California Virtual Educators Avert Strike, Make Gains for Students
By Frank Wells
California Virtual Educators United (CVEU), the union representing teachers at California’s largest online public charter school, reached a tentative agreement with California Virtual Academies (CAVA) April 4. The settlement came just 24 hours after a fact-finding hearing, which was the last step before a possible strike. In November, CVEU members voted overwhelmingly to strike if necessary to get an agreement that would be good for CAVA students.
Although articles on salary, workload, and achieving permanent job status had been previously agreed to during more than a year of negotiations and member organizing, the remaining issue was caseload, the online equivalent of class size. CVEU members believe CAVA’s “profits before kids” model has shortchanged students of the individual attention they need. CVEU sought caseload caps and class balancing that takes into account subject- and grade-specific needs, as well as the needs of special education students and English learners. The settlement makes some progress in that direction.
Profits have been key to CAVA’s relationship with K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia-based online school giant whose investors have included Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. CAVA contracts with K12 for curriculum, technology, and administrative services in an arrangement where about half of the millions of California tax dollars the school receives leaves the state to enrich K12 investors. In 2016, state scrutiny led to a $168.5 million settlement with both companies over alleged violations of “false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws,” including misleading parents about students’ academic progress, college eligibility, class sizes and other issues.
CVEU is CAVA teachers’ exclusive representative; this will be their first collective bargaining agreement. “We are so proud of all the hard work and commitment our teachers made in ensuring that our core values on work status, caseloads, and workload were recognized,” says CVEU President Brianna Carroll. “We now have a first contract that begins to put our school’s needs over the needs of K12 Inc., one that is a strong start to fixing CAVA and ensuring the success of our students and teachers.”
At press time, the agreement was being prepared for a ratification vote by CVEU members.