at the state Capitol on April 24th.  This time, they were pressing legislators to undermine effective evaluations of educators and to eliminate experience as a key determinant of teacher quality.

On Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee, the disgraced former chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools and her staff members lobbied lawmakers to approve SB 441, a CTA-opposed evaluation measure by Sen. Ron Calderon (D- Montebello).

Calderon is pushing a bad teacher evaluation bill (SB 441) supported by StudentsFirst. We stopped it this week but Senator Calderon has asked for reconsideration of this bill on Wednesday, May 1 in the Senate Education Committee. This bill would negatively impact you and the students you teach.

Only YOU can kill this bill!  Please contact your senator and urge him/her to VOTE NO on SB 441. It's easy to do! Enroll in our text alert system: text CTA ACTION to 69866 and get the updates on legislation!  Sign up today and you will be alerted on SB 441.  The text alerts will connect you to your legislators automatically.

In a second battle in the Senate Education Committee, lawmakers refused to pass CTA-opposed SB 453 that would have given school management the right to lay off educators widthout reference to seniority. Sen. Bob Huff (R-Arcadia) was seeking to keep those educators who are "less costly" because their relative lack of experience places them lower on the salary schedule.

The Rhee forces tagged their bill LIFO – using an accounting term that refers to last-in, first-out profit/cost calculations.  The measure would have left students – many facing difficult hurdles – width less-experienced educators to help them.

SB 453 was a StudentFirst's flagship bill, one they have been pushing in many states and talking about in California for more than three years.

 

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CTA-Opposed Bills Gain May 1 Revote

CTA-opposed bills defeated in committee last week are up for reconsideration. Senate Education Committee on April 24 gave only four votes to CTA-opposed SB 441 (Calderon) and just two votes to SB 531 (Knight).  Both measures needed five votes to pass out of the committee.  But the authors requested and received permission for a “reconsideration,” which means the measures will come up for another vote in the same Senate Education Committee on May 1.

Generally, reconsideration is granted to an author as a courtesy, but the close 4-4 vote on SB 441 – and the pressure being exerted by Michelle Rhee, the disgraced former chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system, and her StudentsFirst organization -- means educators need to re-double efforts to contact senators to make sure the bill doesn’t get the votes to pass.

While Sen. Knight’s SB 531 garnered fewer votes (only two) last week, educators should remain vigilant.

Teachers and other school supporters are contacting members of Senate Education to make sure the bills do not get out of committee, even on a second try.

Members of the Senate Education Committee are:

Senator Carol Liu (Chair): (916) 651-4025 and (818) 409-0400 Senator Mark Wyland (Vice Chair): (916) 651-4038 and (949) 489-9838 Senator Marty Block: (916) 651-4039 and (619) 645-3133 Senator Lou Correa: (916) 651-4034 and (714) 558-4400 Senator Loni Hancock: (916) 651-4009 and (510) 286-1333 Senator Ben Hueso: (916) 651-4040 and (619) 409-7690 Senator Bob Huff: (916) 651-4029 and (714) 671-9474 Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson: (916) 651-4019 and (805) 965-0862 Senator Bill Monning: (916) 651-4017and (831) 425-0401

Briefly, here’s some information and links for more information about the two bills:

CTA-opposed SB 441 (Calderon) would require all permanent certificated educators to be evaluated every three years against four standards, including student test scores.  The measure fails to address weaknesses in the current evaluation systems and eliminates teachers’ voices in the process by removing evaluations from the scope of collective bargaining.  CTA believes in a comprehensive and effective evaluation system that helps practitioners get even better.  SB 441 fails to pass the test.  For more information, see SB 441 documents at cta.org.

SB 531 (Knight) – This bill would roll back the due-process protections for certificated faculty and eliminate the May 15 deadline for layoff notifications related to reductions in force.  Among its major provisions, the bill would make the outcome of an impartial commission’s investigation of charges simply advisory. That means the district can dismiss a teacher even if an impartial panel has found the charges to be widthout merit.  The measure includes other equally onerous provisions.

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“Rhee-jected”: Panel Refuses to Pass StudentsFirst-Supported Anti-experience Bill

StudentsFirst, the group started by Michelle Rhee, the disgraced former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools, came up against a harsh reality in the state Capitol Wednesday morning when the Senate Education Committee refused to approve its flagship legislation.

The panel gave just two votes to SB 453, a CTA-opposed measure by Sen. Bob Huff (R-Arcadia) that would allow districts to lay off their most experienced teachers when funding shortfalls result in personnel reductions.

Sen. Huff argued that the measure would eliminate what Rhee forces have termed “last in, first out” personnel layoff procedures.

CTA advocates and others opposing the bill testified that the measure would lead to the laying off of districts’ most experienced teachers and confuse reductions-in-force width issues relating to teacher evaluation.

For schools, the larger issue is securing adequate funding so that layoffs of any instructional personnel are not needed.

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