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“Indoctrination” – A Must Read For Parents, Taxpayers and Everyone Else

To a large extent, the progressives have taken over American education, are transforming it and are doing it in plain sight.

Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism
is an invaluable book written by Kyle Olson, founder and CEO of the Education Action Group, an organization that is on the frontline of education reform and a champion of school choice.

In this brief and very readable book, Olson describes the ways that the progressives in our society have taken over K-12 education. They have been running most of our elite colleges and schools of education for years now and this step is in keeping with their plan to transform America.

As a public school teacher whose career spanned four decades, I have seen the long march first hand. Perverting the traditional purpose of American education (which has been to make better and more educated citizens), progressives have been inspired by the theories of Paolo Freire, a Brazilian socialist who saw everything through a Marxist class warfare lens.

Carrying Freire’s mantle, current gurus like revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers and the recently deceased Communist Howard Zinn have been behind the effort to destroy America as we know it. They claim that basically the U.S. and its capitalist system are the root of all evil. Unfortunately, their love-the-world/hate-America attitude has gained an incredible amount of currency in our public schools in a relatively short time. Ayers, Zinn and their ilk have essentially managed to convince much of the education establishment to abandon every teaching technique and curriculum that benefited prior generations. For example, “drill and kill” has been thrown on the refuse heap; we are now supposed to let our students “discover” learning. The “sage on the stage” has been replaced by the “guide on the side.” The only problem with these techniques is that they haven’t worked, but they do sound good (at least to the progressives.) As such, we are now raising a nation of dunces.

On the 2010 NAEP history test, we learned that only 12 percent of high school seniors have a firm grip on American history. Yes, we are educating students to the point that almost half the nation thinks that the cornerstone of Communism, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” is in the U.S. Constitution. Only 2 percent of high school seniors know the significance of Brown vs. the Board of Education and only 4 percent of 8th graders could explain why urban populations rose and rural populations shrank over time.

So just what are we teaching them?

This is where Olson’s book shines. In chapter after chapter, he meticulously details lessons being foisted on students that are being taught for one purpose only – to advance the progressive agenda. A few examples:
• An examination of the nature and extent of police brutality, which is being promoted in middle schools by none other than Van Jones, conspiracy enthusiast extraordinaire.
• A clever lesson using poker chips, the aim of which is to convince students that unequal distribution of wealth has to do with the fact that the U.S. has more than its share of resources, not that we have a wealth-promoting capitalist system.
• “I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth.” Yup, no more of this silly patriotic stuff. Children, you are denizens of the earth! (I wonder what our political enemies think of this rubbish… when they stop laughing, that is.)

Rightfully, Olson reserves a special section for the unions whose far left agenda has been well documented, and who have gone to great lengths to make this country over in their own image. Their attempts to indoctrinate kids and glorify the union movement are staggering. For example,
• “Trouble in the Henhouse: A Puppet Show.” In this charming bit of propaganda put out by the California Federation of Teachers aimed at kindergartners, we find an oppressive farmer whose hens unionize and convince the heartless farmer that he’d better respect them or else.
• The “Yummy Pizza Company” is another lesson from CFT — actually ten, which delve into the process of organizing a union local. They include instructions on how to collectively bargain as well as a sanitized look at prominent labor leaders.
Click Clack Moo, a popular book promoted by the AFL-CIO, tells second graders about unhappy cows that refuse to work until the mean farmer is forced to meet their demands.

And while we are teaching our children the joys of class warfare, earth worship and the importance of union membership, other countries that are more serious about educating their young are cleaning our clocks in every international comparison available.

Actually, it is even worse than Olson suggests. There is one aspect of the progressive takeover that he gave short shrift to. Except for SB 48, an obscene bit of legislation in California which will bring the contributions of homosexuals and transgenders into the K-12 curriculum, there is little mention of the progressives’ ongoing effort to sexualize children. From Gay-Straight clubs in middle school (where parents do not have to be notified of their child’s involvement) to attempts to teach orgasm to eleven year olds, the radicals led by the National Education Association have been making alarming progress.

Another example of the progressives’ sexual agenda is which holidays are deemed important. Few people are aware of what holiday is celebrated on November 20th. But every student at the middle school where I worked till my retirement in 2009 knows, because the school spent more time acknowledging that day — “Transgender Day of Remembrance” — than Veteran’s Day, November 11th. TDR was considered more worthy of the students’ time at my school than a holiday which acknowledges the contributions of American soldiers. (Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. At the same school, posters of Che Guevara adorned the walls of no less than five classrooms, including an American history class that had no pictures of Washington or Lincoln. Che was considered a hero by these teachers who passed this admiration on to their impressionable students. Of course the real life Che was a sadistic mass murderer, but being a progressive means never having to sweat minor details like the truth.)

Clearly Indoctrination is a book that could leave citizens in a state of great despair. But fortunately, in the last chapter, Olson lists several important ways that parents and the general public can fight back. And if this country isn’t to become permanently transformed — fight back we must. None of our international enemies are as powerful, organized and, thus far, as successful as our home grown progressives who are bent on destroying public education as we know it in America. It is imperative that we all become more knowledgeable about what is going on in our schools and take action. Kyle Olson’s Indoctrination is an excellent place to start that process.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, 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.

California’s Looming Fiscal Disaster: Sunlight and an Informed Public are the Best Disinfectants

With the state and various cities on the brink of insolvency, it’s imperative that the electorate become more informed and demand that school districts and teachers unions do their negotiating in public.

This past Sunday’s Los Angeles Times above-the-fold headline screamed “Voters back tax hikes for schools.” It was déja-vu all over again. As I wrote in September,

“… a poll which is biased and does not take into account the knowledge of the people being polled is misleading and dangerous. The public is led to believe that the responders are perceptive and knowledgeable, when in reality so many are not.”

(And I could have added that a poll that misleads or misinforms its respondents is the most dangerous of all; I’ll address that shortly.)

The Times article reported that a USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Frequency Questionnaire released last week showed that 61 percent of those surveyed said they would pay higher taxes to boost school funding.

As I read those words, I wondered,
• What do those people really know about the amount we already spend on education? For example, do they know that over 50 percent of the state’s general fund spending already goes to education?
• Do they know how much is wasted on an excessive number of administrators and useless bureaucrats?
• Do they understand that due to an archaic tenure system, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to rid a school system of one incompetent or criminal teacher?
• Do they know the average teacher’s salary and how much more they get in additional healthcare and pension compensation?
• Do they know that teachers can pad their pay by taking useless “professional development” classes that can “earn” them an extra million dollars in their careers and retirement?
• Do they know that practically every teacher contract in the state has a provision whereby teachers who are union representatives get classroom time off each month to do union business while the taxpayers foot the bill for the rep’s substitute teacher?
• Do they know that it is the taxpayer supported school district, not the teachers unions, that collects the union dues that teachers are forced to pay in this state?
• Do they know that California already has one of the highest sales and income tax rates in the country?

There was one question where the pollsters intended to educate the people by including the following “information.” They asked,

“As you may know, California currently ranks forty-second out of the fifty states in funding per student. (Bold added.) Would you favor or oppose increasing funding for California’s public schools, even if it meant an increase in your own taxes?” 61 percent responded that they would favor raising taxes.

The problem with the pollster’s information is that it is very misleading. California is not “forty-second out of the fifty states in funding per student.”

As Sacramento Bee writer Dan Walters pointed out in a column on November 13th, doomsday statistics regarding education matters are typically provided by special interest groups like the National Education Association. What agenda-driven groups typically do is take regional costs such as standard of living into account which skews the numbers in a way that benefits them.

A more objective source like the Census Bureau,

“…surveys all forms of school spending and pegs California’s per-pupil number at $11,588, just $662 under the national average and 27th-highest in the nation….
“And it’s much higher in some big-city school systems, such as Los Angeles Unified, which has more than 600,000 students, spends $14,100 per pupil and has about a 50 percent high-school dropout rate.”

The non-partisan California Legislative Analysts Office has the state in 31st place in school spending.

The whole spending issue becomes even more convoluted, because typically school districts don’t count capital expenses, e.g. the cost of school buildings, in their per-student spending. Since students don’t take classes at the beach or in a field, these costs must be included to give the public an idea of the true cost of educating a child. Including capital costs, the dollar amount that Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute came up with for Los Angeles Unified is $25,208 per year.

Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency, looks at the situation from another perspective. Last May, he pointed out,

“The latest Census Bureau report provides details of the 2008-09 school year, as the nation was in the midst of the recession.”

He then breaks the national numbers down state by state and in California, we find that for the years 2003-2004 to 2008-2009 school enrollment went down 87,548 or 1.4%, but at the same time we added over 3,000 teachers (1.1%) and spending went up a whopping 24.1%.

So even in a time period which included a world wide recession, we see a big increase in spending and a shrinking teacher/student ratio.

The bottom line is that we should not let special interests get away with using skewed data in an attempt to con the public. People need to become better consumers by making a concerted effort to become more informed about what we really spend on education.

One way to accomplish this would be for the public to get directly involved with teacher contract negations. As Education Action Group’s Steve Gunn wrote last week,

“Local taxpayers across the nation cough up millions of dollars every year to fund their local schools. About 75 percent of those schools’ budgets are dominated by labor costs, mostly negotiated union labor costs.” (Bold added.)

“But there’s nothing they can do to address that concern if compensation is negotiated behind their backs.”

And in fact, public scrutiny is a reality. School districts in Idaho, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere have gone public with their contract negotiations.

If Californians don’t become more informed and demand public access to teacher’s contract negotiations — and in fact all public employee contract negotiations — they will continue to let the special interests have their way while the taxpayers get to pay and pay and pay. However there is a limit to the fiscal abuse that the formerly Golden State can stand before it becomes insolvent.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, 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.

Teachers are Overpaid and Underpaid

A new study claims that public school teachers are overpaid. Are they? Depends.

An ongoing whine from teachers unions and their fellow travelers is that public school teachers don’t earn enough money. But according to Andrew Biggs, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute scholar and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, it is just not true. In fact, in a recently released study, they find that teachers are overpaid. Typically teachers have many perks like excellent healthcare and pension packages which aren’t counted as “income.” Armed with facts, charts and a bevy of footnotes, the authors make a very good case for their thesis. For example, they claim,

“Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent, while teachers who change to non-teaching jobs see their wages decrease by approximately 3 percent.

“When retiree health coverage for teachers is included, it is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages, whereas private sector employees often do not receive this benefit at all.

“Teachers benefit strongly from job security benefits, which are worth about an extra 1 percent of wages, rising to 8.6 percent when considering that extra job security protects a premium paid in terms of salaries and benefits.

“Taking all of this into account, teachers actually receive salary and benefits that are 52 percent greater than fair market levels.”

Needless to say, the usual suspects are none too pleased with the report. A teacher-blogger going by New York City Educator calls his piece, “‘That’s Just Mean’: Bullies at the Heritage Foundation.” Okay, whatever.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan claims that

“…public school teachers are ‘desperately underpaid’ and has called for doubling teacher salaries.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten bashed the report, huffing that it’s full of “ridiculous assertions” says,

“The AEI report concludes that America’s public school teachers are overpaid — something that defies common sense — and uses misleading statistics and questionable research to make its case.

“If teachers are so overpaid, then why aren’t more “1 percenters” banging down the doors to enter the teaching profession? Why do 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within three to five years, an attrition rate that costs our school districts $7 billion annually?”

Kim Anderson, advocacy director at the National Education Association, who questions the reliability of the report, chimes in,

“Talented individuals turn away from this rewarding profession because they are forced to choose between making a difference in the lives of students and providing for their families.”

After a quick look at the negative responses, an obvious fix emerges: We should pay teachers by how effective they are in the classroom. By doing this, we would attract a more professional class of teachers. In every other profession in America, people are paid by how competent and productive they are. Good doctors earn more money than their less talented colleagues; good lawyers command higher fees than those who regularly lose their court cases, etc. Why do we make a special case for education – where competency is paramount?

It’s because teachers are positioned in our society like industrial workers, not professionals. Government run schools and the powerful teachers unions have coalesced to make teaching the equivalent of working in a glorified auto plant. Due to the one-size-fits-all nature of collective bargaining, we have an appalling system whereby teachers can make more money simply by logging years on the job and by taking useless professional development classes. Teacher quality throughout almost every school district in the country is a non-factor in teacher compensation.

Hence the real answer to the question, “Are teachers overpaid?” is no and yes. The good ones are most definitely underpaid and the mediocre and worse are most definitely overpaid. Andrew Biggs points this out,

“…across-the-board pay increases are hardly warranted. What is needed is pay flexibility, to reward the best teachers and dismiss the worst.”

In his review of the teacher pay study, AEI’s Rick Hess analyzes the rigidity of the current system,

“In a routine day, a 4th grade teacher who is a terrific English language arts instructor might teach reading for just 90 minutes. This is an extravagant waste of talent, especially when one can stroll down the hallway and see a less adept colleague offering 90 minutes of pedestrian reading instruction.”

On Jay Greene’s blog, Heritage’s Lindsey Burke sums it all up quite well,

“Effective teachers should be handsomely rewarded for the impact they are having on a child’s education. By reforming compensation policies in a way that accounts for the abilities of great teachers to improve student outcomes, we will ensure excellent teachers are richly compensated, and mediocre teachers have a strong incentive to improve.”

Teachers need to demand freedom from the government-teacher union monopoly. Until they escape from this highly unprofessional set-up, join other professionals and are paid according to their ability, they will continue to be treated as interchangeable parts. Yes, if they follow this advice, they may lose some of their union guaranteed perks. But in exchange, they will be treated as professionals with all the respect, esteem and compensation accorded to those in that class.

But in the meantime, we will continue to overpay bad and mediocre teachers and underpay the good ones. And the teachers unions and their allies will keep on bellyaching about yet another lousy state of affairs that they are responsible for.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, 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.

Fake Teacher Evaluation Racket is Busted in Los Angeles

Parents sue the LA school board and teachers union, forcing them to obey a law that they have ignored for 40 years.

There is nothing new about unions bullying weak-kneed school districts, but this may be the mother of all abuses– for forty years, school districts and unions have collaborated to break the law in California. According to the Stull Act (Section 44660 of the state’s education code), part of a teacher’s evaluation is required to include a student achievement component, but this has not happened anywhere in the state. Last week, after consulting with EdVoice, a reform advocacy group in Sacramento, parents of some students in Los Angeles Unified School District sued the school district and teachers union for what amounts to a dereliction of duty. While the lawsuit is aimed at LA, it will have state-wide ramifications.

Originally enacted in 1971, the Stull Act, named after State Senator John Stull, was amended in 1999 to include,

“The governing board of each school district shall evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to:

The progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments….”

In other words, a part of a teacher’s evaluation is supposed to be contingent on how well his students do on state mandated tests. This is hardly a radical notion, as half the states in the rest of the country now evaluate teachers in part by student performance on these tests.

But in California, what are laughingly referred to as “teacher evaluations” are anything but. A “Stull” is typically a very rare and brief visit from a principal who helps plan the lesson they will observe and lets the teacher know exactly when the observation will be. And all the while, the teacher is prepping his kids to be at their absolute best when the principal steps into the classroom for the evaluation. Invariably everything goes swimmingly. So consistently good are the results of these Potemkin Village-style “evaluations” that over 99 percent of teachers get a satisfactory rating.

Teachers unions think that linking student performance to a teacher’s evaluation is a grave injustice and have always fiercely opposed it. (In reality, holding a teacher accountable for student learning is about as unjust as holding a chef responsible for the food he cooks.) This may be an understandable position for teachers unions which have never demonstrated any real concern for students, but what about the folks who sit at the other end of the bargaining table? What is the excuse for the school boards? Are they all that easily cowed by union bullies? Or are they part of a club that has forgotten their mission? Are they corrupt? Can they be ignorant of the law? Some or all of the above?

In any event, with judicial lights shining brightly, the jig is up…sort of. What the education code does not stipulate is how much weight to give the student performance component. Therein lies the rub. Without doubt, the teachers unions will negotiate to minimize it to near zero, with little or no consequence for the bottom performing teachers. (To the unions, there is no such thing as a bad teacher, and they’ve rigged the system so that getting rid of a stinker is about as prevalent as the occurrence of Halley’s Comet.)

If the intent of this lawsuit is seriously embraced, it could have a major impact in California, where a third of all students drop out before completing high school and a great majority of those who do graduate and go on to college need remediation. Will school boards finally man up and take action to reverse a forty year shame? Or will they cower and cave, yet again, to union demands and turn their backs on the children of California.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, 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.

Unions Continue to Swindle the Public

Unions are still treacherous, but with a generous helping of legislative malfeasance, their tactics are more subtle.

“On the Waterfront” portrayed union power at its rawest. In the 1950s, the unions typically got their way with nothing less than brute force. But today the tactics are different. In “Pretty Boy Floyd,” Woody Guthrie sang, “Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” The unions are well entrenched in the “fountain pen” camp and recently, Illinois has been in their crosshairs.

In September, the Chicago Tribune broke a story about Dennis Gannon, a former sanitation worker who became a president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He went back to work for the city for one day, then took a leave of absence and was legally allowed to collect a $158,000 pension, about five times the average sanitation worker.

Shortly after that, again in Chicago, two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience similarly gamed the system by taking advantage of a new law.

“The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

“(Lobbyist) Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

“His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

“His pay for one day as a substitute was $93, according to records of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System.”

In a higher profile case, Reg Weaver was a teacher in Danville earning $60,000 a year. He worked his way up the union food chain and became National Education Association president in 2002. Termed out in 2008, he now makes a yearly $242,657 teachers pension. Weaver has the audacity to defend his outrageous pension which is based on his salary as a union leader. He told the Chicago Tribune,

“I worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Weaver said. “There was not a time when someone was not able to get in touch with me. You ask my family. I didn’t take vacation. I worked in the office long hours. I worked anywhere from 15 hours, 16 hours a day.

“If you want to divide that $240,000 into the amount of hours spent, I think you would find that the per hour was probably not much at all, considering the work that had to be done.”

But what Weaver and some others in Illinois don’t seem to get is that whatever work he may have done for his union, his pension should come from the union, not in large part from the average taxpayer who was never a part of that union. (Memo to the Occupy crowd in Chicago: Why are you not up in arms about this? Or does OWS really stand for “Obviously, We’re Stupid”?)

These cases are egregious and not just limited to Illinois.

But there is a bigger, more insidious union-involved scandal that is nationwide and ongoing: “release time” from school for teachers who are union reps. These teachers are regularly given time off from their teaching duties so that they can do union business on school time and still be paid…by the district, i.e. the taxpayers. For example, in New York,

“The Department of Education pays about 1,500 teachers for time they spend on union activities — and pays other teachers to replace them in the classroom.

“It’s a sweetheart deal that costs taxpayers an extra $9 million a year to pay fill-ins for instructors who are sprung — at full pay — to carry out responsibilities for the United Federation of Teachers.”

“The UFT reimburses the DOE only about $900,000 of nearly $10 million it spends to replace the teachers, officials said.”

Far away from New York, in California’s conservative Orange County, there is a district that has this wording as part of their contract,

“The Association President or designee may utilize one (1) day per week for Association business. The District shall bear the cost of the substitutes.”

Just about every teacher union contract has this kind of screw-the-taxpayer clause written into it, usually in the area that deals with “Association Rights.” Yeah, every time the “Association” asserts a right, the taxpayers take it in the shorts. And all the while students are subject to a steady barrage of subs, which is never a winning formula for a good education.

Yes, “fountain pen” robbery is rampant. The question is when will the people who are footing the bill for these union abuses wake up and demand that their legislators put an end to it. And vote them out if they don’t.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, 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.

CTA Dons Victim Guise and Joins Occupy Wall Street Crowd

It’s almost Halloween and the California Teachers Association, a rich and powerful outfit, is in costume as one of the “99%ers” – protesters who claim to be have-nots.

A couple of weeks ago United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made sympathetic statements about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now the California Teachers Association has jumped in with a full endorsement and suggestions on its website as to how teachers and others can get involved in OWS activities.

Stunning in its mendacity, CTA issued a press release (H/T Mike Antonucci) which announced its “support of the nationwide ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement for tax fairness and against corporate greed.” It goes on to say, “…a stable tax structure begins with everyone paying their fair share.”

Paying their fair share?

Never shying away from class warfare, the union really has hit a new low here. According its latest available income tax form, CTA took in $186,216,493 in 2009. As a 501(c)(5), the union has a special tax exempt status with the IRS which is accorded to “Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations.”

Hence, CTA would appear to be following the letter of the law in paying no money in taxes. But there is a bigger picture here, and it is bloated with hypocrisy. First CTA manages to siphon off $600+ yearly ($647 in 2011-2012) from every teacher in the state in forced union dues. Then it turns around and spends much of those dues on politicking — over $211 million on politicking from 2000-2009 — frequently on issues that have nothing to do with teachers or kids – and supporting causes that are contrary to the positions of many of its members. Then the union elites have the audacity to whine about millionaires and billionaires “not paying their fair share of taxes” when they don’t pay a penny, and all the while fund politicians who ensure that CTA’s pilfer-and-spend scheme rolls on undisturbed.

And just what do the “anti-greed” union bosses make for their efforts? In 2009, CTA President David Sanchez was compensated $289,550, three times what an average teacher in CA makes, while VP Dean Vogel had to suffer along with a mere $244,925 a year.

On a national level the union bosses do even better.

According to a recently issued LM-2 report (H/T RiShawn Biddle), we see that AFT President Randi Weingarten raked in a cool $493,859 last year. And NEA President Dennis Van Roekel managed to “earn” a whopping $543,868 in salary and benefits. I guess their justification for such high salaries is that it is very hard work to fight reformers who are actually concerned about educating children.

But CTA and other teachers unions can snooker people only for so long. Far from being a part of the 99%, they are big special interest businesses — spending millions to maintain their monopoly over American education, while paying not a penny in taxes. As Troy Senik wrote last week in Public Sector Inc., “The CTA is the one percent.” And poll after poll has shown that the general public is catching on.

If the OWSers were to put their bongs away, stop beating their drums, defecating on police cars, chanting and repeating nonsense in zombie-like tones for just a moment, they just may realize that the unions claiming to support them are really fat cats disguised as victims.

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.

Teachers Unions: On the Road to Extinction?

Online learning is the wave of the future, but teachers unions still have a Paleocene mentality.

In his extraordinary book Special Interest, Terry Moe writes about the massive power of the teachers unions. After much gloom and doom, in the final chapter of the book, he manages to convey some hope about the future. Emerging technology-based education, he asserts, is the “long-term trend…, and the unions cannot stop it from happening.” Online teachers from different states and countries will be much harder for the unions to corral and control.

However, according to a post on hotair.com by Tina Korbe, the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers hasn’t gotten the message yet. University of California schools, which are in dire financial straits, have begun using online education programs as a way to save money. As a result, some lecturers’ jobs could be done away with. However, their union is using its collective bargaining power to ensure that every job, no matter how unnecessary, will be saved.

“… the California lecturers, who make up nearly half of the system’s undergraduate teaching teachers, believe they have used … bargaining power to score a rare coup. The University of California last week tentatively agreed to a deal with UC-AFT that included a new provision barring the system and its campuses from creating online courses or programs that would result in ‘a change to a term or condition of employment’ of any lecturer without first dealing with the union.”

In other words, the union is determined to keep all its dues-paying members on the payroll whether they are needed or not, whether we can afford them or not. The fact that there are some excellent online classes and that their use would save the beleaguered taxpayers of California bushels of money is of no interest to UC-AFT.

Online learning is not just for college level students; it has entered into our K-12 schools. Backed by Bill Gates, Salman Khan, founder and guiding light of Khan Academy, has gained a foothold in several schools in Los Altos, a community in Silicon Valley. There, a new program using “blended learning” – a combination of computer tutorials and classroom teacher instruction – is off to an excellent start. There is much agreement in reform circles that this type of education is the wave of the future; fewer classroom teachers will be needed as much of the instruction will be done via a gifted online teacher.

What we are seeing here is an example of “creative destruction,” which is the term Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter used in 1942 to describe what happens when certain jobs and goods become obsolete and are replaced by new jobs requiring new skills. If we didn’t follow this logical progression, we would still be living in caves, clothed in loin cloths. Clayton Christensen modernized this idea with his “disruptive innovation” or “disruptive technology” concept.

From the Pope Center’s Jane Shaw

“… I have presented examples of some disruptive technologies highlighted by Christensen, such as the transistor radio, which destroyed companies like RCA and Zenith. Those companies could not absorb the disruptive technology into their business models; instead, they relied on what Christensen called “sustaining” innovations—improving existing products. As long as transistors were weak and primitive, the old companies could prosper by serving their existing customers. But over time the transistor got a lot better and ultimately snatched those customers away.”

So we see that some products become obsolete, but at the same time new opportunities arise; hence dynamic people will adapt and continue to find work and the intransigent types will fade away. This doesn’t mean that the industrial-style teachers unions will go away easily; they will spend their abundant resources to maintain the status quo and thus their power well into the foreseeable future.

But just as the horseshoe business became much less relevant with the advent of the automobile, K-16 education is slowly but surely starting to undergo a similar major transformation. The Luddite unions can stick their fingers in the dam for only so long before becoming latter-day dinosaurs. If you can’t adapt to the inevitable changes that history brings, you become a museum piece. Just ask any Brontosaurus.

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.

Steve Jobs vs. Wall St. Whiners and Teachers Unions

Steve Jobs knew how to create wealth. The parasitic Wall Street protesters and teachers unions want to destroy it.

There are many theories as to who is orchestrating the “Occupy Wall Street” protests – known in some circles as “Kamp Alinsky” and “Kamp Kvetch” – in lower Manhattan and elsewhere throughout our country. George Soros? President Obama? Could they possibly be spontaneous?

No matter. The protesters and their message of social justice, socialism and general hatred of all things corporate will not affect the great majority of Americans. The average Joe and Jill are just trying to pay their bills, raise a family and live a decent life. Hence the Wall Street rabble, a motley combination of bored teenagers, old guard lefties and hard core partiers, many armed with iPhones, digital cameras and many other luxuries produced by corporations, are badly missing the mark. As usual, the protesters’ signs tell the story – none more so than the one that says, “A job is a right. Capitalism doesn’t work.” Could any serious types associate with this fringe mentality?

Enter Michael Mulgrew – the United Federation of Teachers president. Speaking “truth to power,” his tax-the-rich talk at a Wall St. rally fit right in with the angry mob that thinks wealth is evil and that if A has more money than B, A owes B some of it. It’s the mentality that thinks that there is no moral difference between Bernie Madoff and Bill Gates.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten couldn’t miss the opportunity to throw in her two cents. As always, beating the victim drum, she whined about our country being on the wrong track and bemoaned the country’s “long term structural inequalities.” Whatever.

What the teachers unions really want is to make sure that every human being walking the planet who wants to be a teacher becomes one. Swelling the roles of the profession – competency be damned – makes the unions as rich and powerful as the corporations they hate for being rich and powerful.

In highly ironic counterpoint, there is the much-too-early passing of the legendary Steve Jobs. One of the visionary founders of Apple Computers, the 56 year old Jobs succumbed to a long bout with pancreatic cancer last week. Jobs and Apple are perfect examples of capitalism at its best. The products Jobs was responsible for added quality and joy to the lives of millions of people around the world. Jobs was also responsible for helping to make many people wealthy – whether they were employees of Apple or just owned stock in the wildly successful company.

What is not known to many is that Jobs, who donated many thousands of computers to schools all over the country, had very pointed views about the American way of not educating our young. Here are just a few –

“I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said “We don’t care. We don’t have to.” And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.”

“I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school, several things would happen. Number one, schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting.”

(Referring to education reform) “The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.”

It is terrible. The above comments could come out of a modern day education reformer’s handbook. However, Mr. Jobs uttered these wise words in April, 1995 – and the past 16 years have done nothing to invalidate them. The unions are still the worst thing that ever happened to education and we definitely need more school choice.

Mr. Jobs understood that competition and capitalism make the world a better place. The teachers unions are a special interest whose narrow focus benefits the few at the expense of the many. Is it any wonder then that Mulgrew, Weingarten and other union bosses associate themselves with the anti-capitalist freeloaders, socialists and losers who have nothing better to do with their time than to spew hatred at Wall Street?

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.

The Tragedy and Farce of American Schools of Education

Education schools are nothing more than dumbed down, politically correct fad factories supported by the teachers unions.

If you ever wanted to have a complete file of Diane Ravitch’s inane union apologist utterances all in one place – here it is. As Part of NBC’s Education Nation, she and Harlem Children’s Zone’s President Geoffrey Canada duked it out for a half hour. (As I watched this, I recalled Steven Brill’s comment in Class Warfare, that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten should become the next New York City Chancellor of Education because she’s “smart” and could fix public education by making the rank and file perform better. I would add that in the highly unlikely case of this happening, Ravitch could easily replace Weingarten as AFT president.)

Needless to say, Ravitch vehemently disagreed with Canada on just about everything. However, they did agree that we needed to train our teachers better. This, of course, is like agreeing that snow is white.

The schools of education in the U.S. are by and large an abomination. Richard Vedder, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, pretty well nails it in a recent article he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He says that:

• colleges of education don’t really challenge their students.
• mindless education courses have crowded out study of subject matter.
• there is something of an anti-knowledge culture in many education schools; learning facts is actually disparaged.
• the education colleges have been great promoters of the highly dubious notion that self-esteem is critically important.
• schools of education have worked closely with teacher unions to convince legislators to keep archaic practices regarding teacher certification that prevent otherwise qualified persons from getting education degrees.

A few years ago, Education Reform Professor Jay Greene actually quantified one of the problems. Writing in City Journal, he and a research assistant explored the number of multicultural classes offered in our teachers’ colleges. They counted the number of course titles and descriptions that

“…contained the words ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘inclusion,’ and variants thereof, and then compared those with the number that used variants of the word “math.” We then computed a ‘multiculturalism-to-math ratio’—a rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools.”

The results were very telling.

“The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘diversity,’ while only three contain the word ‘math,’ giving it a ratio of almost 16.”

It is beyond reprehensible that the ed schools make little effort to truly educate future teachers.

But why might they do that? Could the hairy hidden hand of the teachers union be behind this phenomenon?

Writer RiShawn Biddle explains,

“In 2009-2010, the NEA (National Education Association) ladled out $381,576 to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which oversees teacher training programs, according to its filing with the U.S. Department of Labor; that’s part of $1.9 million the union gave to the group over a five-year period. In 2008-2009, the union handed out $252,262 to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the main trade group for ed schools.”

So NEA President Dennis Van Roekel does what so many teacher union leaders do. They mouth a popular education reform sentiment, (recently saying that the “system of teacher recruitment, training and hiring is broken and needs an overhaul”) but in reality put their money where their unions’ best interests lie. In this case, it means that while admitting the system is broken, Van Roekel and the NEA reinforce the status quo by supporting an agency that accredits these same “broken” schools of education. Not surprisingly, the NEA didn’t give a penny to the National Center for Alternative Education, a newer feistier organization devoted to helping teachers who are interested in avoiding the dreary ed school route.

The question becomes why the teachers unions would back a failing mode of teacher training that typically attracts students from the bottom of their class. A recent study found that just 23 percent of teachers came from the top third of college graduates.

A cynical theory has it that the teachers unions like recruiting future teachers from the bottom of their classes because they will be more compliant than their sharper classmates, thus making it easier for the unions to foist their socially progressive agenda and other dictates on them. This is the same mentality that defense attorneys employ when picking jurors; they prefer not to empanel critical types who will be more likely to challenge them. Let’s call this the O.J. Jury Theory of teacher recruitment.

Is there any good news on the horizon?

In The October 1st edition of the Wall Street Journal, there is an article which claims that a push is coming from the Obama administration to improve teacher quality by rewarding colleges of education that produce teachers whose students do well on standardized tests. Interestingly, the NEA gave vocal support to the proposal; AFT President Randi Weingarten, however, whined,

“…the U.S. Department of Education appears to be putting its foot on the accelerator by calling for yet another use for test.”

Whether any of this comes to pass is anyone’s guess. The only thing that is a given is that in the end, Van Roekel and the NEA will revert to form and do their utmost to see that the administration’s plan never sees the light of day. And so many of our children will continue to fail, because the system is rigged against them.

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.

Teachers Unions Happy to Say Goodbye to August

The Dog Days of summer are making teachers unions sweat as they get caught being, well, teachers unions.

August has been a bad month for teachers unions. And looking at things objectively, it would appear that every one of their hot flashes has been well deserved. In no particular order:

The SOS March was a dud. It was supposed to be a teacher-led event, but the unions were really behind it. The small turnout had its share of angry, mostly leftist teachers whining and shouting about this and that. No one paid much attention. The speakers were just what you’d expect. Jonathan Kozol, forty years later, is still railing about poverty causing ignorance. (No, actually ignorance causes poverty.) Then the marchers were treated to former reformer and current union mouthpiece Diane Ravitch who chirped about how wonderful they all were. And then the big gun, Matt Damon, who if nothing else showed what a great actor he is. The guy who played a convincing genius in Good Will Hunting demonstrates that without a good script he’s about as sharp as a marble.

The Wisconsin recall didn’t work.
Those testy teachers in the cheesehead state who were furious at Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature for curtailing collective bargaining and keeping the state from insolvency, failed in their bid to recall the offending legislators. Actually they did manage to recall two of the six Republicans but they needed three to gain a Democrat majority. Hence, Wisconsin will continue its economic recovery. (Memo to those teachers: your tantrums and sense of entitlement really turn off the common folk who, by the way, pay your salaries. Maybe a little less victimology next time. Also, do your homework – nowhere does it say that collective bargaining is a “human right.”)

American Federation of Teachers posts arrogant PowerPoint on its website. The AFT bragged about eviscerating a Parent Trigger law in Connecticut and posted its strategy on their website. The 19 slide presentation unabashedly and cynically describes the process by which the union disempowered parents. After writer RiShawn Biddle blogged about the offending web page, AFT removed it. Too late – the story got out. AFT President Randi Weingarten tried to do damage control but her lukewarm, faux semi-apology fooled no one.

AFT gets caught again – this time sliming Michelle Rhee.
Rheefirst.com is a malicious website dedicated to excoriating education reformer Michelle Rhee. The site is nasty, vindictive, very personal AND, according to POLITICO, registered to the AFT offices in D.C. The site is so full of hatred that they refer to Ms. Rhee, a liberal Democrat, as “the Sarah Palin of education.” Comparing a Democrat to the former Reublican governor of Alaska is like comparing a Jew to Hitler. Can’t get any nastier than that. Thus far, the union has not come forth with any explanation or apology. Long time Rhee foe, Randi Weingarten, probably just can’t come up with anything that would pass the smell test. But then again, that never stopped her before.

United Federation of Teachers in NY fails to stop release of test scores. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A state court on Thursday ordered New York City to release data that ranks thousands of school teachers based on student test scores, saying the public interest in disclosure overrides privacy concerns.” Very simply, this means that not only parents but taxpayers have a right to know how well the teachers, whose salaries they pay, are performing. But accountability is wolfbane for teachers unions. With accountability, some teachers will be judged better than others. And when that happens, the better teachers might demand higher salaries than their less effective coworkers. Also, the seniority system will be exposed as the dinosaur that it is, meaningful school reform just might begin to take hold and the union will become much less powerful, and perhaps even irrelevant.

And then, there’s Richard “Rhetorical Overreach” Iannuzzi. The New York State United Teachers boss said, “It’s a conservative, right-wing agenda that is using a sort of hostage-terrorist approach to public service. We haven’t learned much from history: When you appease terrorists, you get more terrorism. That’s what we’re seeing.” He was referring to the fact that teachers in New York will now be judged in part by student performance, and there will be some cuts to certain useless programs in an attempt to save the financially troubled state a few bucks. Apparently, one of the right-wing-agenda-loving-terrorists Mr. Iannuzzi is alluding to is Liberal Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is very supportive of the changes.

All this goes to show that it’s very tough work trying to control the growing dissatisfaction over the disintegration of America’s public schools. Just think of all the things that a union boss has to be concerned with – denying parents more power in choosing what kind of school their kid goes to, attempting to personally destroy reformers, petitioning the courts in an attempt to keep parents and taxpayers in the dark about how effective teachers are, etc. So it’s understandable after a particularly bruising month they need some R&R to lick their wounds and regroup for the next round of battles.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles thought they could quietly do just that. Unfortunately the union ticked off writer Ann-Marie Murrell who wanted to spend an extra night with her husband at the La Quinta Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel in Palm Springs. They were told they had to check out because UTLA had booked every available room. You see, every year, the LA teachers union elites go to a ritzy hotel in Palm Springs to plan their dirty work. For the past few years, their destination has been La Quinta, part of the Waldorf Astoria chain, which has nine golf courses, posh clothing stores, 41 swimming pools and 53 Jacuzzis. Of course they could have saved a bundle by staying at a cheaper hotel, but when you’re flush with cash that you have successfully extorted from your rank-and-file, why skimp? (Think Animal Farm – and realize that in teachers unions, just like in communism, all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.)

Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Americans think that teachers unions hurt education while only 26 percent think they help. And if August 2011 is a sign of things to come, the only people left who think the teachers unions benefit the children of America will be hot and sweaty union bosses.

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.

A Blueprint for Maintaining the Status Quo

Tom Torlakson’s panel comes up with edubabble and little else in an attempt to turn around a troubled California public school system.

Just when we thought we were safe from yet another “master plan for educational improvement,” A Blueprint for State Schools is bestowed on us. This 31 page monstrosity was unleashed by State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team. While the Teacher Quality Roadmap I wrote about in June had specific ideas about fixing Los Angeles schools, the “blueprint” is supposed to identify and address areas that are “vexing to the state’s K-12 system.”

The LA roadmap includes interviews with teachers and principals and can be summarized:

“Among other things, the report, which included interviews with over 1,500 teachers and principals, recommended changes to the current union contract and to state laws regulating staffing, evaluations, tenure, compensation and work schedules. Some of the prescriptions include using criteria other than seniority if layoffs are necessary and utilizing standardized test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation and when making staffing decisions. Additionally, it was suggested that teachers be denied permanent status until they have been in the classroom for four years instead of the current two.”

In my June post, I commented that while the roadmap was full of good common sense prescriptions from teachers and principals, they were really nothing new and, in any event, would be blocked by the teachers unions because they are happy with the status quo, ugly warts and all.

Unlike the roadmap, the blueprint was written by a consortium of 59 “experts” including business leaders, school board members, college professors, principals, four public school teachers and nine union leaders, including California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and California Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittelman (both termed out at this time.)

With the preponderance of union bosses, you might expect that the new blueprint would be devoid of any specific, meaningful fixes that would shake up the system. And you’d be right.

For example, in their recommendations about teacher recruitment the report says:

“Strengthen and integrate BTSA and Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs to ensure stronger mentoring and assistance for beginning teachers and for veteran teachers who are struggling.”

While this might sound good, California’s twelve year old peer assistance program has had very little positive effect. The National Council on Teacher Quality says that “peer review’s potential to reduce the numbers of probationary and tenured teachers with egregious instructional deficiencies is unrealized, if not minimal.” You can only help a struggling teacher so much before they should be shown the door. With the union running the show, however, firing a bad teacher is almost impossible.

“Encourage the development of more effective educator evaluation systems based on professional teacher and leader standards that guide and assess practice in a way that reflects best practices and incorporates appropriate evidence of student learning. Make sure these systems are supported by training for evaluators, mentoring for teachers, and professional development programs.”

Could this have been any more vague? There won’t be any teeth to this evaluation system. Should a teacher get a poor evaluation, they’ll just be moved into the Peer Assistance Program. And getting rid of them will still be practically impossible.

“Rethink the design of the California High School Exit Exam to incorporate diagnostic information over time and to provide instructional supports and assessments that offer more useful information regarding college- and career-readiness.”

What does this mean? The CAHSEE is a monumental waste of time and taxpayer dollars. It purports to measure what students should know when they get out of high school. Yet in 2010, 81 percent of 10th graders passed both the math and English portions of the test. And 90 percent of these high school “graduates” still need remediation should they be accepted at a community college.

“Launch an ongoing initiative to support union-management collaboration toward high-leverage reforms in school organization, management, and instructional innovation as well as teacher, classified staff, and administrator development, support, and evaluation.”

Sounds as if the unions want even more input and power than they have now. Terrific.

In any event, you get the idea. The blueprint is full of this kind of vague, high-sounding edubabble. Unfortunately for the state’s six million school children, little if anything will improve.

Tom Torlakson, the California Teachers Association’s bought-and-paid-for Superintendent of Public Instruction, gushing about the work of his “experts,” said,

“We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it. As our ‘Blueprint for Great Schools’ shows, there’s no substitute for investing in our children’s education. But we owe our students much more than just money. We also owe them our leadership, our best thinking and, above all, our very best people.”

Oh, please.

If only he had said,

“We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it. For that reason, our plan is to open California up to a universal school choice system. Starting immediately, we are going to empower parents who will be free to pick any school in the state for their children to attend and have their share of education tax dollars follow the child. No longer will parents have to follow the dictates of educrats, union bullies and the politicians they put into office. Government run schools will only stay open for business if they can compete with the wide array of choices that will now be available to California’s children and their families.”

If only. That would be a blueprint worth getting excited about.

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.

Reform Unionism: A Wolf by Any Other Name….

Despite good intentions, efforts to reform teachers unions and make them partners in education reform will not work.

Last week, the typically sane and sage Andrew Rotherham wrote a provocative article for Time Magazine entitled “Quiet Riot: Insurgents Take On Teachers Unions.” The main thrust of the piece is this:

“But perhaps the biggest strategic pressure for reform is starting to come from teachers themselves, many of whom are trying to change their unions and, by extension, their profession. These renegade groups, composed generally of younger teachers, are trying to accomplish what a generation of education reformers, activists and think tanks have not: forcing the unions to genuinely mend their ways.”

He spotlights three organizations he claims are leading a movement to reform teachers unions and make them partners in an attempt to improve the quality of public education — NewTLA, a dissident faction in the United Teachers of Los Angeles, Educators for Excellence, a reform group in New York started by two young Teach For America graduates, and Teach Plus, an organization that has gained traction in several states, whose goal is to “engage early career teachers in rebuilding their profession to better meet the needs of students and the incoming generation of teachers.”

In addition, Steven Brill (whose new book Class Warfare has received much acclaim) wrote “Super Teachers Alone Can’t Save Our Schools,” a provocative article in the Wall Street Journal this past Saturday. As the article’s title implies, teachers need help. But from whom? After describing the burnout of a young assistant principal at a charter school in Harlem, he says,

“The lesson that I draw from Ms. Reid’s dropping out of the race at the Harlem Success school is that the teachers’ unions have to be enlisted in the fight for reform.”

If only Rotherham and Brill were being realistic in their reform-the-union proposal.

Long time teacher union watchdog, Mike Antonucci, addresses the writers’ flawed prescriptions in “Let’s All See the Plan.” While praising NewTLA’s efforts, he says,

“The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators.”

A day after Antonucci’s post, Terry Moe, another veteran teacher union critic, posted “Will Young People Reform Teachers Unions? Dream On.”

“There are well over 3 million active teachers in this country, and the groups Rotherham points to are a drop in the bucket. In unions all across the country, young teachers barely participate in union affairs–which are entirely dominated by their senior colleagues. In any event, if we look at young union members as a whole–not just those from TFA or insurgent groups, but all of them–the evidence suggests that their attitudes on basic issues are very similar to those of senior unionized teachers: they are highly satisfied with their union locals, they are highly supportive of collective bargaining, they believe that collective bargaining has benign effects for kids and schools, and they have similar positions on most matters of education policy….

“The argument that young teachers are going to transform the unions is just as fanciful, and just as wrong…. Unions are unions. They are in the business of protecting jobs: that is why their members join, that is what their members expect them to do, and that is what they actually do. If you expect them to do something else–to represent children or to represent the public interest–you will be wrong. Don’t expect a cat to bark.”

Over time, teachers tend to get very comfortable with all the perks that unions provide, even though they’re bad for kids – collective bargaining, seniority, tenure, a job that is virtually guaranteed for life, etc. (In Special Interest, Moe’s excellent new book about teachers unions, Chapter 3 and Appendix C deal with young teachers.)

Coincidentally, scholarly journal Education Next has just released its fifth annual survey in which teachers and the general public are interviewed about a variety of reform topics including the unions.

When the public was asked if teachers unions have a generally positive or negative effect on the nation’s public schools, 33 percent said “negative,” while 29 percent said “positive” and 38 percent were neutral – numbers almost identical to the 2009 and 2010 polls.

However, it’s a different story with teachers,

“Among teachers themselves, opinion is moving in precisely the opposite direction from that of the public at large. Only 17 percent now say that unions have a negative impact on the nation’s schools, down from 25 percent in 2010. Fifty-eight percent think they have a positive impact, up from 51 percent the previous year.”

As we see from these statistics, over the past year, teachers are becoming more in sync with their unions. Only one in six teachers thinks that the unions in their present state are harmful to education.

Assuming these numbers are accurate, the union reform crowd, no matter how noble their intentions and dogged their efforts, has little chance to accomplish much, if anything, meaningful. The traditional unionistas may give a bit here and there to seem fair-minded, but with a great majority of their members on board, their mission and game plan will remain essentially unchanged.

If meaningful change is going to happen, it will come from the citizenry via the ballot box. Within the past year, a shift in voting patterns has enabled reform-minded governors and legislatures to greatly restrict collective bargaining, increase school choice opportunities, modify tenure rules, etc. in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. One can only wonder what could be accomplished if a majority of the voting public would realize the pernicious effect that teachers unions have on education and act accordingly.

But in any event, change will not come by reforming the teachers unions. As Little Red Riding Hood learned, a wolf in granny’s clothing is still a wolf.

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.

AB 114: A Blatant Attack on California’s Schools

The California Teachers Association and Democrats in the legislature join forces to victimize school districts, children and taxpayers.

In Sacramento, on Tuesday night, June 28, school districts, children and taxpayers were essentially mugged by a gang of Democrat legislators at the behest of their bosses in the California Teachers Association. Governor Jerry Brown, also in the pockets of CTA, was a willing accomplice.

AB 114, a one hundred page monstrosity, was rammed through both houses of the state legislature late on the 28th and was not published until the following morning. Governor Brown signed it into law the next day. As the Sacramento Bee reported, there were no committee hearings and no chance for the public to scrutinize the bill, which became public less than an hour before it was approved for passage.

AB 114 does several things, all of which imperil local school districts by imposing a mandate upon them that many will not be able to carry out. Educated Guess writer John Fensterwald says there are three ways that AB 114 steals power away from the local district.

First, it requires that each school district “assume the same level of funding as last year and maintain staffing and program levels consistent with that. Legislators are dictating this even though they admit there’s a good chance that revenues may not bear that out.”

Secondly, AB 114 eliminates the option that “districts would have over the next 45 days to make staff adjustments if they view this as necessary. Instead, the legislature is suspending that capability under the law for the next year. As School Services noted, ‘This provision is clearly designed to protect union positions, even if the district cannot afford to pay for the services.’”

Finally, the new law will “suspend key provisions for one year of AB 1200, under which school districts must self-certify that they can balance their budgets in the current year and one and two years into the future. Those that cannot must work with their county office of education to align revenues and spending. This year 13 districts were negatively certified in the latest filing, indicating they could not balance their budgets this year and next. An additional 130 districts – nearly one in seven – acknowledged trouble balancing their budgets two years out. AB 114 would require districts to assume the same revenue as this year and prevent county offices from seeking evidence of financial stability for the next two years.”

Where to begin? Since laying off teachers is not an option, it seems that the only device left in the local district’s toolbox to balance their budgets is to shorten the school year via furlough days. In this scenario, each furlough day would mean a day without learning for children and a day without teaching (or being paid) for teachers. And even this option is not something local officials can decide on their own. They must negotiate this with the same teachers union that put them in this horrible position to begin with. In other words, because of the new law, the best option would be to reduce instructional days for students, which is the last thing students need. But it should be apparent that the crafters of this legislation essentially look at teaching as a jobs program and let the children be damned.

The unfairness of this law has drawn fire from every possible quarter.

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board wrote that the result of AB 114 “could be downright catastrophic for San Diego schools. District leaders are imploring board members to try to save money to prepare for the big hit the district will take in 2012-13 when scheduled raises of 7.2 percent for all employees are phased in. Now a state law exists that discourages such prudence and may give district employees a legal cudgel to block prudence.”

A Los Angeles Times editorial didn’t mince words either. “Ham-fisted yet pandering, and fiscally irresponsible too, AB 114 perpetrates an abuse of state power that could wreak budgetary havoc in local school districts.” The Times also reported that more than “140 school districts are already in serious financial jeopardy, according to a state Department of Education estimate released in June. If Brown and legislative Democrats do not muster the courage to defy the California Teachers Assn. by repealing AB 114, they may push many more districts to the brink.”

Even harder hitting is Katy Grimes, writing for Cal Watchdog. “Gov. Brown has, in essence, allowed teachers to avoid layoffs under any circumstances in the next fiscal year. And school agencies will not be scrutinized financially. That’s a recipe for disaster — and a gift-wrapped treat to the CTA.” In her piece, she quotes Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow in Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, “This is shocking. It’s obvious that unions do not care for the kids at all if they are willing to shorten the school year. This is about protecting teachers’ jobs, whether they deserve it or not.” Izumi also said, “Any need of further evidence that Brown is bought and paid for by the CTA is unnecessary. This is the real face of the governor.”

It’s difficult to disagree with Dr. Izumi. When Brown became governor earlier this year, one of his first acts was to fire a reform minded school board and replace it with business-as-usual types including Patricia Rucker, a highly paid CTA lobbyist.

School superintendents are no less outraged by AB 114. Natomas Unified interim Superintendent Walt Hanline described the measure as “the most irresponsible piece of legislation I’ve seen in my 35 years in education.”

The California School Boards Association urged the governor to repeal two sections of the bill that “intrude on the ability of school boards to manage their own resources.”

Needless to say, the kick-the-can-down-the-road crowd has been very busy as they shamelessly try to defend the indefensible. Senate President Pro Tem, and former union lawyer, Darrell Steinberg said when he met with the Sac Bee Capitol Bureau, as reported by Cal Watchdog writer John Seiler, “We were intentional. We do not want to create a situation where more teachers and classified employees lose their jobs. And we did not want to see class sizes increase.” (This isn’t the first time that an outlandish law has been passed in the name of small class size. To learn more about the small class size myth, go here.)

CTA President Dean Vogel told the Sac Bee that AB 114 “provides stability for students and teachers.”

Stability?!

No, this bill in fact destabilizes the entire state. I guess Mr. Vogel thinks that maybe seven furlough days is “stabilizing.” Are school boards going belly up all across the state “stabilizing?” Are the taxpayers in California going to feel “stabilized” when the inevitable tax hikes are proposed in order to pay for the legislators’ flagrant irresponsibility? With AB 114 the only thing that will remain stable is the $649 in CTA dues collected from each teacher whose job is saved by the union-coerced bill.

While the wanton disregard for individual school districts, children and taxpayers may technically not be a crime, it is highly immoral. As such, Governor Brown needs to be reminded that former Governor Gray Davis was recalled for gross mismanagement of California’s finances. And the legislative miscreants behind AB 114 should be voted back into the private sector come November 2012.

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.

The Intersection of U Street and Main Street Does Not Exist

The teachers unions’ radical agenda alienates them from the American mainstream.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, during the week of May 9th, the California Teachers Association and many local unions, like the United Teachers of Los Angeles, will be taking to the streets in an attempt to convince legislators and citizens that cuts to education will not be tolerated by the unions. In other times this would be a winning strategy, but as shown by recent polls, the teachers unions are not the darlings of the public that they used to be.

While unionistas all over the country lament this loss of favor, they only need to look in their collective mirrors to understand why. They have managed to alienate too many Americans who previously had held them in a better light. The unions’ insistence on things like tenure and seniority privileges, which serve to protect only the bad apples, has begun to grate on the public. Additionally, the fact that they are tolerant of, and give outright support to extremist political causes is another reason the public is turning against them.

An example of the unions turn toward extremist politics took place last year in Los Angeles. Santee High School teacher and UTLA union rep Jose Lara took his students to Arizona on a “field trip” to protest Arizona’s new immigration law. In a YouTube video, Lara is seen standing in front of a wall-to-wall mural featuring a who’s who of murderous revolutionaries, including Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, while proudly displaying the motto Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!!! (Fatherland or Death, We Shall Overcome!!!). UTLA, while not a sponsor of the Memorial Day weekend trip, had no comment on Mr. Lara’s attempt to turn his students into an army of radical activists.

Ron Gochez, another radical teacher at Santee made an incendiary video in which he referred to Americans as “frail, racist, white people” and to California as “stolen, occupied Mexico.” This video produced calls from outraged citizens to the Los Angeles Unified School District, but they fell on deaf ears. After receiving many complaints, the district referred to the union contract and issued a statement which says, in effect, that Gochez committed no crime. So get over it.

Sarah Knopp, also a LA high school teacher, union rep and member of the International Socialist Organization is on record as a militant socialist who is not shy about pushing her collectivist credo onto her students. Additionally, Ms. Knopp has used UTLA offices to advocate for class warfare. After a trip to Wisconsin to protest the elimination of some collective bargaining rights for teachers, she proclaimed, “We cannot let public-sector workers and unions be scapegoats for an economic crisis caused by banks and billionaires!”

In these instances of teachers and proud union members using students to promote their activist agenda, we see the union as a passive observer, neither taking a position nor issuing a statement about some pretty egregious comments and activities. However, when the unions feel like inserting themselves into political-social issues that have nothing to do with teachers or education, they are not so taciturn.

For example, in 2008 the California Teachers Association contributed $1.25 million in a failed attempt to kill Prop. 8, which keeps marriage in its traditional form – between a man and a woman. That same year they also spent almost a half a million more to successfully defeat Prop. 4, which would have required parental notification before abortions are performed on minors. So then as now, a girl can be released from a public school to get an abortion and no parental notification is necessary.

Just last month, the California Federation of Teachers drew up a resolution at its yearly convention to “support and demand that the courts consider the evidence of innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Almost 30 years ago, Mr. Jamal was convicted of murdering Danny Faulkner, a white policeman. Mr. Jamal, who escaped the death penalty, is still trying to weasel his way out of prison, though a battery of lawyers can’t seem to convince anyone that he should have a retrial.

Outraged over the union’s action, the slain cop’s widow called CFT boss Marty Hittelman and asked how the teachers union could support a convicted cop killer. Caught off guard, Hittelman refused to directly address the issue and tried to change the subject by asking “How did you find out about this?” (A tech savvy five year old could have found out with a few mouse clicks by going here and scrolling down to Resolution 19.) Mrs. Faulkner said the conversation ended when Hittelman hung up on her.

Just three weeks ago in California, the members of the Oakland Education Association decided that they would shut down a local bank because they thought that 700 teachers would lose their jobs come September. Enlisting the help of the International Bolshevik Tendency, a Communist organization, they managed their mission, shutting down the Bank of America branch in downtown Oakland for two hours with signs that said, “Bail out schools, not banks.” Turns out that just 35 teachers at most will actually be laid off.

And then there is Wisconsin where there have been some boisterous demonstrations aimed at Governor Scott Walker and Republican legislators. Teachers and others were angry about the curtailing of teachers collective bargaining “rights.” While the demonstrators were a mix of teachers and rent-a-thugs, it was a teacher who committed some rather serious crimes. Kate Windels, a 26 year old pre-school teacher and union activist has been accused of two misdemeanor counts of making threats over a computer and two felony counts of making bomb threats. Apparently, Ms. Windels sent an email that threatened Republican legislators and their families with a miserable death by bombing and by “putting a nice little bullet in your head.”

Interestingly, there has been no word of approval or condemnation for Ms. Windels’ extra-curricular activities by the Wisconsin Education Association. But considering that their brethren in California think nothing of supporting a convicted cop killer, Ms. Windels’ actions probably raised few union eyebrows.
So what have we learned here?

The teachers unions
• either support or turn a blind eye to radical Chicano racist-separatists and teachers who indoctrinate their students into the ideology of universal socialism.
• have no comment when a union activist sends death threats to legislators and their families.
• want children released from school to get an abortion while keeping it a secret from their parents.
• contributed $1,250,000 of teachers’ dues for legislation that would have fundamentally changed the course of human history by redefining marriage.
• are lobbying for a convicted cop killer to be released from prison.
• collude with Communists to shut down a bank in an attempt to promote class warfare.

If the teachers unions continue down this path, the months and years to come will see them more and more marginalized from American life. These unions and their acolytes have moved so far from Main Street that they can’t even see it. The citizenry, becoming well aware of their radical antics, will undoubtedly become increasingly active in combating them.

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.

Teachers Unions and Truth: Rarely Does the Twain Meet

Misinformation is at the heart of unionspeak.

Public school teachers have been told for years that they are only respected by the general public because Big Union fights for them and gets them that respect.

However, the opposite would appear to be true. America still loves its teachers…the good ones, that is. They don’t like the bad ones, the self-pitiers and the bullying unions that keep incompetent teachers on the job, ruining the lives of thousands of children every year. Nothing makes this point better than the recent situation in Wisconsin where certain members of the teaching community showed their true colors.

The unions also tell teachers that if not for them they’d be toiling away for minimum wage. But again, that’s wrong. And it’s not only teachers who buy this line – much of the general public does too.

Last week, Mike Petrilli, Executive V.P. of the Fordham Institute, became the latest to debunk the teacher salary myth. He compared teachers’ salaries in districts across the country which allow collective bargaining with those that don’t. He found that teachers who worked in districts where the union was not involved actually made more than those who were in collective bargaining districts. According to Petrilli, “Teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers–$64,500 on average versus $57,500.”

While admittedly his analysis was not methodologically sophisticated, it does jibe with other recent, more meticulous analyses.

Stanford Professor Michael Lovenheim, in an elaborately detailed 2009 study, The Effect of Teachers’ Unions on Education Production: Evidence from Union Election Certifications in Three Midwestern States came to a similar conclusion, saying, “I find unions have no effect on teacher pay.”

While Lovenheim’s study used data from just three states, Andrew Coulson, using national data, also came to the same conclusion. “Salary hikes, wage compression, and dramatic increases in the staff to student ratio have all undeniably occurred, but they have occurred in both unionized and nonunionized public school districts.”

The teachers unions also tell us that seniority is a fair way to make staffing decisions. They tell us that we need to hold on to arcane and harmful tenure laws which keep the worst rabble on the planet working with our children. They tell us that their budget busting pensions should not be blamed for the fiscal nightmare that many cities, counties and states find themselves in.

Okay, regarding the latter, it’s not all their fault. Other public employee unions share in the blame for that.

Recently at an international education conference, president of the National Education Association Dennis Van Roekel said, “It’s obvious to the people here that high-performing countries without exception have strong unions. You have to have strong collaboration with whoever is implementing the policies.”

When asked if lower performing countries have collective bargaining, Van Roekel said he didn’t know.

Indeed, the teachers unions don’t know very much and what they do “know” is wrong.

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.

RIFs, Grifters and Reality

Excessive teacher hiring invariably leads to layoffs; teachers need to understand this trap and protect themselves.

We are now in the midst of RIF season. In California and elsewhere, when the economy is unstable, Reduction in Force (RIF) notices must go out to teachers by March 15th. These notices apprise teachers that they may be out of a job come June. School districts don’t know in March what their budget will be for the next school year, so they typically plan for a worst case scenario. It’s almost unheard of that all teachers who get the notices actually get laid off, but some will, and teachers must be notified if there is any chance they will lose their jobs.

When the school districts send out the notices, the teachers unions angrily point fingers at the district, insisting that they cut the bureaucracy instead and suggest that taxes should be raised rather than cutting back teachers. What the districts and the unions don’t say is that they are the problem; they are complicit in the process whereby teachers lose their jobs.

In good economic times, school districts scream persistently that they need more teachers even if the district is losing students or enrollment is flat. They do this because flooding school systems with teachers means smaller class sizes, which they claim will translate to higher student achievement. But practically every study of class size and achievement shows absolutely no correlation between the two.

Teachers unions like having more members on the payroll simply because then the unions can fill their coffers with more dues money.

Of course, a few years later when the economy sours, these newly hired teachers are the ones to be let go. We are in that part of the cycle today.

A look at some numbers would be instructive here. According to the California state Ed Data website, in Los Angeles in 1998-1999 there were 33,847 teachers for 695,885 kids. By 2008-2009 the number of teachers swelled to 38,367 while the number of students declined to 687,534. So LA gained over 4,500 teachers while losing over 8,000 students. In New York City the numbers were more egregious. According to the Wall Street Journal, between 2000 and 2009 the city added 7,000 teachers while enrollment was down 63,000 students. And from teacher union watch dog Mike Antonucci, we learn that in Ohio from 2000-2008 the number of teachers increased by over 17% while the student population shrank by almost 7%.

Antonucci has been reporting about this phenomenon for years – in good financial times hiring is out of control because there is an assumption that the economy will be robust forever. He also points out that the higher expenses don’t end with teachers’ salaries and benefits. “Most school districts employ about two non-teachers for every three teachers. If you hire more teachers, you also typically have to hire more support employees.”

And it’s not just Los Angeles, New York and Ohio. The rest of the country goes through a similar dance on a regular basis, with equally disastrous results.

You’d think that the teachers unions who profess to really care about teachers would think twice before leading their members down the rosy path to RIFs. But then again, grifters are never concerned with needs of their prey. The more teachers on the payroll mean more money for the unions, period; money and power are their raison-d’etre.

It is high time that teachers start realizing that they are being scammed by people who do not have their best interests at heart. As the grifters are highly unlikely to change their ways, teachers need to do their homework and check the numbers. If it seems that teaching hires are increasing and student enrollment is flat or decreasing, it is probably not a great time to go into teaching.

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.

Tribute, Turf Tax and the Teachers Unions

Before the Reformation, it was common for Europeans to pay Tribute to the Church. People across Europe would have to give something to Rome as a way of submitting to, or showing allegiance to, the church.

Tribute in another form came about in the U.S. the 1920s when organized crime carved up cities and claimed certain areas as their turf. Any legitimate person who wanted to start a business in a gang’s territory would have to pay a street or turf tax to the thugs just to do business.

While these concepts may seem alien to many of us in the West today, people here in our own country that toil away in non-right-to-work states must pay Tribute — in the form of union dues — if they want to be employed in certain professions.

Teachers in 28 states and Washington D.C. fall into this pay-to-play category. While this type of Tribute goes pretty much unchallenged, every now and then something comes up that you’d think would enrage those who are being victimized.

According to Barbara Martinez in The Wall Street Journal, “Randi Weingarten, the former head of the New York City teachers’ union, received $194,188 last year from the United Federation of Teachers for unused sick days and vacation time accrued before she left to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, boosting her total compensation to more than $600,000 for 2010.” (But then again, 80,000 teachers in New York fork over $125.6 million dollars every year with nary a complaint, so maybe an obscene payout to a union boss shouldn’t faze them.)

Also, according to the WSJ story, when Michael Mulgrew took over the UFT presidency last year, one of his first meetings “was held at the Brazilian steakhouse Churrascaria Tribeca and included 150 people. The bill was $6,400.”

That union leaders don’t think twice about living extravagantly at their members’ expense is typical of the nature of unionism in the U.S. today. It is especially hypocritical because these same union leaders love to rail against corporate greed and bemoan the plight of the underpaid teacher.

According to the New York Post, “Not many companies allow employees to cash out unused vacation days; even fewer pay out unused sick time on top of that.

“But, obviously, the world of organized labor is different.

“It’s gratifying to realize that the largesse isn’t coming directly from taxpayers for a change. But we wonder how UFT rank-and-filers feel about the boodle coming from their dues.”

Judging by their silence, the rank-and-filers don’t seem to care. To be sure, some don’t mind their forced status. But for the others, is it apathy? Ignorance? Resignation? Fear?

Whatever.

The Reformation was the beginning of the end of Tribute to Rome. The FBI did much to minimize organized crime and let people run their businesses without having to pay off the mob. But the unions and its leaders like Randi Weingarten seem to thrive — their hubris unrestrained by a compliant workforce and spineless legislators.

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.

Education Reform – Teacher Union Style

Union leaders have nothing to offer in matters of education reform.

In an absurd editorial, two Los Angeles Unified School District teachers last Friday — both United Teachers Los Angeles chapter chairs — wrote what was supposed to be, in part, a nastygram to LA’s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The op-ed, entitled Pipe Down, Mr. Mayor (the name in the print version), takes the LA mayor to task for criticizing the union for which he used to organize. Referring to ed reform, he had called the union’s leadership “the most powerful defenders of the status quo” at a conference in Sacramento last month.

The two angry unionistas attempt to convince Times’ readers that the union is behind some really terrific “progressive” education reforms.

They start off with the usual whine about cuts in education funding, but in the next breath they state that Gompers Middle School “has spent thousands of dollars on classroom libraries for students who have limited access to quality books.” Hasn’t this always been the purpose of school libraries? And by the way, where are the cuts?

Then they get into the goofy stuff. The reforms they brag about are things like English teachers choosing a progressive reading and writing workshop for their students. To the best of my knowledge, that’s hardly reform; it’s part of an English teacher’s job.

Next they say that, “At Roosevelt High School’s Academy of Environmental and Social Policy, teachers have designed an exhibition night when students present projects addressing real-world problems to parents and community members. This year, the school is organizing an internship fair so that seniors can get involved in their community.” No, this is not education reform either; it’s community organizing. If their goal is preparing students to work for a seedy organization like ACORN, they are on the right track. But if they are trying to ready their students for college, this is hardly the way to do it.

Another reform measure has the teachers taking students on field trips — to courthouses. Ed reform? Oh please.

In UTLA’s FUBAR L.A. Times Op Ed: Teacher Leaders Russom and Baranwal Call Simple Teacher Duties “Reforms.” Scary Stuff, LA Weekly’s Jill Stewart sums it up beautifully when she says that “basic, routine, long-performed teacher duties in America are, in the warped world of Los Angeles, ‘reform.’”

For more on teachers union’s intransigence to desperately needed change, go here and read what UTLA considers reform. In fact, it’s as free from real reform as what the two chapter chairs wrote in the LA Times.

New (and former) California Governor Jerry Brown, not wanting to be upstaged by a couple of teachers from LA, also entered the dead zone with his new choices for state school board. Running for office as an outsider, he claimed that he was beholden to no one. However, a close look at his choices for school board says that he is an old-school Democrat, sitting comfortably in the deep pockets of the teachers unions.

As such, he managed to get rid of anyone who was at all reform-minded. For example, according to the LA Times, Brown “eliminated several members who were viewed as strong voices for reform, including Ted Mitchell, the president of NewSchools Venture Fund; Johnathan Williams, founder of the Accelerated School, a charter organization in South-Central Los Angeles; Alan Arkatov, president of Changing.edu; and Ben Austin, chief executive of Parent Revolution.”

Who did he replace them with? Patricia Ann Rucker, a former California Teachers Association lobbyist and James Ramos, Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Indians – both obvious political paybacks. And then there is Bill Honig, a former Superintendent of Public Instruction, who resigned in disgrace and eventually was convicted of four felony conflict of interest counts in 1993. The other choices, all Democrats, have no record of meaningful reform under their belts.

Not surprisingly, CTA 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.”

That about says it all.

I’m sure UTLA agrees with Mr. Sanchez’s assessment. These kinds of appointments are right in line with the teachers union agenda, which is business as usual, which means no real reform whatsoever.

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.