Closing the Door on Ed Reform: Ho-hum – Just a Typical Day in California

Closing the Door on Ed Reform: Ho-hum – Just a Typical Day in California

No one should be surprised at the actions of teachers unions and their acolytes who laid their cards on the table a long time ago.

In an op-ed published in the San Jose Mercury News last Wednesday, I made the point that while the rest of the country had made some positive movement toward badly needed education reform, we in California hadn’t. In fact, with Jerry Brown’s re-election as governor, we took several steps back.

True to form as a teacher union sycophant, the new (and former) state leader fired the entire school board which included prominent education reformers like Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution — the organization behind the new Parent Trigger law that enables parents at poorly performing schools to sign a petition that could ultimately force a change in school governance. Brown replaced the board with a group that has no history of reform including Patricia Ann Rucker, a former California Teachers Association lobbyist.

Not surprisingly, California Teacher Association President David Sanchez said his union was “thrilled” by the new appointees because he believed the board had been stacked with too many members connected to charters, which are mostly nonunion.

To make things worse, Tom Torlakson, the elected choice as Superintendent of Public Instruction, was sworn in on January 3rd. Torlakson is the bought and paid for choice of CTA, occasionally known as Controlling Torlakson Aggressively.

Hence, at the start of 2011, CTA has its people in Sacramento poised to fight any reform that could possibly help the children of CA.

On February 9, the very day that my op-ed was published, the State Board of Education met and decided to eviscerate the Parent Trigger law by throwing in conditions that would essentially render it impotent. The LA Times claimed that a critic referred to the state action as a “bombshell.” At the LA Weekly, the normally sensible Patrick Range McDonald referred to the fact that union mouthpiece Torlakson was going to rewrite the law as a “shocker” and said that reformers were “stunned.”

For the life of me, I can’t understand why people are surprised. Jerry Brown first put a major hurt on public education when he signed the Rodda Act in 1975, allowing teachers to collectively bargain. This introduction of the unions into the educational process made for an adversarial relationship between school districts and teachers, thus undermining the “common vision of excellence previously shared by administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community leaders.” That Brown and cronies like David Sanchez and Tom Torlakson would do anything to maintain the status quo — the children be damned — shouldn’t be news to anyone.

On the other hand, Ben Austin was not very surprised at the turn of events. He is quoted as saying, “It is pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention what is going on here – this is nothing more than a naked effort to roll back or repeal the entire Parent Trigger law under the guise of ‘fixing’ it. We know that special interest lobbyists will be swarming the capital to try to pass this ‘roll back or repeal’ law, just as they tried to stop the Parent Trigger from ever passing in the first place. But I can promise you this – parents across California will not stand for this blatant attempt to roll back or repeal one of the only rights they have to obtain a better school for their children. We will surely be back in Sacramento soon – and I guarantee you we will be riding a lot more than ‘just’ one bus.”

The “bus” at the end of Austin’s statement refers to the fact that five dozen parents from Compton (the only district to have a school whose parents have submitted a Parent Trigger petition) and parents from other parts of Los Angeles drove all night in a packed school bus to deliver their message to the State Board of Education. They spoke passionately, imploring the board not to undermine the year-old law.

Austin and the parents have the right idea. The time for underestimating the enemy and being taken by surprise when he acts badly, is over. It’s time that good people of California make a stand, rally behind reformers like Ben Austin and confront the fact that CTA, their SPI, union toady Torlakson, and a retread governor are not concerned with what is in the best interests of school children and their parents.

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan,non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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