Twice as many charters in LA?


Los Angeles teachers protested the Broad Foundation’s charter plans at the opening of the Broad art museum. Photo: Ed Mertz, KNX

Charter advocates hope to create 260 new charter schools in Los Angeles with space for half the district’s students, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and others want to raise $490 million to double the number of charter schools and add 130,000 students in the next eight years.

Currently, 16 percent of LA students are enrolled in charter schools.

There will be plenty of political opposition, of course. The school board is divided. The teachers’ union picketed the opening of Broad’s new art museum in protest.

Tenth grader Jasmine Payne, 14, in class at Animo College Prep on the campus of Jordan High School in Watts. Photo: Los Angeles Times

Jasmine Payne, 14, in class at Animo College Prep on the campus of Jordan High in Watts. Photo: Los Angeles Times

Billionaires should not be running public education,” said United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said.

In an editorial, the Times endorsed the idea, citing Stanford studies that show “significantly better academic outcomes” for Los Angeles charter students compared to similar students in traditional district schools.

Creating so many schools so quickly will be a huge challenge. Where will they find 260 principals capable of launching new schools? Can they find enough good teachers? I have a feeling the grand plan will need to be scaled down.

Support slips for Core, other reforms

The 2015 Education Next poll shows slipping support for a variety of reforms from Common Core standards to school choice, merit pay and tenure reform.

Public support for annual testing remains high, while teachers split on the issue.

Two-thirds of parents — and the public as a whole — support the federal requirement for annual testing, while teachers are split on continuing the policy.

Since 2012, there are more supporters and opponents of testing with fewer people choosing the neutral position.

Only a third of parents and teachers and a quarter of the public support letting parents opt their children out of testing. ednext_XVI_1_poll_fig07-small

The federal push for “no-disparate-impact” disciplinary policies — linking suspension and expulsion rates to race and ethnicity — is unpopular with the public and teachers, the poll found.

Among whites, only 14 percent favor the federal policies, while 57 percent oppose them. A plurality (41 percent) of blacks favor the policies with 23 percent opposed and 36 percent neutral. Forty-four percent of Hispanics support the policy and 31 percent oppose it.

In 21 states and the District of Columbia, teachers’ unions can charge an “agency fee” to non-members to cover collective bargaining costs.

Surprisingly, half of teachers — and a plurality of the public — “requiring teachers to pay a fee for collective bargaining services even if they do not join a union.”

Only 52 percent of union teachers and 25 percent of non-union teachers support the agency fee.

However, 57 percent of teachers surveyed say unions have had a positive effect on schools.

Teachers as ‘social justice warriors’

Teachers have no right to indoctrinate students, writes Darren on Right on the Left Coast.

If he’s asked his opinion, he’ll answer — if it doesn’t get in the way of a math lesson.

But teachers who think they should turn their students into “agents of change” or some similar term, that seems a bridge too far for me.  Should teachers be requiring students to write letters to legislators or executives  about specific proposals?  In most cases I’d probably say no.  Teaching kids that they should work for change in their communities–why, exactly?  You may think the community needs changing, plenty may not.

“With the election season in full swing, expect a tide of union-led anti-reform, anti-choice and anti-Republican politicking in our kids’ classrooms,” warns Larry Sand, a retired teacher. At the recent National Education Association convention, Sand notes, Executive Director John Stocks told NEA members they should become “social justice warriors.”

cantbeallyoucanbe.jpgA West Point graduate, Darren has his alma mater’s posters and pennants from the other service academies hanging in his classroom, as well as pictures of President Reagan, President Bush and Queen Elizabeth II. He was horrified by another teacher’s anti-military poster, he writes.

The poster showed gravestones with the text: “You can’t be all you can be if you’re dead.”

“Imagine how you’d feel if, upon walking into a classroom, you saw one of those aborted/dismembered fetus posters that some pro-life protesters display,” he writes. “I’m sickened by this poster.”

Readers, what do you think? Is the anti-military poster out of line? What about a picture of President Reagan — or Obama?

California teacher challenges agency shop

“We’re asking that teachers be able to decide for ourselves, without fear or coercion, whether or not to join or fund a union,” says Rebecca Friedrichs in a Reason interview. A California public school teacher for more than 25 years, she’s the lead plaintiff in a challenge to the state’s “agency shop” law requiring her to pay union dues.

The Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in the fall session. If agency shop is held to be unconstitutional, it will affect 26 states that require all public school teachers to pay union dues, even if they’re not union members.

Unions wasted $1.4 million in Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrates his re-election victory.  Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrates his re-election victory. Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Angered by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school reform agenda, the Chicago Teachers Union and its state and national allies spent $1.4 million on his challenger, reports Rishawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. They lost.

CTU chief Karen Lewis must “choose between continuing the union’s hardcore traditionalist stance that merely empowers Emanuel” or take a softer stand that risks alienating supporters, writes Biddle.

He predicts AFT President Randi Weingarten will “go back to embracing watered-down versions of systemic reform efforts.”

NYC union’s failing K-8 charter will close

Running a charter school is harder than the United Federation of Teachers thought. The New York City union will close its failing charter school’s elementary and middle school, but ask for authority to continue its high school.

Students read at UFT's charter school in 2013. Photo: Geoffrey Knox

A reading class at UFT’s charter school. Photo: Geoff Decker

“When the school opened in 2005, then-UFT President Randi Weingarten said its success would demonstrate that unions could play a starring role in efforts to improve the school system,” write Geoff Decker and Sarah Darville on Chalkbeat NY. Weingarten also hoped to show that a union contract was not an “impediment to success.”

The UFT Charter School has been one of the lowest-performing charters in the city.

“Under Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s new school-grading system, the school earned the lowest of four marks in all four categories, including the school environment and its success at closing the achievement gap,” write Decker and Darville.

Curiously, only 2 percent of the school’s students are English Learners and 10 percent –below the public-school average — have an Individual Education Plan.

Unions and charter schools don’t mix, writes Darren. Two California charters run by schools of education — UC Davis and Stanford — also closed due to poor performance, he observes.

Unite, teachers, to get rid of ‘stinkers’

Teachers should unite to get rid of the “stinkers,” writes Larry Sand of the California Teacher Empowerment Network in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sand was a middle-school teacher in Los Angeles for 15 years. Most of his colleagues were competent to good, he writes. A few were “exceptional.”  But there were a handful who “shouldn’t have been allowed near children.”

Once they’d received tenure, after two years, they couldn’t fired.

He remembers a P.E. teacher who kept “hooch” in the trunk of his car. “By the end of the day — every day — this teacher was obviously pickled. . . . He finally retired after 37 years.

Another, who had no control over her classes, was referred to the “peer assistance review” program. It didn’t help. She’s still teaching.

An eighth-grade English teacher was sent to “teacher jail” at the district office for touching a female student.

Since firing him was not a viable option, he was transferred to another school, where he apparently fondled another student. So back to the district office, where he whittled away his paid vacation ogling porn. Busted, he was transferred to yet another school, where he got caught sharing his smut with some of his female students. He was then returned to the district office, where the last I heard, he was waiting for his next assignment, courtesy of his union lawyer.

On average, just 10 “permanent” teachers a year in California are fired, writes Sand.

“Union members . . . are not going to give up their industrial union rights to enjoy the benefits of being treated like real professionals until they are treated as real professionals,” said Dennis Van Roekel, the former  National Education Association president.

“He has it exactly wrong,” writes Sand. “Teachers will never be considered professionals until they take charge and . . . purge the field of the stinkers and pedophiles.”

Rated “unsatisfactory” for six years in a row, a New York City teacher is still collecting her $84,500 a year salary, reports the New York Post.

Hearing officer Eugene Ginsberg upheld charges of (Ann) Legra’s “inability to supervise students,” excessive lateness and absence and poor lesson planning in the 2012-2013 school year.
But Ginsberg dismissed evidence that Legra was a lousy instructor, saying she didn’t get enough coaching.

Legra was suspended for 45 days without pay and reassigned from teaching first grade to a pool of substitute teachers. She’s “filed a federal lawsuit . . . charging discrimination based on her race, gender, national origin and medical disability” (asthma).

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Teaching in Orange County, Florida schools is like working in “the ‘cotton fields’ of the past,” said union president Diana Moore in an email. Moore is white. Some were offended, reports the Orlando Sentinel. 

“When you work in a cotton field, you don’t have ten sick days a year. Whe you work in a cotton field, you don’t have six personal days. You can’t take your mother to the doctor or your children to the dentist,” said Board Member Kat Gordon, who grew up in South Carolina and was sent by her mother to babysit children in New York to keep her out of the cotton fields. “It’s not, to me, a good comparison,” Gordon said. “There is more freedom in the classroom.”

Glyniss Hudson, a chemistry teacher who ran against Moore in the last union election, said the comment “makes it seem like slavery was nothing.”

Moore sent an apology email to district teachers.

Hyperbole has a long history in education, notes Mike Antonucci at EIA Intercepts.

Vouchers could “end up resembling . . . ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, said education author David Berliner.

* California Teachers Association president Wayne Johnson once reacted to a school dress code for teachers this way: “What have we got, an educational Taliban here? Are they gonna require burqas soon?”

* Wisconsin Education Association Council president Stan Johnson announced a lobbying effort with the words “We will no longer be the captive and oppressed people we’ve been the last 11 years.”

* A reporter asked Baltimore Teachers Union president Marietta English what she would do about the district’s latest contract proposal. She replied, “What happened on the plantation when the slaves had enough?”

Metro Nashville Education Association President Jamye Merritt explained her opposition to performance pay by saying, “People take money every day for things I would not do… there are people that are paid to be assassins.”

Checking out of the Hotel California

A California teachers’ union leader thinks membership will become voluntary — and is OK with that — writes Larry Sand in Checking Out of the Hotel California.

Intercepts has posted “declassified” California Teachers Association strategy documents. Doug Tuthill, a former union leader, urges the CTA to prepare for the courts to invalidate “fair share,” mandatory dues for all teachers, in Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.

Tuthill suggests ways to persuade teachers that it’s in their interest to join the union, notes Sand. Teachers could adopt the model of the “two most effective unions” in the U.S.,  the National Rifle Association and the AARP.

Unlike today’s teachers unions, the NRA and AARP do not require their members to be part of a centralized bureaucracy. Their members are united by common values and interests, not by location. An NRA-AARP type teachers union would be able to advocate for teachers working in a variety of settings, including museums, libraries, district schools, virtual schools, art galleries, charter schools, homeschools, tutoring businesses, private schools, YWCAs, and Boys and Girls Clubs. The work setting would be irrelevant, just as where NRA and AARP members work — or where American Bar Association lawyers and American Medical Association doctors work — is irrelevant.

A former classroom teacher, Sand is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. 

Once a lunch lady, García will run NEA

Lily Eskelsen García will become president of the National Education Association. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Her first job after high school was “salad girl” in a school cafeteria. She worked her way through college playing the guitar in coffeehouses and became Utah’s teacher of the year. On Sept. 1, Lily Eskelsen García, 59, will take over as head of the National Education Association, reports the Washington Post.

The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union, representing one in 100 Americans. But it’s been losing membership and political support.

She is already fighting back with blunt talk, urging teachers nationwide to revolt against “stupid” education reforms and telling politicians to leave teaching to the professionals.

Her first priority: Putting the brakes on standardized testing, an issue she says she believes will resonate not only with her members but also with parents — important potential allies for the political clashes she sees ahead. García says that the country is in the grip of testing mania, the quest for high scores killing joy, narrowing curriculums and perverting the learning process.

“I’ll be damned if I will sit quietly and play nice and say diplomatic things about something that has corrupted the profession I love,” García said.

The union has clashed with the Obama administration on testing and teacher evaluations, notes the Post. In July, the NEA demanded Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s resignation.

Duncan and Rep. George Miller, a liberal Democrat, “shocked teachers in June when they applauded a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that California’s teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional,” reports the Post.

The movement to weaken teachers’ job protections has gone national.

García, an elementary teacher, got into union politics after being chosen “teacher of the year.” At a union conference, she played her guitar and sang an original composition: “I’m-a-Teacher-and-I-Got-To-Work-In-Utah Blues.”

The daughter of a Panamanian immigrant, Garcia was the first in her family to go to college.

Her husband of 38 years committed suicide three years ago after struggling with depression for years.

“Both her sons have struggled with drug addiction,” reports the Post. The younger son, has spent time in prison for theft and burglary. García, who adopted Jared when he was 4, rescuing him from an early childhood of abuse, said, “I thought: ‘I’m a great teacher. I’ve got all this love.’ But that’s not how it works.”