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March 2014 Council Decides

Whether it’s working with new state standards and calling for a common sense implementation, defending the teaching professional and due process rights in courtrooms, or getting ready for this year’s election, CTA is here to make sure all students and all educators have a champion, CTA President Dean E. Vogel said in his remarks to the State Council of Education on Saturday morning.

“Our work in CTA is key to making sure the middle class survives in California, that workers can feed their families, stay healthy, and retire with dignity,” Vogel said.

“CTA also has a 150-year mission to ensure all children have the opportunity for a great public education and a bright future. And we are doing just that,” he said. “Your work is inspiring students every day. It’s improving our public schools every day. And it’s making stronger communities and a better California for all of us every day.”

Although the Common Core State Standards have not been without controversy, Vogel noted that State Council voted to support the new Standards back in 2010, because” they put the teacher back in the role of teaching, not just repeating what’s going to be on a test.”

Nevertheless, he reiterated CTA’s concern about the implementation of the standards which has been uneven in districts around the state.

“We must separate standards from the testing, and get the implementation of the standards right,” Vogel said, noting time must be given to align the curriculum and lessons, new materials must be available, and most importantly, collaboration must take place.

Working closely with the Legislature and the Governor, CTA worked to pass AB 484, which eliminated outdated STAR tests, called for field-testing only of the new computer-based assessments this year, and suspends the use of student test scores for the state’s accountability system for three years.

“That law is the only one of its kind in the country and has many other states looking on with envy,” Vogel said.

Although it is still March, Vogel also took the opportunity to kick off the 2014 Election and urged Council members to make sure they get out the vote for Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who is battling investment banker Marshall Tuck, a candidate backed by wealthy school privatizers and Michelle Rhee.

Torlakson, on the other hand, is “a lifelong educator” who authored the Quality Education Investment Act, supports learning over testing and is against evaluating teachers based on test scores. The voices and votes of educators will make the difference in this race.

Finally, Vogel acknowledged the March 31 birthday of labor organizer Cesar Chavez. “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore,” Chavez once said.

“I think those words inspire all of us as educators and as union men and women in the 21st century. The pride and respect we instill in our students will spark social change as they grow up and recognize injustices,” Vogel said. 

Chapters move ahead with bargaining LCFF

With many CTA chapters now engaged in the work of establishing budgets and accountability plans with your local districts, CTA Executive Director Joe Nuñez reminded Council in his comments Sunday morning that “Districts must include teachers and parents in this process.”

Nunez provided a number of tips from CTA’s The Negotiations and Organizational Development Department sent out a great bargaining advisory in February. The tips include: 

• Educate your members on the process; 
• Get member input on school site priorities
• Assert your right to consult on all issues
• Request official participation in the district planning team
• Demand to bargain impacts and effects of the draft accountability plan
• Engage with parents and the community … so the district can’t ignore you.

Some chapters, Nuñez said, are working to get the word out to their communities. The Oakland Education Association, for example, sponsored a town hall meeting on the LCFF, entitled, “Down Payment on Justice.” The Compton Education Association joined with the League of United Latin Citizens to sponsor a parent forum on LCFF. 

In the meantime, many CTA chapters around the state are bargaining solid contracts. Among them is Manteca Education Association, which bargained 5.5 percent for this year. The Strathmore Teachers Association got a 6.7 percent salary increase and additional health care benefits. South Lake Tahoe bargained 3 percent retroactive for 2013, a 6.5 percent hike for this year, and an increase in elementary prep time. The Mt. Diablo Education Association achieved a major victory by reaching a three-year contract that provides a 9 percent salary increase and restores district contributions to educators’ health care. MDEA members had been paying more than $19,000 a year out-of-pocket for family coverage.

“Some members have actually broken down crying in meetings, sayings things like, ‘I can now afford to start my family.’  Nuñez said. “This is why we do what we do folks. It’s why unions matter.”  

Nuñez also took the time to provide details on the deceptive CORE waiver, a plan developed by a private education consulting firm for a statewide ESEA waiver that had absolutely no input from educators. Despite that, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan approved a one-year waiver which basically sets up a “shadow” department of education in California. 

In the waiver, CORE promises that the districts will create and follow a new accountability system, will create new teacher evaluation systems tied to test scores, and will close failing schools or turn them into charters.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation from the districts as it appears most of the superintendents and school boards don’t even know what they signed,” Nuñez said. “The local chapters – many of the presidents are here – have been coordinating strategies with CTA, organizing and pushing back.”

Nunez also discussed the importance of CTA local chapters engaging with their communities, which is a big part of CTA’s new strategic plan. Some chapters have made strides in that area, including the entire High Desert Service Center which hosted Women’s History Luncheon in Palmdale for 100 women. Nuñez quoted one of the organizers, CTA member Simone Zulu who said, “I truly believe that in order to change a society and have long lasting change, we must educate its women.”

CTA members, leaders and staff attending the Region 3 Leadership Conference last month in Pasadena packed 10,000 meals in three hours to help children in Vietnam and the Philippines. They also raised more than $3,500 for the charity, Stop Hunger Now. 

“Reaching out into our communities and sharing our stories as educators is the only way to build the quality public schools and colleges all students deserve,” Nuñez said.

Council weighs in on 120 bills

If some State Council members appeared to have the jitters, it had nothing to do with the amount of coffee consumed. More likely, it was due to a 5.1 earthquake that rocked the Bonaventure Hotel Friday night, followed by a lesser aftershock during committee meetings the next day.

Fortunately, the temblor had no effect on the matters at hand and the work that was done. Among other action, the Council weighed in on some 120 pieces of legislation, assigning to each a support, oppose or watch position.  
Council voted to:

Support AB 1619 by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), which is designed to prevent employers in smaller districts from not granting post-probationary status to employees who have earned it. In light of the recent financial crisis, these smaller districts are attempting to circumvent current Education Code to be able to layoff educators during funding shortfalls. AB 1619 would ensure these districts are required to award permanent status and to use existing layoff procedures when fiscal realities require a reduction in their workforce. 
Support AB 1562 by Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles),   which ensures that educators have a right to a leave under the California Family Rights Act and carves out an exception to the 1,250 hour requirement. 
Oppose AB 1536 by Assembly Member Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) that prohibits transit employees from engaging in causing, instigating a strike. 
Oppose SB 1266 by Senator Bob Huff which requires school districts to provide emergency epinephrine auto-injectors to trained personnel and requires the trained personnel to use them to provide emergency medical aid to persons suffering from an anaphylactic reaction. 

In other action, Council:

• Recognized the five California Teachers of the Year: Timothy Smith, a member of the Elk Grove Teachers Association and the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year; Angelo “Ang” Bracco, a member of the Vallejo Education Association; Michael Hayden, a member of Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association; Linda Horist, a member of the Orange Unified Education Association; and Jessica Park, a member of the Palm Springs Teachers Association.
• Recognized the 2014 Paula Monroe ESP of the Year Janet Eberhardt, a member of United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), and Community Relations Specialist and Elementary Advisor.
• Welcomed NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle.
• Re-elected by waiving the ballot: E. Toby Boyd, CTA board member, Dist. E; George Melendez, CTA board member District H; Michael Stone, CTA board member at large; Sonia Martin-Solis, CTA/NEA Coordinating director; Clete Bradford, CTA/ABC Committee District G; Karen R. Schuett, CTA/ABC District H;  Christopher Bushee, CTA/ABC District I;  Joe Bartell, CTA/ABC District M; and Amy Hall, CTA/ABC District O.
• Elected: Bill Freeman, NEA board of directors, District 10; Bill Sammons, NEA board of directors, District 12; CTA/ABC Committee Member; Brannin Dorsey, CTA/ABC, District B.
• Voted to recommend at the NEA Representative Assembly Princess Moss for NEA Secretary-Treasurer. 
• Nearly 300 Members participated in a forum on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards on Saturday afternoon.
• Had an opportunity to photograph themselves Raising their Hands for Learning over Testing, with the resulting photos to be used in spreading the word for the  April 2 Day of Action to bring awareness to the over emphasis of standardized testing in our schools.

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

© 1999- California Teachers Association