Bill me: Legislative week in review

From student success to teacher removal
By

John Fensterwald co-wrote this article.

One day after Democrats on the Senate Education Committee rejected his sweeping approach to getting rid of poorly performing and badly behaving teachers, Republican leader Bob Huff mentioned an often cited but much disputed quote of the late Albert Shanker in letting the Democrats have it.

“The Senate Education Committee’s actions exemplify the comments made by Albert Shanker, former head of the United Federation of Teachers, who stated, ‘When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.’ Once again the Democrats on the committee have chosen to put the demands of some union bosses over the safety of our children,” Huff said in a press release. (Shanker’s wife, Edith, denies he ever made the statement.) UPDATE: I contacted Shaker’s biographer,  Richard Kahlenberg, who wrote Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy.  His email response regarding the authenticity of the quote: “I tried to track down the quotation for my biography of Al Shanker but I was unable to confirm it, so it may well be apocryphal.”

Democrats passed a much narrower bill, SB 1530, that pared away the due-process procedures for teachers being charged with offenses involving drugs, sex, and violence against children. Not that they got much love from union reps, who accused legislators from both parties of “grandstanding” on the issue.

Huff issued a chart showing that the Democrats’ bill wouldn’t alter the sometimes laborious dismissal procedures for teachers accused of a raft of other vile offenses that don’t fall into the new category of “serious and egregious” acts.

The odd thing is that, after the Democrats gutted an identical version of Huff’s bill in the Assembly this week, leaving in only two small reforms, the Republican co-sponsor of AB 2028 waxed poetic on the bipartisan achievement in a press release. “It was great to see Assembly Democrats today set politics aside and work with us to pass these vital reforms to get those who try to harm our kids out of the classroom,” said Assemblymember Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita.

Not wanting to get caught in this dogfight, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy testified for both the Republican and Democratic versions.

Stepping up to community college plate

“I am a community college success story,” proudly proclaimed Jessie Ryan at a news conference Wednesday after the Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the Student Success Act. SB 1456 starts the process of implementing some of the 22 recommendations in the Student Success Task Force report, which was released late last year.

Ryan, the associate director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, grew up with a “struggling, single welfare mother,” and said community college was truly her “gateway to opportunity.”  She was admittedly fortunate that her college helped her develop an education plan and held an orientation that put Ryan “on a path to success.”

Sen. Lowenthal, with community college leaders and students, announcing passage of SB 1456. (Click to enlarge)

Sen. Lowenthal, with community college leaders and students, announcing passage of SB 1456. (Click to enlarge)

SB 1456, by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), chair of the Education Committee, calls on all the state’s 112 community colleges to provide all students with the type of support Ryan received. More than half of all community college students fail to receive an AA Degree, earn a certificate, or transfer to a four-year college within six years, and the figures for Latino and African American students are even worse.

But the big drivers in the bill for boosting success were tempered amid an outcry from students and the reality of state finances.  Provisions requiring students to declare a goal and not to exceed a certain number of units in order to be eligible for Board of Governors (BOG) fee waivers will not take effect unless colleges have the resources to provide the needed support services, said Lowenthal.  Just looking at one of those, counseling services is daunting.  On average, there are 1900 students for each counselor.

The bill would create a new fund which repurposes the $50 million in the matriculation fund to provide colleges with some money to focus on education planning and advising, but it’s not nearly enough, and the chancellor’s office said they’re looking to schools to develop innovative programs to help students make good decisions about which classes to take.

“These reforms are about doing the most we can with what we have,” said Erik Skinner, Executive Vice Chancellor of programs.  “The next step is to make the case for more investment.”

Bus Stop

Gov. Brown’s effort to eliminate funding for home-to-school transportation at the time of the mid-year trigger cuts sparked legislation by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) to introduce legislation protecting school bus service.

AB 1448 requires transportation funding for next year to be “at least equal to the appropriation provided in the budget for 2011-12.”   The bill holds a special place for Los Angeles Unified, which, under a court-ordered desegregation plan must provide transportation.

Budget uncertainty marked many bills that came before the committees this week leading to one surprisingly stinging exchange between two lawmakers.  During the debate on AB 1448, Assemblymember Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), asked fellow education committee member Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) why the democrats were trying to protect the school transportation funds when they were the ones who supported putting it in the trigger cuts when they approved the governor’s budget plan last year.  Williams retorted almost before she could finish, noting that republicans forced their hand.  “With all due respect,” said Williams, “that wouldn’t have happened if you had the courage to vote for taxes to support our education system.”

Click here for a list of education bills and their status

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10 Comments

  1. We have such a fine group of Legislators in Sacramento, The Left is bought and paid for by the Unions, the Right hasn’t the power to do the right things, so the State slowly sinks beneath the waves……
    The proposed Republican Budget got tossed in the trash by the Demon-crats because it did NOT include any new taxes or further cuts to Education……How dare right-thinking people propose such a thing…..Don’t they realize the only way to make this State great again is TAX and SPEND…..?

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  2. >>> Shanker’s wife, Edith, denies he ever made the statement.
    But that doesn’t stop you from using it. Maybe you could find a librarian who could trace the real source. Oh, that’s right, California has the lowest level of school and public library service in the nation. Well, then the reporter could research it. Oh, that’s right, reporters don’t do research any more — they just repeat what they hear, like gossips.

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  3. June 2011 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE

    The Failure of American Schools

    By Joel Klein

    In short, politicians—especially Democratic politicians—generally do what the unions want. And the unions, in turn, are very clear about what that is. They want, first, happy members, so that those who run the unions get reelected; and, second, more members, so their power, money, and influence grow. As Albert Shanker, the late, iconic head of the UFT, once pointedly put it, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”  …

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/06/the-failure-of-american-schools/8497/?single_page=true
     

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  4. “As a result, our educational attainment kept pace with our strong technological advancement. But that’s changed markedly since 1980, ” – joel klein.

    Funny, thats just about the time a nation at risk came out. I wonder if that and its aftermath have had a negative impact on education… ? Any thoughts on that Joel?

    “…the status quo—the unions.” – joel klein
    gee, no bias there. And what about the non-union states that are scoring worse than the union ones. whats the hurdle there joel?

    After we developed data from this metric, we decided to factor them into the granting of tenure, an award that is made after three years and that provides virtual lifetime job security. “ – joel klein
    nope, no bias there.

    I proposed that the City use value-added numbers … Even with these limitations, the UFT said “No way,” and headed to Albany to set up a legislative roadblock.” – joel klein
    Here is an idea Joel. Make  every single administrator’s job dependent on student test score gains. Please!!  Better yet, fire all administrators that work at schools that dont perform, or who work in district offices for districts that do not perform. Right up the super. Please try this.  Or maybe would your response be that district admins have no responsibility for the performance of the kids? Really now.

    “…several of his Republican colleagues had caved to the teachers union.” – joel klein
    nope, no bias there.

    As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment,…” – joel klein.
    oh interesting, first it was virtual, now its simply lifetime. nope, no bias there.

    the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.” – joel klein
    this coming from the superintendent. were you one of those adults joel? oh, and no bias there either.

    In short, politicians—especially Democratic politicians—generally do what the unions want. And the unions, in turn, are very clear about what that is. They want, first, happy members, so that those who run the unions get reelected; and, second, more members, so their power, money, and influence grow. “ – joel klein
    Wow, I was wrong about joel klein. he just admitted here that the unions in fact want primarily whats best for kids, because of course thats exactly what teachers want.

    And what do the members want? Employees understandably want lifetime job security (tenure), better pay regardless of performance (seniority pay), less work (short days, long holidays, lots of sick days), and the opportunity to retire early (at, say, 55) with a good lifetime pension and full health benefits; for their part, the retirees want to make sure their benefits keep coming and grow through cost-of-living increases. The result: whether you work hard or don’t, get good results with kids or don’t, teach in a shortage area like math or special education or don’t, or in a hard-to-staff school in a poor community or not, you get paid the same, unless you’ve been around for another year, in which case you get more. Not bad for the adults.” – joel klein
    Oh whoops, maybe i was wrong. Lets see, employees “understandably want lifetime job security (tenure).” Really? Since when has a teacher asked for that? Give me just one example. Unions are teachers you say? Oh, well, teachers want whats best for kids, so why isnt that what the unions want? Which is it?  Read some teacher surveys and you’ll find out that some even teachers dont necessarily like tenure, and ‘lifetime job security’ is as meaningless and irresponsible a term as they come.
    “Less work”.  Wow, teachers want less work? Really? At first maybe I thought you meant teachers not having to give up their lunch hour to police the playground, but you were even more specific: ‘short days, long holidays, lots of sick days’. I almost cant avoid laughing at that one. I assume you mean ‘summer’ with long holiday? Teachers actually want to be sick? Really? Short days. Im not even sure what thats supposed to mean. Teachers work nights and weekends on their own accord. How does that jibe with your claim about not wanting to work? Oh, maybe you’re saying they actually work there rears off already. If so, that might be good to mention..?
    “The opportunity to retire early”. Really? Teachers want to enter into poverty as soon as possible? Does this include the teachers who you also said wanted pay for seniority regardless of performance? If they were retiring earlier, why would they be caring much about seniority pay?  Later you talk about the 25 year hurdle. So which is it? They want to work 25 years and make boatloads of money or they wnat to retire early?  What about the not uncommon retired teacher who needs food stamps to survive? And what about those teachers who teach into their 70s and 80s? Are they part of a different ‘union’?
    for their part, the retirees want to make sure their benefits keep coming and grow through cost-of-living increases. ”  Those horrible people. Not being willing to accept yearly benefit cuts in the lack of COLAs. Amazing that someone who made it to the superintendent position of the largest public school district in the country does not understand the concept of inflation. Let alone the concept that any retiree hopes not to run out of money. I guess we should just stop paying out social security altogether. Those people wont care much, right? Because they are not in the evil teacher’s union.
    The result: whether you work hard or don’t, get good results with kids or don’t, teach in a shortage area like math or special education or don’t, or in a hard-to-staff school in a poor community or not, you get paid the same,
    Um, whoops?  Arent you essentially admitting here that you did not do your job? And your certificated and classified admin underlings did not do their jobs?

    In New York City, which has some 55,000 tenured teachers, we were able to fire only half a dozen or so for incompetence in a given year, even though we devoted significant resources to this effort.” – joel klein
    What exactly is ‘significant’?  How much of your $24 billion YEARLY budget did you spend on this?

    Perhaps the most shocking example of the City’s having to pay for teachers who don’t work involves several teachers accused of sexual misconduct—including at least one who was found guilty—whom the union-approved arbitrators refuse to terminate. Although the City is required to put them back in the classroom, it understandably refuses to do so. And the union has never sued the City to have these teachers reinstated, even though it knows it could readily win.” – joel klein
    Yeah, these stories are hideous. They remind me of that one at LAUSD I looked into recently. Oh, but odd thing is, I found out that a teacher who’d already been accused of abuse while not being tenured was SUBSEQUENTLY given tenure. Geeeee…. now Joel, whose fault is that?  Also, thanks for pointing out that the Union explicitly did not press to have the teacher back in the classroom even though you feel it would be a slam dunk. Is there maybe really a glint of morality in there somewhere in those teacher ranks…? Naw, couldn’t be.

    Finally, coming on top of these other senseless policies is the remarkable way that benefits and seniority drive overall teacher compensation. It’s possible for a teacher in New York City to retire at 55 and draw down an annual pension of more than $60,000, plus lifetime health benefits for herself and her family. The pension is not subject to New York State or local taxes and goes up with cost-of-living increases.” – joel klein
    Possible? Interesting that you didnt say ‘common’ or even ‘likely’. And again, see above for comment about the concept of inflation.

    The impact of the lock-in shapes the entire compensation system, because the “big” money comes only after a certain number of years—in New York City, for example, many teachers get their full pension after working 25 years, and a far smaller pension if they work for only 24 years. As a result of backloaded policies like this, after 10 years fewer than 1 percent of teachers leave the system, and after 15 years only about 0.1 percent leave. Many have candidly told me they are burned out, but they can’t afford to leave until their pension fully vests. So they go through the motions until they can retire with the total package.” – joel klein
    now here is where things get really bizarre. I wont even disagree with him that things could be done better here, but I really question the sanity of assuming that the solution is to write a book (and publish excerpts in the Atlantic, and surely other publications–I’m assuming thats what this is) in which you start out by saying no teachers care anything about kids. Seriously. What do you expect the response to be?  Have you really decided that the only way to do away with all of these procedural nuances is simply to gut the system entirely? I assume you brought these things up because you’d like to actually change some of them, but then it would not make sense to start out your rant with the claim that teachers are simply figuring out ways to keep politicians happy.

    And you know what, I should probably stop now, but just one last point in this particular issue. Do the same kind of things apply to administrators? Or facilities people? Etc?  Where is the outrage? Why is the principal I saw get congratulated just yesterday for finally getting her Ed.d –and who will probably earn more as a result–any different?  Maybe we should stop requiring degrees for all school employees. Since it does not matter for the most important people of all, why should it matter for those who dont really matter, nor, apparently, those who dont even do their job. Feel free to set a precedent. Please.

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  5. Certainly the only way to make this state great again is to prevent further cuts to education. Prison spending has gon, I think,  from 3% to 14% of the general fund…a direct result of not teaching our children or providing them opportunities…and this will only continue if we stay on this path. Alas…parents and students across this great state need to say enough is enough!  Kids don’t vote and parents are often too busy to speak up. Have you heard the latest? Social service cuts mean parents have no day care to leave young children or aging parents who are too young or too infirm to be left at home…only adding to the welfare rolls. What next? I’m hoping everyone can put politics aside and come together to create a budget that saves California, not destroys it!  I know it’s hard not to give up on them, but we elected them so let’s ask them to do their job and work together!

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  6. Joel Klein also fails to cite his source of this quotation. I have read, and heard this quotation repeated in many articles and speeches critical of teacher’s unions but I have never seen or heard in verified, and I have never read or heard anyone using say anything like, “as Al Shanker said to me … ”
    In any case, verified or not, it is in fact true. By law, the unions are obligated to represent members, not the industry service group. That’s true of any union and does not, by definition, make unions evil or bad. Other forces may do that, for sure.
    Airline pilot unions represent airline pilots, not passengers. Farm worker’s unions represent farm workers, not customers, not grocery stores, not middle-agents like warehouses, shippers,  processors, etc.
    The claim made, that because unions do not represent children but do represent teachers, will or does result in poor service to the children, the parents, or the school, is baseless. And, unions do not have anywhere near the clout imputed to them by conservatives.
    Without teacher’s unions, all teachers would be part time contingent with no benefits. Teacher input on things like class size and conversion to online learning will be zero. How will that benefit our children’s education?

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  7. I knew Al Shanker, and Bob Huff is not Al Shanker.
     
    The derivation of the apocryphal “quote” leads back to some small town conservative newspaper in the South. Or am I being redundant? The South, of course where teachers’ unions are against the law and they have the lowest student achievement of any geographic region in the US.
     
    I was standing about six feet behind Huff as he was spouting off at the CA Senate hearing. He is quite fond of spouting apocryphal statements. The chief one, repeated by Huff, is a favorite of Michelle Rhee as well as her more evil twin (perhaps it’s the other way around) Klein. And that is, it’s the people who have spent their professional lives working with children in classrooms, as well as the unions who represent those people, who are the selfish and self-interested ones. It’s the people who spent a few years (Rhee) in the classroom before self-selecting themselves out for more lucrative careers, or those who spent no time what-so-ever in the classroom (Klein, Duncan, et al) who are the ones who always put “children first.” There are those people who believe that nonsense. And I have a great deal on a bridge I’d like to sell “those people.”

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