Less than sixty days to November 6 and the critical work we are doing now will make all the difference for the future of our students, public schools and state. It will take all of us working together to pass Proposition 30, defeat Proposition 32 and re-elect President Barack Obama.
Prop. 32 is not what it seems. It is not campaign finance reform. Its sole purpose is to give corporate special interests and billionaires more say in politics, while silencing educators and the middle class. If you look at who’s behind Prop. 32, you will see it’s the exact same folks who get the exemptions. Big oil companies, the insurance industry and Wall Street would have free rein, while working people pay the price.
Let me also tell you the truth about another group supporting Prop. 32: Democrats for Education Reform. You may have seen former lawmaker Gloria Romero criticizing educators and CTA in recent web ads. DFER are funded by hedge fund operators and Wall Street brokers who are exempted from Prop. 32 restrictions. They want to be free to push their corporate education reform agenda in California without any input or pushback from educators. Don’t let them silence our voice. Don’t let Prop. 32 take away our rights as union members and voters.
CTA is working with Governor Brown and a broad coalition of education, public safety, health care and community groups to pass Prop. 30, preventing an immediate $6 billion cut to schools and colleges, and providing additional funding to education, public safety and our communities.
I want to thank you for all of the work you’ve been doing in your local chapters to reach out to CTA members, parents and voters. Recent public polls have shown these initiatives moving in the right direction, but there is a lot of work to do, and we are up to the task. Get all the resources you need at www.CTA.org/campaign2012.
As a state-appointed delegate, I also had the opportunity to attend the Democratic National Convention. The race for president really is a choice between which America we want for our children. If you want an America that values public education for all students and understands the importance of maintaining a strong middle class, the clear choice is President Barack Obama. To compare the two candidates, read more at www.educationvotes.org.
Teacher Evaluation, Pensions and Help for Laid-off Educators
A bill that would have moved teacher evaluations beyond the current focus on test scores was withdrawn in the final days of the legislative session. CTA supported AB 5 by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes to implement a comprehensive evaluation system that was based on best practices and multiple measures to strengthen the knowledge and skills of teachers and to improve student learning. Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst opposed the bill because it continued the practice of educators being involved in the design of the evaluation process. In the end, Fuentes pulled the bill because he felt he could not allow proposed amendments to be voted on without a full public hearing. While CTA is disappointed that we missed an opportunity to make real changes to the evaluation process, I want to commend Assembly Member Fuentes for his inclusive and open approach. He involved all stakeholders for more than a year in the development of this bill. It is only through honest discussions, as opposed to political rhetoric, that we can develop sound education polices that truly reform education and improve student learning. Read the CTA Teacher Evaluation Framework.
CTA is equally disappointed with the passage of a law that changes the secure retirement system for new educators. AB 340 will make it harder to attract and keep quality teachers in our classrooms and police and firefighters on our streets. Teachers are already excluded from receiving Social Security benefits, and this new law creates a two-tiered retirement system. Read how AB 340 impacts CalSTRS and CalPERS members.
In some good news, Governor Brown signed into law a CTA-supported bill to help teachers who have been laid off get additional training without losing unemployment benefits. AB 1291 by Senator Noreen Evans adds credential preparation and other teaching training programs in math, science and special education to the list of allowable activities under the state’s unemployment program. This will allow teachers to strengthen their skills or get additional certifications in specific fields, which often have more vacancies. Under current law, if educators were enrolled in a training program, they would lose their unemployment benefits. The new changes take effect January 1, 2013.
Strategic Planning Begins
Following a successful town hall kickoff at the Chapter Presidents Conference, the CTA Strategic Planning Group met for the first time last month. Under the theme of Your Voice. Our Union. Our Future., it was a weekend of honest and open discussions about how to engage all members in the process and how to build the CTA we all want for our future. The Strategic Planning Group is a diverse group of more than 50 members and staff representing all areas of the state. This planning process will be very inclusive and will take about a year. CTA has hired the Labor Education Research Center at the University of Oregon to help us coordinate and facilitate. As one member of the group put it, “This is not just about CTA, it’s about public education and the role CTA plays in saving it.”
As many of you started the new school year in September, I too headed back to school – in Finland – as part of a group of educators and policymakers who traveled to Helsinki to learn how Finland’s education system works. Finland’s education system is hailed as one of best in the world. After nearly a week there, I can tell you it’s a teacher’s dream. There are complete support and resources for schools and educators from the government, families and the business community. Teachers and their unions have an authentic role in what happens. They also follow a whole-child approach to education and focus very little on standardized testing. Read more on my blog.
Parents as Partners: New Movie Gets it Wrong
Get ready for the next Hollywood movie to miss the mark about how educators, parents and the community can work together to help improve public education. Following in the tradition of Waiting for Superman and funded by some of the very same people, Won’t Back Downopens in theaters at the end of the month and again stereotypes and attacks educators and their unions. This fictional story glorifies so-called parent trigger laws and unfairly scapegoats educators. Read and share an honest movie review and fact check by Parents Across America. In CTA, we know that parents are our partners in public education, and that school reform is a shared responsibility. For more ideas on how to work with parents in your community, check out stories in this month’s California Educator and get additional resources on the CTA website.