Courtesy of Greg Schneider (www.gregschneider.com)

Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Vergara v. State of California, threatening teacher protection laws in California, has consumed the attention of the California Teachers Association. But another lawsuit working its way through the courts is striking at the core of the CTA’s power: its authority to automatically deduct hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dues from the paychecks of both members and non-members.

A victory by the plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al. would revoke automatic deductions for union dues, which could sap the revenues of the CTA and all public employee unions and lead to a sharp decline in membership. It would force the unions to persuade those they represent to voluntarily pay dues. With an annual income of $186 million, the CTA is the state’s biggest donor to political campaigns, according to a report by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

A Washington, D.C., libertarian nonprofit law firm, The Center for Individual Rights, brought the Friedrichs lawsuit on behalf of 10 California teachers and Christian Educators Association International, a religious organization serving public school teachers. The plaintiffs assert that compulsory  fees violate their First Amendment right of free speech.

In filing the lawsuit in April 2013, they acknowledged they’d lose in lower courts because their position conflicts with a well-established Supreme Court decision, so they have sought an expedited path to the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton cooperated and ruled for the defense without a trial last December. Then in June, the plaintiffs became emboldened to push their appeal forward when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an invitation.

 Signals from Supreme Court

Writing for the five conservative Supreme Court justices in Harris v. Quinn, a narrow decision involving Illinois health-care workers, Alito referred to the “questionable foundations” of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That’s the landmark 1977 Supreme Court decision authorizing public employee unions to compel all workers to pay “agency” or “fair share” fees that support collective bargaining in those states – now 26, including California – that permit it. Two dozen states, mainly in the South, have passed right-to-work laws prohibiting the compulsory fees authorized in the Abood case.

All of a union’s collective bargaining expenses can be apportioned equally to members and non-members. In the case of a teachers union, the agency or fair share fee includes a portion of the expenses of the union local, the CTA and the National Education Association. Union teachers in California pay on average about $1,000 per year in dues, with $640 to the CTA, $183 to the National Education Association and the rest to their local union. About two-thirds of the total are chargeable as agency fees.

The other, voluntary, one-third of dues covers political activities, including candidate donations and money supporting or opposing state and local issue campaigns and initiatives. Courts have ruled that teachers who do not join their unions aren’t obligated to pay that portion of the dues. Lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs, a 27-year teacher now teaching 4th grade in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, and the others named in the lawsuit have gotten that money back – about $350 per year – as long as they file a request every fall for the rebate. They are among the approximately 29,000 teachers – a little less than one out of 10 teachers statewide – who pay only the agency fees and opt out of union membership. The CTA has about 300,000 active members.

From ballot box to courtroom

The plaintiffs in Friedrichs are trying to do in court what they’ve been unable to do at the ballot box. Three times in the past 16 years, California voters have defeated initiatives to eliminate the compulsory fees deduction or prohibit unions from collecting a portion of dues for political purposes. Proponents came closest in 1998, when Proposition 226 lost 46.8 percent to 53.2 percent. But it has been expensive for public unions, especially the CTA. Unions have spent a combined $132 million to defeat the three ballot measures, with CTA kicking in $60 million, including in-kind donations. Proponents also spent about $60 million.

In the Abood decision, the Supreme Court said that collecting agency fees was necessary to prevent “free riders” – those who benefit from collective bargaining without providing money the union needs to negotiate on behalf of all workers. The court in Abood found that it’s in the state’s practical interest as an employer to negotiate with an exclusive representative of employees that has the resources to handle complex labor issues. The justices reasoned that Abood doesn’t favor one political viewpoint since employees can choose whoever they want as leaders.

But the plaintiffs say the Abood decision violates their First Amendment rights. States, they argue, shouldn’t coerce them to pay fees to a union whose positions they don’t support.

Abood rests on the notion that there is a clear distinction between collective bargaining by public-sector unions for wages and working conditions and the overt political lobbying that non-union employees can’t be forced to underwrite. But in reality, the plaintiffs argue, there is no difference. Political speech is involved in bargaining with and lobbying government, whether a state agency or a local school district.

In California, as in other states, laws allow agency fees to pay for lobbying expenses related to collective bargaining and working conditions. The plaintiffs’ brief cited statutes that the CTA fought for that are at issue in Vergara: teacher tenure within two years, layoffs by seniority and the dismissal statutes.

“Many policies advocated by the Unions do not benefit teachers, especially competent teachers,” the plaintiffs argue in their appeals brief. “Unions regularly bargain for compensation based on seniority and tenure rather than merit, and therefore privilege long-time employees over newer employees who may be more talented.“

The CTA and other public service unions are far more powerful now than in 1977, said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, so “it’s harder to justify the balancing test” the court used in Abood to permit compulsory dues.

‘Burden’ of opting-out

If the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn mandatory agency fees, Pell said the plaintiffs have a fallback position: make it easier for non-union members to exercise their right to refuse to pay for the CTA’s political activities. Currently, a teacher must sign a statement annually opting out of the payment, which the plaintiffs call a “significant burden.” They are then entitled to a rebate.

Instead, they want an opt-in provision, requiring teachers to explicitly permit the union to take money out of their paychecks. The CTA, in response, calls the current opt-out process “an innocuous requirement” that none of the plaintiffs have complained about.

Measuring potential impact of Friedrichs

Pell said that the Friedrichs lawsuit is “not an attack on collective bargaining but an effort to strengthen free speech rights.” He said he could not predict the impact of eliminating compulsory dues – other than an immediate loss of the agency fees of the 29,000 non-union teachers, about $13 million per year. That by itself would not drastically diminish CTA’s wealth and political power, he said.

CTA President Dean Vogel characterized the lawsuit as part of political conservatives’ ongoing “strategy to neutralize unions.” He called Friedrichs “more troublesome than Vergara,” because he’s confident that the district court judge’s ruling in Vergara, overturning teacher protection laws on tenure, dismissal and layoffs, will be overturned on appeal. But the Friedrichs lawsuit is problematic, he said, because conservatives on the Supreme Court appear open to overturning 40 years of precedent set by Abood.

At its conference for local union presidents in San Jose in July, the CTA shared a 23-page presentation on Friedrichs with the fatalistic title “Not if but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.”

Vogel said the presentation was not a prediction but reflected a “realistic assessment” of how things might change if the Supreme Court overturns the Abood decision. He said it’s a reminder of the need for a new strategic plan. “We’ve got to start paying attention and build an organizing culture,” he said. The threat from Friedrichs offers an opportunity to interact routinely with members and discuss what the CTA is doing on their behalf, he said.

In an effort to move Friedrichs to the Supreme Court quickly – possibly this year – attorneys for the plaintiffs have asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to skip customary oral arguments and rule on the briefs that have been filed. The court hasn’t decided yet. The Supreme Court could decide not to take the case, or, if it does, to reaffirm Abood, overturn all or part of it or send Friedrichs back to the district court for a full trial that was skipped at the plaintiffs’ request.


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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Gary, you “taught” and this is what I learned: 1. When you talk about fairness you are talking about standardizing job protections for teachers. When I talk about fairness I’m talking about standardizing equal educational opportunity for students. 2. When you talk about teacher quality you assert it to be a quantitative function of time on the job/seniority. When I talk about teacher quality I assert it to be a qualitative function of a teacher’s ability … Read More

    Gary, you “taught” and this is what I learned:

    1. When you talk about fairness you are talking about standardizing job protections for teachers. When I talk about fairness I’m talking about standardizing equal educational opportunity for students.

    2. When you talk about teacher quality you assert it to be a quantitative function of time on the job/seniority. When I talk about teacher quality I assert it to be a qualitative function of a teacher’s ability to motivate and instruct. You assert that the complexities of teacher evaluation render it untenable in practice and, therefore, the quantitative approach is the only reasonable method. I assert that quality is not a clear function of length of service and that the difficulties associated with fair evaluations are not insurmountable. Those who support seniority never accede to the idea of qualitative evaluations as fair because they don’t have student interests as paramount.

    3. Your instruction in democracy characterizes the political system of one of winners and losers: “ in all democratic processes there are voters who get their way and those who do not.” That applies to the individual election of candidates, but not to “all democratic processes” where the legislative process is usually a system of negotiations and compromises, though recent years have been less so. By winners and losers I can reasonably assume that you are referring to the moderate or opposing union member views as the losers. Hard line progressive union positions are not representative of much of membership, yet that constituency is legally required to pay the tax (aka dues) – a circumstance otherwise known famously as taxation without representation. Not very democratic.

    The hard and fast positions of the leading teaching unions have polarized the situation to their detriment. Because unions don’t believe in or aspire to a negotiated legislative solution instead they are now under attack in the court where they are looking more and more as the losers in recent federal and state cases, much to the chagrin of hard line leadership.

    Given how frustrating Gary finds it for people to learn on this blog, it surprising he assumes teachers learn simply as a function of time and that effort is not a factor.
    Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to understand. Give me another 20 or 30 years.

  2. Jeff 2 years ago2 years ago

    The CTA and most labor unions have really become political machines involved in mutual backscratching with politicians. A look at the political contributions made by the CTA shows contributions directed almost exclusively to one political party. Even for those who want to opt out of the political contribution, they must resign from the union and must purchase their liability insurance coverage elsewhere. The agency fee that is required to still be paid … Read More

    The CTA and most labor unions have really become political machines involved in mutual backscratching with politicians. A look at the political contributions made by the CTA shows contributions directed almost exclusively to one political party. Even for those who want to opt out of the political contribution, they must resign from the union and must purchase their liability insurance coverage elsewhere. The agency fee that is required to still be paid is an inflated amount which legal challenges have demonstrated on more than one occasion. Short of being given the right to opt-in to the union, which I believe is consistent with freedom of speech and association (happy constitution day today!) the next best option is to resign from the union, submit a document establishing your sincere conscientious objection to being in the union (it doesn’t need to be a religious objection), giving a donation in lieu of union dues to United Way or another acceptable organization (which is tax deductible), and getting your liability insurance through an independent teacher organization for a couple hundred dollars a year. For those feeling oppressed by being forced to contribute to an organization that consistently supports things to which you are opposed, this option really eases the conscience.

  3. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    "With the 30 year-decline of manufacturing employment, union membership has fallen to its lowest rate since the 1930s. At the same time, the middle class' share of total income has slipped below 50% ... and kept falling. A graph (like the one below) can only prove correlation, not causation. But some economists suggest that the erosion of union membership is one of the most important factors in explaining the demise of the middle class." From an … Read More

    “With the 30 year-decline of manufacturing employment, union membership has fallen to its lowest rate since the 1930s. At the same time, the middle class’ share of total income has slipped below 50% … and kept falling. A graph (like the one below) can only prove correlation, not causation. But some economists suggest that the erosion of union membership is one of the most important factors in explaining the demise of the middle class.”

    From an Atlantic article. The graph referenced show the ski slope of declining union membership that parallels the ski slope decline in the portion of the economic earnings going to the American middle class.

    Obviously, if you are on the right, you see as a good thing. In the perfect world as imagined by Ayn Rand and other reactionaries there should only be a class of those who control the economy and a class of those who are controlled in the economy. Unions and collective bargaining are a way of workers to have an influence on the conditions of their labor and what share of the relevant revenue in their area of the economy goes to their compensation.

    It is also good to recall that correlations are interesting because they may well indicate causation.

    You do not have to dig very deep into the media today to find evidence of the continued decline of the middle class and the consequent continued drastic disparities in income and wealth to be bad for the economy, but even more of a threat and destabilizing influence on our democracy. However, those who share her concern about, “support of gay marriage, its opposition to school vouchers – to allow tax subsidies for attending private schools – and its strong campaign for Proposition 30, the 2012 ballot measure temporarily raising taxes to restore billions of dollars for schools…” likely are not too concerned about “democracy.” Interestingly, as a teacher in opposition to Prop 30, she isn’t even particularly concerned about her profession or her students. Whatever.

    The lady involved in the lawsuit considers herself “…a good teacher and a nice colleague…” What else is she going to think? Obviously she is frustrated that during her time working with the union she could not convince enough fellow members of her union that her ideas had any merit. Unions are very grassroots, very democratic, organizations. Every school has at least one site representative who is elected and represents colleagues in managing the union and deciding its direction in collective bargaining. Every employee covered by the collective bargaining agreement has a chance to lobby colleagues and then vote on the contract. Locals vote on which of their members will be officers and who will represent them at the state and national level. All of this is covered by federal labor law.

    As stated, there are those who struggle under democracy. She complains of “‘an undercurrent of fear’ she had difficulty describing in detail.” I’ll bet.

    Replies

    • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

      "Unions are very grassroots, very democratic, organizations." Actually, from my experience, I would say today's teachers' unions are hierarchical lock-step organizations that often use harsh interpersonal tactics such as ostracism and silence (and worse) to punish dissidents. Solidarity is encouraged with negative examples of poor treatment by management rather than by sharing ideals and altruistic accomplishment as educators. And if there were a single teachers' union motto it would be "By Any Means Necessary." Economist Robert Reich … Read More

      “Unions are very grassroots, very democratic, organizations.”

      Actually, from my experience, I would say today’s teachers’ unions are hierarchical lock-step organizations that
      often use harsh interpersonal tactics such as ostracism and silence (and worse) to punish dissidents.
      Solidarity is encouraged with negative examples of poor treatment by management rather than by sharing ideals and altruistic accomplishment as educators.
      And if there were a single teachers’ union motto it would be “By Any Means Necessary.”
      Economist Robert Reich noted the coincidence of declining unionism and a weakened middle class.
      No one disputes that truth, but the (California) teachers union today is a far cry from the United Mine Workers of yesteryear.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        "No one disputes that truth, but the (California) teachers union today is a far cry from the United Mine Workers of yesteryear." That's exactly the point, Frances. The problem is, in the private sector things have become very much the same as things were for mine workers prior to the empowerment of unions as part of the New Deal. That's why the hallmark of the American Dream, the great middle class, is disappearing. Every effort is … Read More

        “No one disputes that truth, but the (California) teachers union today is a far cry from the United Mine Workers of yesteryear.”

        That’s exactly the point, Frances. The problem is, in the private sector things have become very much the same as things were for mine workers prior to the empowerment of unions as part of the New Deal. That’s why the hallmark of the American Dream, the great middle class, is disappearing. Every effort is being made today, by pretty much the same class of “malefactors of great wealth,” to return all workers, including public sector ones including teachers, to the sorry state workers were in those terrible days.

        Historically, what the malefactors of great wealth of those days could not achieve in legislatures, or via public opinion, or in the market place of ideas, they often managed to achieve in the courts that had been packed with conservatives and reactionaries.

        As Mark Twain said, “History may not repeat itself, but it sure echoes.”

        As you point out, Nobel Laureates like Robert Reich as well as Paul Krugman, have asserted clearly that these developments are not good for our economy nor are they good for our nation as a truly democratic republic.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          The decline in union membership of the last 30 years is predominately a function of globalization. The outsourcing of jobs to cheap overseas labor markets is the chief cause of lower union membership despite some domestic political and legal attacks on union influence. These efforts are sometimes paid for with "dark money", the term used by unionists to characterize such funding , while their leaders pick the wallets of their "members" under the guise … Read More

          The decline in union membership of the last 30 years is predominately a function of globalization. The outsourcing of jobs to cheap overseas labor markets is the chief cause of lower union membership despite some domestic political and legal attacks on union influence. These efforts are sometimes paid for with “dark money”, the term used by unionists to characterize such funding , while their leaders pick the wallets of their “members” under the guise of fair share and are almost always among the largest political campaign donors.

        • edfundwonk 2 years ago2 years ago

          According to his Curriculum Vitae, Robert Reich’s most noteworthy awards include the Galbraith-Schlesigner Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Americans for Democratic Action in June 2009, and the Vaclav Havel Foundation Vision Prize, awarded by the former Czech president in October 2003 “for his pioneering work in economic and social thought.” He has never received a Nobel prize.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Absolutely right. The sentence should have read: Robert Reich as well as Nobel Laureates like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz…

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          I agree unions were good overall and raising minimum wage will help. However, the unions are too extreme. When they protect teachers who are calling in sick when they aren't, or who are terrible and make it so people are scared to try to get rid of any, they lose support. Mining is different, we'll pay a couple cents more for a coal log but you don't see it. When children's … Read More

          I agree unions were good overall and raising minimum wage will help. However, the unions are too extreme. When they protect teachers who are calling in sick when they aren’t, or who are terrible and make it so people are scared to try to get rid of any, they lose support. Mining is different, we’ll pay a couple cents more for a coal log but you don’t see it. When children’s futures are shortchanged because the union treats your innocent child like they don’t matter and a teacher as a noble cause even when bad, and wins every time, it turns me away.

          I would still have been 100% pro union had not some things happened to me. I still won’t shop at stores who bust unions, such as CVS and Whole Foods. I never cross a picket line. I just feel the union long ago should have set up an honest peer review system and agreed that teachers who had lots of complaints and fell below a certain standard would not gain union backing, for the good of the vast majority of teachers. The plumbers and carpenter’s unions are prime examples. If they know someone is doing shoddy work or calling in sick when they aren’t, they send investigators out and they want to fire them more than the employer, they actively kick them out of the union. There is zero tolerance for anything but top quality work. When the union defended Berndt and actually got him $40,300, it made me think, how can I ever support an organization which believes a child molester deserves a $40,300 payout? How can I support an organization which defended a teacher who was hanging out in cafes while my child had a disorganized sub and showed up 50 of 180 days? That teacher has a job now because the union fought for her.

          Those actions lost me.

          The union could do a far better job of defending 19 out of 20 teachers if they just admitted 1 in 20 is not helping their cause and forgot about them. It would get the greater good, because salary would rise for the rest if we had headlines about vast improvements. Also, the other 19 would work harder, and call in sick less, with some checks and balances, for instance the headlines about the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and teachers being sick more than kids wouldn’t happen if they replaced some of the raise with an attendance bonus and made all teachers call in to the principal if sick or missing a day and explain and only do so if there’s no other way, plus test scores would increase and by it’s very nature, the cost of subs would drop which would mean more money in the pot for raises for full time teachers.

          The union is too extreme now. I could not imagine them being more extreme. Any extremist group eventually loses the middle ground voters and loses power. I believe defending these people as noble will ultimately be the undoing of the union. They gained my yes vote on all these proposals and I’m about as liberal as you can get.

  4. Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

    With power comes responsibility. The public has transferred power to unions by law. It would be good to have a union perspective on its public responsibilities that motivate this transfer of power. We don’t want to fall into the all too typical human weakness of taking things for granted.

  5. Anne 2 years ago2 years ago

    It would seem that those who pay the bargaining fee would be able to vote to accept or reject the contract tentatively agreed upon. Not in my district – those teachers are not members of the union. Is this state law or local practice codified in local union bylaws? If all those who paid for the bargaining voted on the outcome, I expect things would change dramatically.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Anyone who is a member of the bargaining unit, which could include both union members and non-members (agency fee payers), is entitled to vote on the contract (tentative agreement). Non-members cannot be elected to positions in the union nor can they vote on union officers or delegates to state councils and conventions. Non-members are not entitled to, as someone noted here, union provided liability insurance which is paid for as part of full union … Read More

      Anyone who is a member of the bargaining unit, which could include both union members and non-members (agency fee payers), is entitled to vote on the contract (tentative agreement). Non-members cannot be elected to positions in the union nor can they vote on union officers or delegates to state councils and conventions. Non-members are not entitled to, as someone noted here, union provided liability insurance which is paid for as part of full union dues. Non-members are entitled to all the protections provided by the negotiated agreement and must be treated like any other employee covered under the agreement.

  6. el 2 years ago2 years ago

    Of course, they also have the option to work within the union to advocate for the policies they’d like to see, both locally and at the state level.

    Replies

    • Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

      Unions too often stack internal rules in favour of their permanent central committee members (communist party politburos are an outstanding example of this) and against the ordinary workers in whose name and interests the central leadership purportedly works. CTA may well have morphed over time into such a corrupt, centralized organization operating against the interests of the children in whose interest the people of California established state schools in the first place. California's ruling party … Read More

      Unions too often stack internal rules in favour of their permanent central committee members (communist party politburos are an outstanding example of this) and against the ordinary workers in whose name and interests the central leadership purportedly works. CTA may well have morphed over time into such a corrupt, centralized organization operating against the interests of the children in whose interest the people of California established state schools in the first place. California’s ruling party interests, deeply entrenched in the northern and central part of our state, appear to be out of touch with how deeply offensive its reaction to the Vergara decision has been. This is a good time to sweep the incumbents defending our underperforming state schools from office, and this means, in particular, California’s superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, and probably includes most of the other candidates for office that CTA is endorsing. Our state’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, also filed an appeal against the interests of poor children; all such plutocrats who have been purchased by campaign donors should be turned out of office.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        Is the Republican Central Committee an example of this too?

        • Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

          I assume they are subject to complementary pressures, but they are largely irrelevant to California at this point.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Oh. Glad you straightened that out. I was concerned about all the communists and the politburo and all that. You know how Republicans get when there’s a hint, or not actually, of communists around.

  7. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    Democracy (ed union variant) is "Two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." The younger, newer CA teachers have historically been voted to be "lunch." No matter how hard they work, how outstanding they are, they get paid half as much as teachers with more longevity. And they are mandated first to be fired in any layoffs. Even though they pull in the same ADA … Read More

    Democracy (ed union variant) is “Two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

    The younger, newer CA teachers have historically been voted to be “lunch.” No matter how hard they work, how outstanding they are, they get paid half as much as teachers with more longevity. And they are mandated first to be fired in any layoffs. Even though they pull in the same ADA funding per class as the more senior teachers. Might was well just make them wear buttons that say “I am only worth half as much as a real teacher with seniority and I am expendable.”

    To add insult and more injury, the lambs have been forced to pay the exact same union dues as the wolves, whether or not the union treats the lambs fairly. In a new world with no mandatory union dues, the unions might have to find a way appeal to these younger and newer teachers rather than throwing them under the bus and having them for lunch, taking the ADA that they earn and paying it to the most senior teachers.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      5 years ago I’d have voted against this but after seeing the Berndt debacle, the manipulation of elected officials to appeal Vergara, and protecting several teachers who caused educational harm to my children, I am now in favor of this. If the unions had been balanced and even considered kids’ interests half as much as teachers’, I would have never changed my mind on this issue. It’s just too extreme now.

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      I doubt any reality based explanations will satisfy your concerns, Andrew, but as a teacher I feel compelled to respond. I will teach and we shall see if you will learn. First, you should read the explanation I gave above as well as what John wrote about the democratic nature of union organization. As in all democratic processes there are voters who get their way and those who do not. I would not describe the relationship … Read More

      I doubt any reality based explanations will satisfy your concerns, Andrew, but as a teacher I feel compelled to respond. I will teach and we shall see if you will learn.

      First, you should read the explanation I gave above as well as what John wrote about the democratic nature of union organization. As in all democratic processes there are voters who get their way and those who do not. I would not describe the relationship between those who vote for winners in an election and those who vote for losers, in issues as well as candidates, as that between predator and prey. If you do, you have fundamental issues with democracy itself.

      Let me provide an example of how certain issues work in the quotidian. As a local union leader I sometimes received complaints about our negotiated “composite” health care plan. In that plan every participant paid the same amount for the health plan. New teachers, frequently single, complained that they had to pay the same as an older married teachers with multiple children. The way insurance companies configured plans for large numbers of people, young, single people paid a relatively small amount more which allowed older people with families to pay a considerable amount less. In my mind this was an example of small “u” unionism. Once the “young” teachers got married and started having kids, I never heard another complaint. It is all absolutely relative.

      About seniority rights. You are very glib about “how hard they work,” “how outstanding they are,” etc. The topic of teacher evaluation has been discussed enough on this site for you to be aware that there is no quality, objective, means to evaluate the things you describe. History shows that management will fire more expensive teachers to keep cheap ones. (Michelle Rhee wrote an editorial not log ago advocating that practice.) It wasn’t union actions that put LIFO in place it was legislatures. Nepotism was a problem. There were all kinds of problems. The fairest, and most objective, layoff method was LIFO. (I received pink slips the first two or three years I taught.) As it stands, if a less senior teacher has qualifications that an LEA deems vital to program, that teacher can be skipped and a more senior teacher laid off.

      As for pay schedules. They have to be “uniform” by law. but the conformation and difference between teachers at different levels of experience can be negotiated. The salary schedule is voted on and the majority wins. That’s democracy. Research indicates experienced teachers have various levels of skills that are superior instructionally than less experienced teachers. Increased salaries for experience are another incentive to become an experienced teacher. Another incentive to stay in the profession is retirement based on your highest salary. There is not enough money in the system to pay everybody a high salary and people want a secure retirement. The current salary arrangements are, again, the “fairest,” and they are determined democratically.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Given Gary Ravani's sarcastic, know-it-all and far left-wing ideological discourse on full display here on Ed Source, it is easy to understand why so many thoughtful and moderate teachers are fed up with today's union leadership. If unions are as democratic as Mr. Ravani says, why do they have to automatically deduct a majority of dues whether one wants to join or not? It doesn't sound very democratic to me. It sounds more … Read More

        Given Gary Ravani’s sarcastic, know-it-all and far left-wing ideological discourse on full display here on Ed Source, it is easy to understand why so many thoughtful and moderate teachers are fed up with today’s union leadership.

        If unions are as democratic as Mr. Ravani says, why do they have to automatically deduct a majority of dues whether one wants to join or not? It doesn’t sound very democratic to me. It sounds more like a kinder,gentler protections racket – you know, the kind where you have to pay up or else.

        The unions are so radicalized these days they are losing support among their own rank and file. If they just showed a little moderation they might not be under assault from all sides. Leaders like Gary are taking the rest down with them.

        • Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

          Gary Ravani is what unions used to call called "true blue." In today's environment, it's called "spin" or "flacking." No point is ever conceded; his arguments are closed systems. He is the CTA man on EdSource. End of story. He gets an A for tactics. Maybe he even gets paid. Read More

          Gary Ravani is what unions used to call called “true blue.”
          In today’s environment, it’s called “spin” or “flacking.” No point is ever conceded;
          his arguments are closed systems. He is the CTA man on EdSource.
          End of story. He gets an A for tactics. Maybe he even gets paid.

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Frances:

            If I can get the spelling of your name right, you can get the fact that I do not belong to CTA.

      • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

        Your two statements in one post, Gary, seem inconsistent: " . . . there is no quality, objective, means to evaluate the things you describe." "Research indicates experienced teachers have various levels of skills that are superior instructionally than less experienced teachers." So if I understand your position, teacher evaluations are trustworthy to show that teachers with lots of seniority are superior to less experienced teachers, but teacher evaluations are not trustworthy to use to show … Read More

        Your two statements in one post, Gary, seem inconsistent:

        ” . . . there is no quality, objective, means to evaluate the things you describe.”

        “Research indicates experienced teachers have various levels of skills that are superior instructionally than less experienced teachers.”

        So if I understand your position, teacher evaluations are trustworthy to show that teachers with lots of seniority are superior to less experienced teachers, but teacher evaluations are not trustworthy to use to show that a young newer outstanding teacher should be retained and a mediocre senior teacher laid off when layoffs are needed? Teacher evaluations are selectively trustworthy?

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Great point, Andrew. I can’t wait to read gary’s response.

        • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

          Valid "questions." You are conflating research and evaluation. The research indicates teachers with more seniority tend to have more skills that improve instruction. As such, Ed Trust, did a number of studies some time ago asserting that because schools with disadvantage students tend to have more junior teachers on staff those student were being subjected to unequal educational. QEIA, a lawsuit negotiated settlement with the Schwarzenegger administration, called for keeping the "average" years of experience for teachers … Read More

          Valid “questions.”

          You are conflating research and evaluation.

          The research indicates teachers with more seniority tend to have more skills that improve instruction. As such, Ed Trust, did a number of studies some time ago asserting that because schools with disadvantage students tend to have more junior teachers on staff those student were being subjected to unequal educational. QEIA, a lawsuit negotiated settlement with the Schwarzenegger administration, called for keeping the “average” years of experience for teachers at schools receiving QEIA funds (by definition schools with disadvantaged students)at a high level. So, the importance of the “experience factor” is recognized in law.

          An interesting side-note here is that a lawsuit was filed protecting certain schools in LAUSD from extra staff “churn” because of high numbers of less experienced teachers during layoffs. Two points: 1) LAUSD had a court order in place requiring them to keep a certain (QEIA like) average level of experience teachers at those schools that the LAUSD had not implemented. (?!); and 2) there are reasons many schools with disadvantaged students have more inexperienced teachers and research shows they are–lack of resources to do the job–and–lack of leadership. So what we have is concerted efforts to deal with the symptoms of the problem without attempting deal with the causes of the problem. (See recent article here about late approval of LAUSD LCAP.)

          And then we have evaluation. No, we don’t have a high quality, fair and objective evaluation system in CA. As always in CA you have to go to funding first. CA has the least number of administrators per student and per teacher in the nation.Same reasons we have fewer teachers per student and high class sizes. My colleagues in the ranks of administration generally don’t have time to do intensive evaluation work. And then there is the system. As I have noted before, the interested can go to the CDE website and find the state’s adopted “roadmap to reform”– Greatness by Design. In it there is a pretty good description of an evaluation system that could be put in place–using artifacts of learning, multiple measure, multiple evaluators, and a fully functional PAR program. This system is research based, time consuming, and expensive. Both teacher unions endorsed Greatness by Design. (The “expensive” part is pretty much a killer in CA.) The PAR component is particularly important as it pays homage to Linda Darling-Hammond’s assertion: We cannot fire our way to Finland. Referencing Finland’s high performing school system. LDH has written much more detailed descriptions of evaluation available on line. Any new system would have to be in place for some time and the wrinkles ironed out.

          So, our current evaluation system is generally not nuanced enough to base high-stakes decisions on, like layoffs for example. It is too open to subjectivity. There are options I’ve outlined. Will CA have the commitment to do what is necessary?

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary's excuse for seniority vs. evaluation is lack of money, the unions' excuse for just about everything that doesn't work right. That makes sense because they are all about money. The rest of the working world seems to function OK without an expensive Greatness by Design evaluation system in place. What if some teachers are dismissed in a fashion Gary feels is unfair? Who in society is harmed more - the hundreds of … Read More

            Gary’s excuse for seniority vs. evaluation is lack of money, the unions’ excuse for just about everything that doesn’t work right. That makes sense because they are all about money. The rest of the working world seems to function OK without an expensive Greatness by Design evaluation system in place. What if some teachers are dismissed in a fashion Gary feels is unfair? Who in society is harmed more – the hundreds of thousands of students with incompetent teachers or the teacher who lost a job that wasn’t saved by due process but without the 5 statutes. Classified staff seems to get along just fine with due process alone. And given that Common Core has been alleged to strip away most of a teacher’s individualistic approach and that the unions support it, the abridgment of 1st Amendment rights seems kind of fatuous.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Some problems with the way reply comments are being posted. This previously sent reply below is being resent hopefully to appear under the proper comment: Gary, you “taught” and this is what I learned: 1. When you talk about fairness you are talking about standardizing job protections for teachers. When I talk about fairness I’m talking about standardizing equal educational opportunity for students. 2. When you talk about teacher quality you assert it to be a quantitative function … Read More

        Some problems with the way reply comments are being posted.

        This previously sent reply below is being resent hopefully to appear under the proper comment:

        Gary, you “taught” and this is what I learned:

        1. When you talk about fairness you are talking about standardizing job protections for teachers. When I talk about fairness I’m talking about standardizing equal educational opportunity for students.

        2. When you talk about teacher quality you assert it to be a quantitative function of time on the job/seniority. When I talk about teacher quality I assert it to be a qualitative function of a teacher’s ability to motivate and instruct. You assert that the complexities of teacher evaluation render it untenable in practice and, therefore, the quantitative approach is the only reasonable method. I assert that quality is not a clear function of length of service and that the difficulties associated with fair evaluations are not insurmountable. Those who support seniority never accede to the idea of qualitative evaluations as fair because they don’t have student interests as paramount.

        3. Your instruction in democracy characterizes the political system of one of winners and losers: “ in all democratic processes there are voters who get their way and those who do not.” That applies to the individual election of candidates, but not to “all democratic processes” where the legislative process is usually a system of negotiations and compromises, though recent years have been less so. By winners and losers I can reasonably assume that you are referring to the moderate or opposing union member views as the losers. Hard line progressive union positions are not representative of much of membership, yet that constituency is legally required to pay the tax (aka dues) – a circumstance otherwise known famously as taxation without representation. Not very democratic.

        The hard and fast positions of the leading teaching unions have polarized the situation to their detriment. Because unions don’t believe in or aspire to a negotiated legislative solution instead they are now under attack in the court where they are looking more and more as the losers in recent federal and state cases, much to the chagrin of hard line leadership.

        Given how frustrating Gary finds it for people to learn on this blog, it surprising he assumes teachers learn simply as a function of time and that effort is not a factor.
        Maybe I’m not trying hard enough to understand. Give me another 20 or 30 years.

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