Human Rights

CTA Joins Movement to #BringBackOurGirls

Bring Back Our GirlsEarlier today, the CTA Board of Directors joined the worldwide #BringBackOurGirls movement and sent a letter to President Obama asking him to do everything in his power to rescue the more than 200 school girls who were kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria and risk becoming victims of human trafficking.

According to news reports, the Nigerian government has been slow in its response since the militant group Boko Haram stormed a school and kidnapped the girls, who were there to take exams despite cultural pressures and threats from the militant group. Earlier this month a Boko Haram leader threatened to “sell” the girls.

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Kimberley Gilles of San Ramon Valley EA Takes Home Top NEA Foundation Award

At the recent NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in Washington DC, Kimberley Gilles, an educator at Monte Vista High School in Danville in the Bay Area, received one of public education’s top honors: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation presented nearly 40 awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education over the course of the program. Gilles is a veteran teacher in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and a member of the San Ramon Valley Education Association.

“Gilles has been selected for this award by her peers because she has attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by her exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession and staunch support of public education,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “In her classroom, she shares her passion for social justice to inspire students to lift up their own voices through reading and writing.”

Watch Gilles' heartfelt acceptance speech here:

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Rep. Barbara Lee, Educators, Economists Honor First African-American Congresswoman

On Feb. 1 in Oakland, Congressional Representative Barbara Lee (at left), Educator Rosenda Thomas and others at the Forum on Women's Economic Empowerment hosted by the congresswoman at Mills College took part in a special dedication ceremony for the Shirley Chisholm U.S. Postal Service Forever Stamp.

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Danville educator to receive Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence

Kimberley GillesCTA member Kimberley Gilles, a language arts educator at Monte Vista High School in Danville will receive the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala to be held in February in Washington, DC.

“Part of Kimberley’s great ability in teaching is her attention to diversity,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of CTA. “Diversity is integrated into the text books she chooses, the music she selects, the model essays she presents, and even the decor of her classroom.”

Congratulations Kimberley!

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Behind the Scenes of an Educator Photo Shoot

Patrick Tierney President of the Arcadia Teachers AssociationWe looked right and left before photographing Patrick Tierney pushing open the bathroom door of the women’s restroom and then the men’s restroom at a hotel in Ontario.  Just to be safe, I checked both restrooms first to make sure they were vacant.  If staff saw us, we might be accused of weirdness, voyeurism or even worse – been asked to leave the premises before obtaining the photo we needed! 

Why, you might ask, were we photographing the president of the Arcadia Teachers Association alongside restroom doors? It was to go with this month’s California Educator story about the new law granting transgender students the right to use facilities for the gender they “identify” with.

Transgender students are often excluded from physical education classes, sports teams and restroom facilities of the gender they identify with, which violates their civil rights, jeopardizes their psychological wellbeing and makes it difficult to focus on learning. The new law, which CTA and the state PTA supported, will change that.

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Bully Free: It Starts with Me

Bullying in our schools is at a tipping point, and while 48 states have passed bullying prevention laws it’s more important than ever that educators take a stand, and take action to prevent bullying. Our students need more caring adults in their lives, and educators are primed to take a stand against bullying in schools.

The myth that kids-will-be kids and bullying is a harmless rite of passage has lingered for too long. Research shows that persistent bullying inflicts measurable harm on many students. The side effects of bullying are many, and can be devastating. Bullying can lead to a decline in academic performance and attendance and can cause physical illness, extreme psychological withdrawal and depression. In the worst cases, bullying can lead to death.

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CTA remembers 50th anniversary of March on Washington

This is an inspiring week for our country as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 where, in front of more than 200,000 people, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. It was truly a teachable moment that changed the nation.

CTA has joined labor and civil rights groups in the national remembrance. As part of our efforts to honor this special day, Wednesday, Aug. 28, CTA has partnered with the Oakland-based Equal Justice Society to promote free lesson plans for educators about milestones in civil rights. You can include these history-rich moments in the civil rights movement to help students comprehend what was at stake, and why the struggles against racism still matter. The EJS also works to combat implicit bias from racial and gender stereotypes that CTA also reveals and dispels in our training about overcoming unconscious bias.

CTA put a call out to members asking for any personal stories or experiences related to the historic events. Hear from three members about their experiences:


Harriet Hutchinson is a retired kindergarten teacher from Oakland who remembers the March on Washington and the impact of being there that day has had on her life.

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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.

So stated CTA President Dean E. Vogel during remarks to the State Council of Education Saturday morning, April 6 in Los Angeles.

"We not only changed the number of pink slips that were sent out this year, we have changed the public conversation," Vogel said. "Just this week, the New York Times editorialized: 'California has recently shown signs of coming to its senses. Last fall, voters approved Proposition 30, which raises taxes and directs most of the proceeds to education.' "

He added, "That was you, each of you, getting out, talking to friends, neighbors, one voter at a time, that turned the tide."

As CTA embarks on its 150th anniversary celebration this year, Vogel noted, the organization has always stood up for the cause of public education. As CTA founder John Swett once wrote:

"If one state in the union needs a system of free schools more than any other, that State is California. Her population is drawn from all nations. The next generation will be a composite one, made up of the heterogeneous atoms of all nationalities. Nothing can Americanize these chaotic elements and breathe into them the spirit of our institutions but the public schools."

That's one of the reasons CTA is joining the National Education Association, other labor unions and community groups in support of reforming our shattered immigration system.

"The children of these immigrants are our students, who, width our guidance, will become the leaders, the business owners, the workers and the teachers of the future," Vogel said.

While Gov. Brown also believes every student is entitled to educational equality, CTA has some concerns about aspects of his Local Control Funding Formula submitted in his state budget. The formula is designed to provide base level founding to all students and additional funding for English learners, students living in poverty and foster youth. Under the new proposal, many categorical programs would be consolidated, and funds to implement programs like the Common Core State Standards would be decided at the local level. This necessitates that local chapters be involved in those decisions.

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CTA joins "All In For Citizenship" Rally in DC

Educators from across the country will be taking part in the All In For Citizenship Immigration Rally on April 10 in Washington, DC. CTA has a delegation who will be there representing all members.

Educators believe students should be made to feel welcome and safe regardless of where they were born. This is why they will put their beliefs and advocacy for DREAMer students on full display in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. At the April CTA State Council of Education last weekend, council members sent a strong message of support to all those facing the challenges our nation's immigration laws present. Council members also approved a new business item to take action supporting immigration reform efforts as well as participation in the May Day Immigrants' Rights March, May 1, 2013.

We know that everyone who wants to be in DC rallying won't be able to make the journey.  But the distance doesn't have to stop them from Speaking Up and sending our message to Congress - call Congress at 1-866-632-6057 to demand that they pass commonsense immigration reform that:
  • Addresses the millions of students and young adults who were brought here as children by their parents. America is strengthened by holding onto DREAMer students who love our country and are contributing to it.
  • Preserves family unity. Families play a critical role in student success. Yet growing numbers of public school students live in fear that our nation's immigration policies will break up their families, forcing them to choose between their country and their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.
  • Creates a realistic path to citizenship for the aspiring citizens who call America home. We need to ensure a fair process that takes into consideration what these new Americans contribute to our country.

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Time for Immigration Reform

CTA and NEA are part of a broad coalition of unions and community-based organizations calling for comprehensive immigration reform as Congress gets ready to debate the issue. As educators, we have witnessed for far too long the impact of the nation's current broken system on our students, their families and our communities.

As outlined in CTA policy, we need an immigration system that values keeping families together, provides a path to citizenship for those aspiring Americans who are working in our communities and expands the Dream Act to ensure all students have an opportunity for higher education.

On April 10, CTA and NEA will participate in the national rally for immigration reform in Washington, DC.

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

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