Gary Ravani

“I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.” – Charter member of AFT Local 552 (c. 1938)

There have been many assertions made over time about the negative effects of teachers unions on student performance. A number of states have moved legislatively to curtail the collective bargaining rights of teachers and, indeed, some states have never allowed teachers’ collective bargaining.

Conservative critics of teachers unions – the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, for example – claim there is no relationship between high levels of union membership and high levels of student achievement. There are 10 states where there is little or no collective bargaining by teachers. If Fordham and other teachers union critics are right, these states should demonstrate student achievement that ranks very high, or at least above the national average, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). According to commentary in the Washington Post by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, out of the ten [non-union] states only one (Virginia) has an average rank above the median, while four are in the bottom ten and seven are in the bottom fifteen.” The article concludes that states “without binding teacher contracts are not doing better, and the majority are actually among the lowest performers in the nation.”

There are studies that refute the position of the conservatives and assert that teachers unions have a positive effect on student achievement. These include work done by researchers Brian Powell, Lala Carr Steelman and Robert Carini,Do Teacher Unions Hinder Educational Performance? Lessons learned from State SAT and ACT Scores,” published in the Harvard Educational Review (Winter 2000), as well as  “Teachers’ Unions and Collective Bargaining Agreements: Roadblocks to Student Achievement & Teacher Quality or Educational Imperatives?” The study concludes that …excluding teachers from policy-making is dangerous because teachers have vital experience and knowledge and should play a prominent role in policy-making. Teachers are also essential advocates for their students because their needs are bound up with the needs of their students to the extent that concessions for teachers benefit students and enhance teacher quality and student achievement.”

State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states.

Many argue that, regardless of the number of studies pro or con on the teachers union/student achievement question, it is difficult to draw more than correlational relationships, not causal ones, on the issues. They argue that student demographics, state spending and other policies, as well as the economic status of the states are more important drivers of student achievement. What can be concluded looking at NAEP, ACT and SAT scores state by state, though, is that teacher unionization does not guarantee low student achievement and a lack of unionization does not guarantee high achievement. Teacher unionization does allow for teachers to have a stronger voice in professional matters and also allows them “to secure their influence in the political field.” State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states.

Other educational experts have spoken out on the topic of teacher unionization.

  • Diane Ravitch, in her blog, notes that unions give teachers a voice in policy decisions and allow them to be advocates for higher education spending.
  • Linda Darling-Hammond is a Stanford University education professor and chairs California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Darling-Hammond asserts it is the education professionals who hold the keys to successful school reform: “We need the union of professionals to step up and say we care how our profession will be treated.”

The self-styled reformers frequently use international test scores to emphasize that U.S. economic competitiveness is being sacrificed to the “self-interest” of adult educators and the unions that represent them. (They never note that when scores are controlled for poverty the U.S. scores near the top.)

Finland is a small country that typically scores near the top in the vaunted international tests. Do teachers unions have any inhibiting effects on Finland, where 95 percent of teachers are unionized? According to Pasi Sahlberg, a director at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and now a visiting professor at Harvard, “Without the union, we really cannot implement anything. Its role is securing and protecting the rights of teachers. … It’s a very important part of the system.”

Another voice on the efficacy of teachers unions is that of the AFT charter member whose quote begins this essay. You have likely heard of him. His name was Albert Einstein.

Gary Ravani taught middle school for more than 30 years in Petaluma. He served for 19 years as president of the Petaluma Federation of Teachers and is currently president of the California Federation of Teachers’ Early Childhood/K-12 Council.

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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    There's precious little in this article by Mr. Ravani as to why public education needs teachers unions despite the title, with the exception of a couple of references to that effect by well known union supporters. The post mostly focuses on which states are doing better relative to union strength. In the most significant point of the post, to paraphrase Mr. Ravani, he says we need unions so teachers can have a … Read More

    There’s precious little in this article by Mr. Ravani as to why public education needs teachers unions despite the title, with the exception of a couple of references to that effect by well known union supporters. The post mostly focuses on which states are doing better relative to union strength. In the most significant point of the post, to paraphrase Mr. Ravani, he says we need unions so teachers can have a voice in policy. I could make the same case for parents and students. But they are not unionized though they have an obvious stake in the process. A collective voice for teachers could just as easily be accomplished through a professional organization as is done with other professions. In fact, the NEA started out as one.

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    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I think it's pretty clear Mr. Ravani is just interested in pushing an agenda. We need teacher's unions because he says so. That's the real reason. If some statement or fact supports it like a coincidence, he'll state it, but if something contradicts him, he ignores it. He ignores the existence of bad teachers, the fact some take days off they don't need, and the achievement of some kids in poverty. … Read More

      I think it’s pretty clear Mr. Ravani is just interested in pushing an agenda. We need teacher’s unions because he says so. That’s the real reason. If some statement or fact supports it like a coincidence, he’ll state it, but if something contradicts him, he ignores it. He ignores the existence of bad teachers, the fact some take days off they don’t need, and the achievement of some kids in poverty. He ignores anything besides the party line. You could read the UE handbook and learn as much. It’s not so much a conversation as him asking us to reread the handbook of the UE. If it were a conversation he would respond to things. The supporters aren’t really bloggers because they only use approved talking points, rather than discuss what’s going on in the world. It’s very Orwellian.

      Bad teachers do not exist. Bad teachers have never existed. Poverty is the cause of low achievement. Children of means who fail more than children in poverty of other ethnicities aren’t worth talking about as they are outliers, essentially for purposes of discussion they are so rare they don’t exist and won’t be mentioned. All days off taken by teachers are legitimate. Days taken off which were unneccessary do not exist. They have never existed. Home cultures that overcome poverty have never existed. The only factors are income, mother’s education and genetics. All other factors in achievement have never existed. We will close the achievement gap by eliminating poverty, increasing welfare and raising minimum wage to $15 an hour or more if we need to. This will work. All other methods will not work and have never worked. Effort does not work. Effort has never worked. An ethnic difference in hours studied per week does not exist and has never existed.

      By pretending they don’t exist, they hope they will go away. Very Orwellian. Or a reverse Goring. If you ignore something long enough, it won’t exist.

  2. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Gary, when you say refer to California’s wealth, you conveniently overlook the $1,200,000,000,000 in outstanding total debt that accrues daily. You ever heard of a balance sheet?

  3. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    From California Policy Center MASSIVE SPENDING ON NON-EDUCATIONAL ISSUES The California Teachers Association is the biggest political spender – by far – in CA. In 2009-2009 alone they spent over $211 million on candidates and causes. As the following quotes show, they readily acknowledge this: •Former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett “You bet we’re (CTA) going to play in politics. And we’re going to play to win. •Former CTA president Wayne Johnson “Teacher organizations are political organizations.” •Carolyn Doggett “The … Read More

    From California Policy Center

    MASSIVE SPENDING ON NON-EDUCATIONAL ISSUES

    The California Teachers Association is the biggest political spender – by far – in CA. In 2009-2009 alone they spent over $211 million on candidates and causes. As the following quotes show, they readily acknowledge this:
    •Former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett “You bet we’re (CTA) going to play in politics. And we’re going to play to win.
    •Former CTA president Wayne Johnson “Teacher organizations are political organizations.”
    •Carolyn Doggett “The news media call CTA “powerful,” the “800 pound gorilla” and the “relentless political machine.” I proudly wear those terms as a badge of courage. They speak to the strength of this organization, the power of collective action and the tenacity of teachers.”
    •Carolyn Doggett, “Over the years, I have given countless speeches on why politics matter to us as educators and union members. And today I’m going to give you one more. Because as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason…and one reason only…and that was to engage in politics.”

    Even if you support the political agenda of the teachers unions, do you want your dues being spent on issues that have nothing to do with education? Think how you would feel if CTA spent your dues money only on conservative non-educational causes. And if you don’t agree with their political agenda, why would you tolerate these unions using your dues to advance it? Here are examples of the teachers union’s political agenda:
    •CTA recently backed a measure that would expand healthcare coverage to all Californians through a “single payer” system.
    •CTA backed AB 1266. This bill, just signed into law, requires that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, and facilities, including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her perceived gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records. In other words, if a boy thinks he’s a girl, he gets to play on female sports teams, use the girls’ bathroom, shower, etc.
    •The CTA gave well over a million dollars to fight Prop. 8, which would have provided that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
    •CTA is for unrestricted abortion. Former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose, including measures that would have endangered the lives of teenage girls. Currently, California is one of only 10 states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”

    For further information on CTA political spending, reference this link from FollowTheMoney.org:
    http://www.followthemoney.org/database/topcontributor.phtml?u=20205&y=0

  4. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Now with the districts slated to pay a larger share of pensions there is a strong incentive to reduce those benefits going forward. That's a good thing. For too long politicians signed off on pensions that over time became unsustainable. For too long they made short term concessions that had long term consequences three sheets to the wind. With Brown's plan there's more skin in the game for the principle players and that will … Read More

    Now with the districts slated to pay a larger share of pensions there is a strong incentive to reduce those benefits going forward. That’s a good thing. For too long politicians signed off on pensions that over time became unsustainable. For too long they made short term concessions that had long term consequences three sheets to the wind. With Brown’s plan there’s more skin in the game for the principle players and that will bring more accountability to the process. Contract will be negotiated by those with a mindset of the costs involved.

    The dynamic between teachers and administrators grew out of the union movement. Teachers benefited by the strides of unions in the early to mid 20 Century though they were not low skilled labors of the AFL-CIO. Their replacement costs, unlike a factory worker, went well beyond a days work lost on the production line. For years elected school boards made concessions to unions to avoid the political consequences of strikes as teachers began to understand the power they could wield. And unions used this leverage to pressure for ever greater concessions. It worked well because boards are subject to the whims of the voters and strife could lead to public discontent and the loss of their jobs, especially when the vast majority of students were in public schools. It was easier to give the unions most everything they wanted since the initial costs were limited to incremental pay raises and such. But they gave away control over much of the hiring practices and this had bigger consequence for the bottom line over the years, especially as it related to management’s ability to control staffing. Teacher quality became the domain of professional development and there was little effort to remove the ineffective due to the cost of due process. If due process is prohibitively costly it isn’t due process at all. It’s extortion.A mountain of rules prevents cash strapped districts from engaging in the long and expensive due process. In turn, with fewer cases for the union to represent, they could aggressively defend each.

    The adversarial position of labor and management is not healthy and it doesn’t help when unions elevate highly partisan ultra left-wing progressives as leaders. This vein within leadership does not represent many of the views of the rank and file. As Gary mentioned, the union has become the front line for all progressive causes and it has the deep pockets. Unions could go back to their basic mission of supporting teachers and put limits on the political uses of dues ( see the recent Harris case in the health care industry) and in fact may soon legally lose that ability, by separating from the First Amendment . Like a multinational taking over, teaching unions have grown too big and are losing contact with the constituents.

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    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Don, you make some great points. When you don't have to be worried about being fired, you get overconfident. It becomes OK to schedule a Doctor's appointment on a school day and take the day off as a personal day rather than do it during days off you have and most don't. It becomes acceptable to take a day off you don't need, say you're sick or just say you want a … Read More

      Don, you make some great points. When you don’t have to be worried about being fired, you get overconfident. It becomes OK to schedule a Doctor’s appointment on a school day and take the day off as a personal day rather than do it during days off you have and most don’t. It becomes acceptable to take a day off you don’t need, say you’re sick or just say you want a day off, not worrying about it if you get bad reviews from students, and criticize anything which contradicts the idea of the existence of bad teachers. For instance ratemyteacher.com was trashed by a union supporter, but no alternative such as evaluations by students being accessible online was presented, the claim was it was biased because only some go there but no solution is proposed like everyone having to fill it out to make it more accurate, just this is bad, let’s do nothing.

      One thing which surprises me is that so many teachers accept the status quo. If I were working hard in say 3d grade, most years I didn’t miss a day, stayed late, met with parents, really focused on individual kids’ skills and helped them, and a teacher in 2d grade missed 11 personal days a year, sick days, clockwatched, I’d be upset because it would mean instead of my hard work making the kids smarter and better students, it would be making up for his or her negligence. I am surprised so many teachers want a no one ever gets fired philosophy.

      The due process argument is ridiculous. Gary keeps saying we just want due process, but when I asked him if expedited double due process would be acceptable instead of 5 rounds and years and six figures, he doesn’t say no, that would make it clear to all what he’s aiming for. He just stays silent. That’s what I’ve come to expect, silence on issues of inconvenience.

  5. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Then there's the issue of family leave. My son's special ed teacher left one month into his 3rd grade year on a family leave. She said she didn't know how long she would be gone and as a result the district made subs available on some days. As it turned out she took the rest of the year off (8 months) and then retired. The entire resource program went belly up that … Read More

    Then there’s the issue of family leave.

    My son’s special ed teacher left one month into his 3rd grade year on a family leave. She said she didn’t know how long she would be gone and as a result the district made subs available on some days. As it turned out she took the rest of the year off (8 months) and then retired. The entire resource program went belly up that year. My son lost much of resource time as subs, when they were there, were not up to speed on individual IEPs. The next year the resource teacher failed to provide the hours my son was entitled to and eventually the district moved her to another school, shoveling her under the low-performing school carpet. The year after that the district didn’t meet my son’s goals by using a para instead of a credential sped teacher to meet instructional IEP goals. Again the district did nothing except return some compensatory hours months after my son needed them. These things happen because it is so difficult to remove teachers.

    I provide this as an example of how union contracts provide benefits for teachers that are injurious to students. I don’t begrudge the teacher for taking the leave she needed. But her ability to go stay out month after month was problematic for students. The principal couldn’t hire a long term sub for the rest of the year because of the rules. As for the teacher that failed to do the job the following year, well, in typical style, the district just moved her to a new place where people are less likely to complain.

    I’ve heard all the explanations of how students benefit when teachers benefit. I wish my experience told me the same.

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    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      The union clearly always supports the teacher in a situation where teachers can benefit in a way which hurts students. They always mention the ways in which what the union wants benefits children, but quietly ignore times it does not, kind of like how they mention poverty but ignore Asian achievement. We can’t solve educational problems without addressing each fact. That’s why the system is broken.

  6. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Some, probably most, teachers I worked with followed that pattern. Some were remarkably healthy over 30 years and some got sick as much in their middle years as early on and later. I suppose the variability is due to genetics and luck as much as anything. I never saw people taking excessive leave or dragging themselves in when they were obviously ill. Again, there were those "catastrophic cases" that could go on for months. In … Read More

    Some, probably most, teachers I worked with followed that pattern. Some were remarkably healthy over 30 years and some got sick as much in their middle years as early on and later. I suppose the variability is due to genetics and luck as much as anything. I never saw people taking excessive leave or dragging themselves in when they were obviously ill. Again, there were those “catastrophic cases” that could go on for months. In 20 years as a union local president dealing with personnel issues I never (never!) had a case where the management issue with a teacher was excessive leave taking.

    To clarify: My experiences in the 1970s are viewed through the haze of time (more than 40 years obviously). I don’t know what STRS or the legislature had in mind with the changes to leave accrual or the nature of the changes themselves. I do know that some teachers of 30 or more years of experience felt the “state” was treating them, after long dedicated careers, with tremendous disregard and scorn. (We could look for explanations, but the teachers would likely be over 100 years by now.)

    I do recall that the state was going through one os its recurring spasms of “accountability overkill.” A number of districts had added hours of paperwork with enormous checklists of what passed for standards at that time to be completed for every student. Of course, the districts and the state were like the drunk looking for his lost keys under the light post because that’s where he could see, but not where he’d lost the keys. History may not exactly repeat itself, but it sure echoes. (Credit Mark Twain there.)

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    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Gary, what percentage of teachers would you say don't miss a single day for any reason in any given year? With 185 days or so of work, I think this is an achievable goal. In fact, I've only missed this twice in 20 years with 250 days required. Do you think teachers taking a personal or sick day on days when they are not really sick and could have done the personal … Read More

      Gary, what percentage of teachers would you say don’t miss a single day for any reason in any given year? With 185 days or so of work, I think this is an achievable goal. In fact, I’ve only missed this twice in 20 years with 250 days required.

      Do you think teachers taking a personal or sick day on days when they are not really sick and could have done the personal thing on another day is a serious problem? Do you think it happens often? Have you ever just taken a day off because your contract allows and you want to, even though you know a sub won’t do as good a job? If teachers tell you they do this, do you approve or tell them it’s immoral and the students should be the priority? You never addressed these issues. I understand real illness happens, but we had a teacher on Don’s blog claim personal days and sick days were a right negotiated and should be taken 100%. How do you feel about taking a day off which could reasonably be avoided? How do you feel about a teacher who takes off the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, or goes out Sunday even though they feel an illness coming on instead of remain in bed Sunday to be able to work Monday to help the kids?

  7. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Navigio: To your question: "Gary, when an employee moves districts and transfers their sick days, does money to cover the cost also move to the new district or is that (potential) cost simply assumed by the hiring district? I expect the process of applying sick accrual to the pension upon retirement involves a ‘payout’ from the district to STRS (or related)?" My recollection here is that teachers transferring from district to district take their accrued sick time … Read More

    Navigio:

    To your question: “Gary, when an employee moves districts and transfers their sick days, does money to cover the cost also move to the new district or is that (potential) cost simply assumed by the hiring district? I expect the process of applying sick accrual to the pension upon retirement involves a ‘payout’ from the district to STRS (or related)?”

    My recollection here is that teachers transferring from district to district take their accrued sick time with them. I am not sure if there are limits to that. You are not part of STRS while in substitute status, my early career, and then I was in a federally funded program prior to being hired by the district where I spent the remaining 30+ years. So I just don’t have the experience with the intricacies of STRS. I don’t know how, or if, a receiving district is “made whole” when they hire a teacher with accrued sick leave or if it is deemed an issue.

    On the other hand, neither seniority rights (for layoffs) nor years of experience (placement on the salary schedule) are transferable. This means experienced teachers rarely move from district to district, again in my experience. The placement on the salary schedule is a bargaining issue so you will find that varies from district to district.

    I find the assertion that teachers are dragging themselves into the classroom while ill to build up retirement silly. The ‘bump” is small at best, and the bigger issue is that the classroom requires significant “energy” output when you are at peak health. Facing a classroom of 30+ kids when you are ill is not a pretty picture. Trying to characterize teachers as totally “incentivized” by the handsome compensation and sumptuous retirement benefits is ludicrous.

    The real problems (as usual ignored by those outside the profession) is at the opposite end. Catastrophic leave clauses are to be found in many contracts for teachers, typically–but not always–in their later years, face an illness requiring extended sick leave time that exceeds what they have accrued. For the catastrophic leave “banks” the greedy teachers in a district have to donate some of that closely hoarded personal sick time to the leave bank for needy colleagues.

    The real problem (again) is parents who send (sometimes quite) ill kids to school. Granted for childcare reasons they might not have easily available alternatives. However, anyone who worked at a school (or sends kids and should know this) illness sometimes sweeps through a school causing significant absences. Teachers are not immune to these outbreaks.

    In my own experience I found myself ill with some frequency during my first 5 or so years of teaching, then (I assume) my immunities built up and for the next 20 years I was pretty healthy, and then in the last five I began getting sick with more frequency. I don’t think that pattern would be other than what could be expected.

    (Continued)

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    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      Thank you for your detailed responses Gary. Apologies for not having had the time to acknowledge and follow up. My point about Einstein's comment was not that unions shouldn't have been political from his perspective (he was a European and a socialist when that word still meant something, after all), rather that 'politics' is not necessarily a badge of honor today. That of course does not mean it can't be a necessity nor that it … Read More

      Thank you for your detailed responses Gary. Apologies for not having had the time to acknowledge and follow up.
      My point about Einstein’s comment was not that unions shouldn’t have been political from his perspective (he was a European and a socialist when that word still meant something, after all), rather that ‘politics’ is not necessarily a badge of honor today. That of course does not mean it can’t be a necessity nor that it can’t be a net positive when seen from a broader perspective. I am actually glad to see the quote in another thread about the fact that unions absolutely are political entities. Although I don’t have to like it, it does remind us that much about education policy is political.
      Although I agree that allowing sick days to accrue and count as service at retirement is not enough to incentivize working sick, I do think it provides an incentive not to take them ‘for no reason’. Nb to others about seeing people out and about on ‘sick days’: some policy combines personal leave, yearly physical and dental days off with sick leave.
      And thanks for relaying your experiences with sick leave. My concerns around sick leave lie with school funded classified staff. When a teacher is sick, we get a substitute. When a title 1 funded library coordinator is sick we get a closed library. While these are clearly outliers, I know of two schools in my immediate vicinity that closed their library because they were paying someone who never showed up and it was the only way they could figure out how to get rid of that person (who was taking legal sick days). I think districts should be forced to cover such a scenario, just as they currently are with teachers because it is the district who hires those people. (That in no way is an argument against sick days). My questions were to see whether it was possible for districts to manage sick day accrual. But now I realize that should not happen. The alternative is for them to manage the effects. 🙂

  8. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Yes, we need unions with reasonable power to protect and promote teacher interests. What we don't need are inflexible unions unwilling to transform with the times. Teachers are not unskilled workers who are easily replaced and their work is too important not to have a rigorous evaluation system in place to make sure that these highly educated professionals are up to the task. As for the conversation on sick time, it is making … Read More

    Yes, we need unions with reasonable power to protect and promote teacher interests. What we don’t need are inflexible unions unwilling to transform with the times. Teachers are not unskilled workers who are easily replaced and their work is too important not to have a rigorous evaluation system in place to make sure that these highly educated professionals are up to the task.

    As for the conversation on sick time, it is making me sick. But, you know, I can’t get paid to stay at home. This is an example of what’s wrong with unions – monetizing every benefit. I guess it’s too much to ask that sick time pay actually be made available for sick time needed. Maybe Obama Care should pay people for being healthy. Or, like on the other thread about summer school, we should pay kids to go to school. It’s just a sign of the times – how everyone is trying to make a buck. In the case of teachers, pay is relatively low so I wouldn’t bust a gut over it.

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    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Don, to me it's just basic morals. If your profession is education and you know it hurts kids when there's a sub, you don't consider it a benefit, you only take a personal day or sick day if you are presented with a unique situation or there's no other choice. My kids always say everything is on hold when they have a sub. It's just basic morals to not miss a day … Read More

      Don, to me it’s just basic morals. If your profession is education and you know it hurts kids when there’s a sub, you don’t consider it a benefit, you only take a personal day or sick day if you are presented with a unique situation or there’s no other choice. My kids always say everything is on hold when they have a sub. It’s just basic morals to not miss a day of work if you can avoid it. I understand if it’s a wedding or a big event, but you have Summer, Winter and Spring Break, I think a reasonable effort to be there every day possible is in order as a basic moral imperative.

      How can teachers push kids to make the moral decision of studying long hours, weekends, doing homework, paying attention, if they don’t perform their job in the most moral manner possible? When we have days of spike absences near holidays, it’s a bad example for children who will grow up to feel it’s OK to pretend to be sick to relax or interview for another job, etc. It’s just not right.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Floyd, do you remember that SF teacher who daily wrote in on my blog and talked about how she took time off of work so she could do another part time job and how she promoted the idea that everyone should take off the maximum number of allowable sick and personal days under the contract? Or the teacher of you're child who missed over a 100 days of school and could be seen hanging … Read More

        Floyd, do you remember that SF teacher who daily wrote in on my blog and talked about how she took time off of work so she could do another part time job and how she promoted the idea that everyone should take off the maximum number of allowable sick and personal days under the contract? Or the teacher of you’re child who missed over a 100 days of school and could be seen hanging out at cafes in the neighborhood? Well, I hardly need to remind you. It is a sickening subject and as you can see there are lots of people who have no problem with the abuse of public dollars and playing hookie. Then they talk about morals.

        For example, Gary just made a case that suspending the STSR accrual of sick time was a bad idea because it resulted in a lot teachers using the time just before they retired and admitted that it had negative consequences. Let’s look at how he described those consequences. ” It disrupted faculties (staff cohesion) and was not a positive for the systems.” No mention of the obvious and glaring direct harm to students whatsoever – just a vague reference to how it affected staff and the system. What a callous and dramatic oversight.

        But the fact that those teachers were able to take weeks or months off without getting a valid doctor’s verification, well – you can see that the system is not designed to protect the public interest. That’s because the contracts had been negotiated to the extreme benefit of the union and interests of the public and the students had no advocate in management. Gary unintentionally acknowledges this egregious misuse of public funding and doesn’t bat an eyelash.

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          I should add that the solution was to allow teachers to wrap sick time into their pensions rather than other solutions like having sick time available for the purpose it was intended and no other. It isn't about rewarding people for their good attendance. It's about not punishing them for illness. What affect does that have on the pension burden? How many teachers are going to work sick to pad the pension when they … Read More

          I should add that the solution was to allow teachers to wrap sick time into their pensions rather than other solutions like having sick time available for the purpose it was intended and no other. It isn’t about rewarding people for their good attendance. It’s about not punishing them for illness. What affect does that have on the pension burden? How many teachers are going to work sick to pad the pension when they really should take a day off? We’ll never know because this kind of negotiated concession to labor does not readily allow for scrutiny.

          • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            I hadn't noticed that, Gary just basically admitted his heart is with teachers not kids, and the brain is just justifying his misplaced heart. It would be OK if they got some money for it. Anything which would incentivize good attendance. I remember that woman, she felt it was a benefit. I had a friend who worked for BART and fellow workers encouraged him to take the maximum sick and personal … Read More

            I hadn’t noticed that, Gary just basically admitted his heart is with teachers not kids, and the brain is just justifying his misplaced heart. It would be OK if they got some money for it. Anything which would incentivize good attendance. I remember that woman, she felt it was a benefit. I had a friend who worked for BART and fellow workers encouraged him to take the maximum sick and personal days allowable as a benefit after he didn’t take any for 3 years, saying it made others look bad and wasn’t “good for the team”. No mention of how much it hurts BART to have people call in sick, just about team cohesion. That is the problem with the union point of view. It would be one thing if there were some balance, but the end consumer doesn’t seem to really matter. In this case it’s children. We acknowledge the valid points of the other side, but any talk about hookey, Asian performance in poverty, bad teachers staying on the job, and the other side pretends they don’t exist.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            Great point don. So the accrual being applied to pensions is a strong disincentive to calling in sick when you’re really not.
            Gary, when an employee moves districts and transfers their sick days, does money to cover the cost also move to the new district or is that (potential) cost simply assumed by the hiring district? I expect the process of applying sick accrual to the pension upon retirement involves a ‘payout’ from the district to STRS (or related)?

  9. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    out of curiosity, is there any legal prohibition on paying out accrued sick days in order to avoid sick days accruing past a certain level (similar to how accrued vacation is sometimes treated)?

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      It would be a good idea to pay a bonus for unused days and institute this policy in lieu of raises. This way, those who really work hard and avoid the negatives of subs for their students would get a raise, but if you use your sick days and personal days, it's flat. Or you could make the raise smaller. This raise would be paid for by reduced sub costs, and it would … Read More

      It would be a good idea to pay a bonus for unused days and institute this policy in lieu of raises. This way, those who really work hard and avoid the negatives of subs for their students would get a raise, but if you use your sick days and personal days, it’s flat. Or you could make the raise smaller. This raise would be paid for by reduced sub costs, and it would prove there’s no free lunch. Essentially, teachers who use no personal days or sick days could earn perhaps $2,000 extra a year, which in my view is fair as they are doing a better job of teaching children if they only take a sick day when really sick or in need. Some now take weekend trips or schedule doctor’s appointments on work days instead of on common holidays or time off. This would reward the teachers who deserve it the most.

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Navigio: Accrued days of sick leave can be "retrieved" when retiring and calculating STRS. It allows for a small bump in pensions. This of course upsets the anti-pension crowd because, if there's one problem America has, it's too many people with a secure pension. (And, yes, I'm being facetious.) Back in the 1970s, when I was first credentialed, some genius decided that increasing pensions for unused sick days was a bad idea (yes these "ideas" just keep … Read More

      Navigio:

      Accrued days of sick leave can be “retrieved” when retiring and calculating STRS. It allows for a small bump in pensions. This of course upsets the anti-pension crowd because, if there’s one problem America has, it’s too many people with a secure pension. (And, yes, I’m being facetious.)

      Back in the 1970s, when I was first credentialed, some genius decided that increasing pensions for unused sick days was a bad idea (yes these “ideas” just keep coming back) and retirement rules were changed abruptly. Senior teachers, with some accuracy, decided they had been snubbed unfairly by the state. This caused some of them to just use up their sick days prior to retirement, which fundamentally meant they retired from the classroom before formally retiring from their job.

      This proved to be a boon to me. The 70s was also the time of the “Nixon Recession” and significant declining enrollment in parts of CA. Schools were closed, districts were consolidated, many jobs of quite senior teachers were eliminated. Jobs were very tough to come by. The number of senior teachers using their sick days created a number of long term substitute jobs for me and allowed me to stay in teaching and support my family.

      The above being said, I also think it disrupted faculties (staff cohesion) and was not a positive for the system. I would never endorse eliminating the sick day accrual for STRS again.

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Gary, I agree that accumulating them isn't ideal and most people think more short-term. Why not just give a bonus for not using them? Then in effect, if a teacher is not sick or doesn't organize right and takes a day off they could have worked, they'll know they're losing a potential bonus. Instead of 10% raises over 3 years, go with 6 but throw this in. Then it will be … Read More

        Gary, I agree that accumulating them isn’t ideal and most people think more short-term. Why not just give a bonus for not using them? Then in effect, if a teacher is not sick or doesn’t organize right and takes a day off they could have worked, they’ll know they’re losing a potential bonus. Instead of 10% raises over 3 years, go with 6 but throw this in. Then it will be more like 15 for those who never call in sick, 6 for those who max their days. It will be win win, people struggling to support their family can hustle and get a bonus. Short-term subs hurt test scores, hurt kids, so why not discourage it economically on a short-term basis? In late May, the checks go out, and anyone who took a day off they didn’t need to will regret losing the summer bonus. If you show up every day, if you do the moral thing and stay in bed Sunday if you feel bad rather than risk it and then miss Monday, you provide more value to children, and the government should pay teachers based on the value given to children.

  10. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Here’s great article from Education Next (yes, I know) by Marc Tucker, President of the National Center for Education and the Economy. It summarizes the history on teaching unions in the context of the larger union movement and sheds light on the current predicament that these unions are now faced with. I see it as a fairly balanced article.

    http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/EducationNext_Winter

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      The political side does have it's costs. Here in SF, the local union put hundreds of thousands of dollars into fighting a proposition that would have made it so parents could be guaranteed a school close to home for kindergarteners if they wanted it. Parents got signatures and in a barebones operation, lost by 0.08%. The union sent out fliers telling everyone if it passed, kids would switch mid year. It … Read More

      The political side does have it’s costs. Here in SF, the local union put hundreds of thousands of dollars into fighting a proposition that would have made it so parents could be guaranteed a school close to home for kindergarteners if they wanted it. Parents got signatures and in a barebones operation, lost by 0.08%. The union sent out fliers telling everyone if it passed, kids would switch mid year. It lost by 153 votes, meaning 78 turn it, out of 180,000 and I personally met several people, about 10, who said they were for neighborhood school assignment guarantees but didn’t want the chaos of mid school year switches, so had they not done so, it would have passed. They just oppose anything done outside their power sphere. Now they are finally acknowledging this is driving families out of SF and are going to change it this year, but 5 years of families suffered due to the union telling everyone this.

      The union gets into political issues which have nothing to do with benefitting members.

  11. Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

    California teachers unions are often considered among the strongest in the nation. But that has not guaranteed us high student achievement. And as Mr. Ravani pointed out California teachers unions have not guaranteed us comparatively high student funding either. Given that unionization of teachers has a strong geographical correlation (low unionization in the South and Plains states) I'm going to guess that the broad culture (many historical factors) of a state is … Read More

    California teachers unions are often considered among the strongest in the nation. But that has not guaranteed us high student achievement. And as Mr. Ravani pointed out California teachers unions have not guaranteed us comparatively high student funding either. Given that unionization of teachers has a strong geographical correlation (low unionization in the South and Plains states) I’m going to guess that the broad culture (many historical factors) of a state is the driver of education funding and achievement. But that doesn’t detract from the positive role that unions have played, such as their role in equal pay for equal work. So yes unions have been needed and will be needed in a democracy. But the metrics being considered here seem to me to be the wrong ones.

  12. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Why is Ed Source publicizing Gary’s highly partisan article? Is Ed Source not as neutral as I imagine it to be? That said, there ‘s no reason why it has to be neutral. But I wonder about the intent here. It isn’t a news piece and strictly op-ed. What about equal time in the spirit of nonpartisanship?

    Replies

    • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

      EdSource takes many different viewpoints. Scan through the Opinion history. Some of the topics conflict and some are random educational topics. It is rather obvious that no one opinion is favored over another. I am sure it has more to do with what they get than what they want. You are reading too much into EdSource's "intent." Why would that be? Do you feel that your voice is not heard? If you feel the need to … Read More

      EdSource takes many different viewpoints. Scan through the Opinion history. Some of the topics conflict and some are random educational topics. It is rather obvious that no one opinion is favored over another. I am sure it has more to do with what they get than what they want. You are reading too much into EdSource’s “intent.” Why would that be? Do you feel that your voice is not heard?

      If you feel the need to write a follow-up piece, one that fits your own partisan viewpoint, it clearly states that EdSource especially welcomes articles from parents who wish to share their educational experiences. Simply scroll over the Opinion section at the top of this page for the link to get started. If the link doesn’t work for you, I’ve included the email here: “EdSource welcomes guest commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource, please email it to us at edsource@edsource.org.”

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        I have been reading and commenting on this site for a few months and I've yet to read even mildly moderate to right-leaning viewpoints. When writing doesn't toe the liberal line to the letter you get outrage. I 've read comments lambasting writers for the smallest oversights in accurately representing liberal views. In this instance, Ed Source could easily have published an anti-union stance, but it didn't do so. I can't … Read More

        I have been reading and commenting on this site for a few months and I’ve yet to read even mildly moderate to right-leaning viewpoints. When writing doesn’t toe the liberal line to the letter you get outrage. I ‘ve read comments lambasting writers for the smallest oversights in accurately representing liberal views. In this instance, Ed Source could easily have published an anti-union stance, but it didn’t do so. I can’t remember reading a single article advocating recent reformist views – pro charter, pro-teacher evaluations, union reform, etc.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          Go back to November 2013. There's a piece that is clearly pro-charter and there's a piece from one of the attorney's in the Vergara battle. Or you can check out the school choice piece from January 2014. Did you forget about the Arun Ramanthan piece that you commented on? It is all about data collection. That topic does not exactly toe what teachers or union members think. It is rather difficult to determine what the … Read More

          Go back to November 2013. There’s a piece that is clearly pro-charter and there’s a piece from one of the attorney’s in the Vergara battle.

          Or you can check out the school choice piece from January 2014.

          Did you forget about the Arun Ramanthan piece that you commented on? It is all about data collection. That topic does not exactly toe what teachers or union members think.

          It is rather difficult to determine what the liberal line on educational issues is nowadays. Duncan, Obama, Rhee, Gates and DFER certainly do not fit your categorization of what the liberal line is.

          Perhaps you have your pulse on those matters, though–all the more reason to submit your own piece! As I stated before, the problem has to do with not enough different people contributing their opinions. It has nothing to do with EdSource speaking in one voice like EdVoice. If your piece is well-written, they will publish it. Are you up for the challenge? Or do you wanna just complain about it?

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        This is true, but there is an unwritten rule that is kind of a conspiracy among Caroline, Gary, and several others that Asian achievement while in poverty must never be mentioned. Hours studied per week, ditto. The paradigm is more money equals more test scores, unions support children 100% and never to anything which puts them second, and the achievement gap is only due to racism, poverty and social inequality. While there is … Read More

        This is true, but there is an unwritten rule that is kind of a conspiracy among Caroline, Gary, and several others that Asian achievement while in poverty must never be mentioned. Hours studied per week, ditto. The paradigm is more money equals more test scores, unions support children 100% and never to anything which puts them second, and the achievement gap is only due to racism, poverty and social inequality. While there is some truth to these points, anything that contradicts that truth is to be ignored. Hence poor Asians working hard and doing well in school is completely ignored by Gary. It’s like the Elephant in the room. Everyone sees it but all pretend it isn’t there. There is no model to follow, no cultural issue. If you could eliminate poverty, you’d eliminate the achievement gap, period. Inconvenient facts which disprove this never will be mentioned by members of this conspiracy. Even Caroline follows it even though her kids went to school with many over-achieving, low income Asian American children. Lowell is 41% low income and many well off, educated kids don’t qualify for it, but this is ignored. It is inconvenient to the poverty-as-scapegoat paradigm of the past 40 years. We are nearing a Scientific Revolution a la Kuhn due to these facts growing in prominence and being ignored.

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      It's funny you should say that. IMHO, reformist views are prominently displayed on this website (and I was just thinking to myself yesterday how the 'bad teacher' mantra seems to have been brought up in so many recent articles). While it may not always be in the issues covered it is often in how they are presented. Commenters tend to highlight those biases when they are noticed. But of course, when you're a hammer everything … Read More

      It’s funny you should say that. IMHO, reformist views are prominently displayed on this website (and I was just thinking to myself yesterday how the ‘bad teacher’ mantra seems to have been brought up in so many recent articles). While it may not always be in the issues covered it is often in how they are presented. Commenters tend to highlight those biases when they are noticed. But of course, when you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail. It’s not surprising we’d see that differently. Btw, I don’t think the traditional notions of liberal and conservative apply to education issues except for the right-leaning (perhaps even libertarian) opinion that we shouldn’t have public education.

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Navigio, it is clear that those on the far pro-union, poverty is the cause of all poor performance, pro-LIFO extremist side will never acknowledge superior habits among Asian Americans and some other immigrant groups and how changing your home life, providing tutoring and advice that studying long hours is the only way to get out of poverty, or the most likely way, and turning the TV off is key. No mention is ever made … Read More

        Navigio, it is clear that those on the far pro-union, poverty is the cause of all poor performance, pro-LIFO extremist side will never acknowledge superior habits among Asian Americans and some other immigrant groups and how changing your home life, providing tutoring and advice that studying long hours is the only way to get out of poverty, or the most likely way, and turning the TV off is key. No mention is ever made that upper middle income whites study under 10 hours and poor Asians about the same as Rich Asians on average, 15.6, from age 11-17. Effort is taboo. It’s assumed if only kids had more money, they’d get better grades, and that grades don’t come from work but advantage. It’s basically assumed all kids study roughly the same amount, and differences in grades are based on income, access to special tutoring and services from parents, books, parental vocabulary, all factors, but it’s assumed nothing is due to hours studied or focus while in class. If focus is mentioned, the claim is poor kids can’t focus because they didn’t eat, even though we as a State provide two meals per day to all children of modest incomes. Effort is taboo. This is why this side is losing the argument. They ignore obvious facts. Caroline raised kids in SF and was well off, and saw poor Asians get good grades and work hard. Many have seen this, they just choose to ignore it. Obama talks about this, but Ravani and Caroline studiously ignore effort and culture in addressing the achievement gap and the poor performance of many but not all kids in poverty.

  13. Susan Dixon 2 years ago2 years ago

    “State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states.” If this is true why does California have one of the lowest per pupil spending amounts and one of the strongest teacher unions ? Doesn’t appear to be true

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Susan: There are always "outliers." Note that Virginia is mentioned in the main article as breaking the low performing track recored of non-union states. As home to the "DC Corridor" it has some of the highest paid employees (and lobbyists) in the nation. Family wealth tracks directly to high achievement on tests. Then we have CA. Yes, it is unionized and, yes, it is low spending. Like Virginia there are "peculiarities" in the state. The main one … Read More

      Susan:

      There are always “outliers.” Note that Virginia is mentioned in the main article as breaking the low performing track recored of non-union states. As home to the “DC Corridor” it has some of the highest paid employees (and lobbyists) in the nation. Family wealth tracks directly to high achievement on tests.

      Then we have CA. Yes, it is unionized and, yes, it is low spending. Like Virginia there are “peculiarities” in the state. The main one being, as the birth place of Prop 13 and the anti-tax movement, it has a “culture” that is hard to breach. Politicians still consider Prop 13 the ‘third-rail” of CA politics. With hard work that might change.

      See, above, my response to Andrew.

  14. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    It is serendipitous that the Annie E Casey Foundation's 25th edition of the Kid's Count Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being was recently released. The Data Book looks at four main indicators of of children's well-being, Economic, Education, Health, and Family and Community to create a state ranking system. Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Minnesota have the top ranks. Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi fill the bottom slots. CA "escapes" total … Read More

    It is serendipitous that the Annie E Casey Foundation’s 25th edition of the Kid’s Count Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being was recently released. The Data Book looks at four main indicators of of children’s well-being, Economic, Education, Health, and Family and Community to create a state ranking system. Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Minnesota have the top ranks. Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi fill the bottom slots. CA “escapes” total humiliation by coming in at number 40.

    Among the statements in the report (p. 12):

    “Indeed, low test scores among our lowest-income students appear to account for America’s mediocre rankings in international comparisons.

    The prevailing narrative about American public education is that it is “failing,” but the reality is that the system serves the most advantaged children quite well, producing some of the highest test scores in the world. As both poverty and wealth have become more concentrated residentially, evidence suggests that school districts and individual schools
    are becoming increasingly segregated by socioeconomic status.

    Given that in-school factors account for only a third or less of the variation in test scores, we must face the fact that our high child poverty rate constrains our nation’s academic achievement. Schools can make a difference at the margins, but they cannot overcome the vast cognitive and social-emotional development differences between high- and low-income children that are already entrenched by the time kids enter kindergarten.”

    Well said.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Gary, I have one simple question, why do you ignore Asians' and other immigrants' achievement? Have you read 'Triple Package'? What is your solution? $20 minimum wage? It won't happen. We may get 10.10, which historically will be huge and I'm for as it will reverse the fact that 95% of GDP growth since 2008 has gone to the top 1%, but personally I doubt we will see historic academic … Read More

      Gary, I have one simple question, why do you ignore Asians’ and other immigrants’ achievement? Have you read ‘Triple Package’? What is your solution? $20 minimum wage? It won’t happen. We may get 10.10, which historically will be huge and I’m for as it will reverse the fact that 95% of GDP growth since 2008 has gone to the top 1%, but personally I doubt we will see historic academic improvement. I have family where they don’t value education but somehow work their way into a 100k plus niche in insurance, construction management, police, and their kids don’t do that well in school. It isn’t money, it’s hours studied per week, tutoring, support and priorities. The extra $5,900 per year everyone with kids on minimum wage will receive probably within 2 years will buy everything you complain about, vegetables, binders, even some tutoring, books. I doubt it will put a dent into the achievement gap because it doesn’t address effort and support, and education as a priority over leisure and conspicuous consumption. It turns out being Han Chinese or East Indian is more valuable to test scores than $30k in family income. Why is that and what can we learn from that? Whites have more money but don’t do very impressively and only 8.7% qualify now for UCs, with nearly as many whites going to UCs from out of state as in-state, and 33.5% of Asians qualifying. Why is that? If you control for income, Asians are way ahead of whites. This is what we need to study, but you purposely ignore it and have for years.

  15. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    "State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states" Why are California teachers' unions unable to achieve this, if this is the norm for other unionized states? California is sixth highest in local and state revenue collections, but nearly last in the nation in educational funding per student. And California teachers' unions are working with what should a friendly Democrat controlled legislature. I've seen some posts by those … Read More

    “State education funding per student tends to be higher in unionized, higher achieving states”

    Why are California teachers’ unions unable to achieve this, if this is the norm for other unionized states? California is sixth highest in local and state revenue collections, but nearly last in the nation in educational funding per student. And California teachers’ unions are working with what should a friendly Democrat controlled legislature.

    I’ve seen some posts by those affiliated with California teachers’ unions that suggest that increasing taxes, i.e. more overall revenue, is the only answer. But California state and local per capita tax collections are quite high relative to the national average and other states, begging the question of why education funding per student doesn’t even come close to what it should be given the tax receipts per capita.

    To some extent, we are dealing with a zero sum game. Are teachers’ unions unwilling to claim a fair share of state revenues for education because other non-educational state and local worker’s unions will face cuts as a result? In the last recession, something like 30,000 teachers were laid off, about one-tenth of the teaching workforce at a time when California already had the worst teacher/student staffing ratios in the nation. How many CHP officers were laid off?

    Is the relationship between California teachers’ unions and the Democrat controlled legislature too cozy? With the union teachers assuming essentially the role of the abused spouse in an abusive marriage? Happy to just keep LIFO, tenure and high salaries for the oldest teachers, while the younger teachers were thrown under the funding bus. If 30,000 teachers can be laid off, when was the last time any legislator, or especially a Democratic legislator, was laid off, voted out of office through concerted effort for inadequately funding education?

    If the California teachers’ unions continue to allow the funding inadequacies, teachers generally will be blamed for the adverse outcomes. If LIFO and tenure vanish, it will be in part because voters saw and remembered headlines like “beloved young teacher of the year laid off due to LIFO . . .” If adequate funding were required, such headlines would never have occurred.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Those are good questions, Andrew. Obviously the answers are complex and would require another article or two. (I'll think about it.) Some of the answers are pretty transparent and have been discussed many times in other venues. We have an electorate that tends to be old and White and a school population that is now composed mostly of children of color. The information about CA's status as 50th (or perhaps 49th) in spending adjusted for cost-of-living … Read More

      Those are good questions, Andrew. Obviously the answers are complex and would require another article or two. (I’ll think about it.)

      Some of the answers are pretty transparent and have been discussed many times in other venues.

      We have an electorate that tends to be old and White and a school population that is now composed mostly of children of color. The information about CA’s status as 50th (or perhaps 49th) in spending adjusted for cost-of-living per child, fewest counselors, librarians, nurses, administrators, etc., etc., doesn’t tend to generate great alarm.

      That being said, the voters did respond well to Prop 30 which, in collaboration with the governor, was a union driven project. Prop 25 of a few years ago that reduced budget passage in the legislature to a simple majority was union driven. These were heavy lifts. The “Right” pumps big dollars into the state to fight these initiatives and often puts out their own initiatives, not so much to win, but to tie up union resources.

      The “big picture” is back to school funding. CA’s unadjusted expenditures per child come in somewhere in the 30s compared to other states, but near last in the nation in the adjusted for regional cost-of-living as done by Ed Week in Quality Counts. CA’s per capita tax burden is around 10th in the nation (depending on the source you use) in unadjusted dollars, but where do you think that would put the tax burden/revenue stream in adjusted dollars? A conservative based organization recently raised the issue of teachers’ pay in the state, noting that it is relatively high in the nation. Take three CA cities and their teachers’ pay: San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The “average” teachers’ pay in unadjusted dollars in those cities is around 6th in the nation. Then you adjust them for “regional cost-of-living” they average 47th in the nation.(National Center for Policy Analysis). So, there is a major issue. Having a revenue stream (tax “burden”) that is in the top ten in the nation is (almost) nothing compared to having a cost-of-living that is 2nd in the nation.

      There are a number of areas in CA’s tax structure that need remediation. Prop 13 is likely at the top of the list followed by various other tax breaks to business. Fighting to get that remediation will be expensive. Union resources will be stretched. Then there are attacks like Vergara. It is just “coincidence” as Prop 30 is passed–by the state’s teachers acting through their unions–raising taxes on the wealthy to support schools, and Prop 27–attempting to limit unions resources–was defeated that there is a lawsuit brought attacking the state’s teachers. (A number of common names backing Vergara and Prop 27 and opposed to Prop 30 can be found with a little poking around.)

      The unions will continue to work for teachers’ and students’ interest but, in famously anti-tax CA, it will take all concerned citizens rowing in the same direction. Grab an oar.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        CA's high cost of living is largely a function of the urban centers, but we don't adjust per pupil spending to accommodate those differences. And there's a good reason for that - state taxation is the same across localities. It would be a real travesty if it wasn't. Why should someone from Fresno subsidize SFUSD because of our COL? No one is forced to live here. For this reason, state restrictions on parcel tax initiatives … Read More

        CA’s high cost of living is largely a function of the urban centers, but we don’t adjust per pupil spending to accommodate those differences. And there’s a good reason for that – state taxation is the same across localities. It would be a real travesty if it wasn’t. Why should someone from Fresno subsidize SFUSD because of our COL? No one is forced to live here. For this reason, state restrictions on parcel tax initiatives should be lifted.

        • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          I disagree. Everything but schools correlates to higher pay in higher cost areas in California, police, mayors, DMV workers, firemen, public nurses, social workers. Taxes aren't equal, more tax dollars for education come from the higher cost areas, even more so because these areas have fewer children. The only profession in which teachers are paid less in San Francisco than Manteca is teachers. We pay way more in taxes. If … Read More

          I disagree. Everything but schools correlates to higher pay in higher cost areas in California, police, mayors, DMV workers, firemen, public nurses, social workers. Taxes aren’t equal, more tax dollars for education come from the higher cost areas, even more so because these areas have fewer children. The only profession in which teachers are paid less in San Francisco than Manteca is teachers. We pay way more in taxes. If you look at the way it is now, these expensive areas are subsidizing the Central Valley. If not, then these areas are subsidizing us in every other profession except teachers. The original purpose of Serrano was to equalize funding between wealthy suburbs right next to poor suburbs or cities, figuring maybe teachers would live one community over. In real dollars, now San Francisco gets way less per pupil while paying way more. Sure, we choose to live here, but we don’t want it to be only for the rich in private schools. Kids who are poor in wealthier areas get less in COL-adjusted terms than kids who are poor in Fresno. I think cost of living should be a factor.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Floyd, In California a red light violation is $446. It isn’t 300 in Fresno and 600 in LA. We have state funded education in California. If you want to distribute revenue unequally than you should tax unequally. Been there done that. Serrano put an end to that regressive style of taxation and funding.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Floyd, learn how and why the funding of education is state controlled.

  16. TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

    Unions certainly have a right to defend their members. The problems with unions, however, especially teacher unions, is that they have become too political, spreading their sizable arms and legs into just about every political fight and proposition out there. Because of this, they have become too noticeable, too easy to blame, too much of a whipping boy. In essence, they have become the scapegoat for all that troubles education. As Gary states above, the … Read More

    Unions certainly have a right to defend their members. The problems with unions, however, especially teacher unions, is that they have become too political, spreading their sizable arms and legs into just about every political fight and proposition out there. Because of this, they have become too noticeable, too easy to blame, too much of a whipping boy. In essence, they have become the scapegoat for all that troubles education. As Gary states above, the fight that unions have is not about causation nor is it even really about correlation. Those arguments are just plain silly when you look at the data.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      I'm confused by the point you're making here. First you say unions are too political and, in essence, have too much influence in the political process, which of course they have every right to be under the First Amendment, but then you go on to say that as a result they have become too noticeable and, as such, singled out. Is your concern that that wield too much power or that there's too much … Read More

      I’m confused by the point you’re making here. First you say unions are too political and, in essence, have too much influence in the political process, which of course they have every right to be under the First Amendment, but then you go on to say that as a result they have become too noticeable and, as such, singled out. Is your concern that that wield too much power or that there’s too much notice of the power they wield?

      • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

        Neither. . . exactly, Don. While unions do wield a degree of lobbying power, I never explicitly addressed the amount of power that they have. Unlike you, I just do not see it through the "power" lens at all. They are just noticeable in a negative way; they stand out for their political issues and not for what they are. The political connotations always color unions in a negative tone. Consider: Whenever corporations, unions, or … Read More

        Neither. . . exactly, Don. While unions do wield a degree of lobbying power, I never explicitly addressed the amount of power that they have. Unlike you, I just do not see it through the “power” lens at all. They are just noticeable in a negative way; they stand out for their political issues and not for what they are. The political connotations always color unions in a negative tone.

        Consider: Whenever corporations, unions, or individuals stand out for whatever political issue there is, they risk alienating others; creating false or hasty generalizations in the public about who they are and what they do; and becoming punching bags for the opposition. While the degree to power is certainly present, it has very little to do with the argument itself. For instance, my son-in-law positively hates Sean Penn. Won’t see a movie he’s in and has difficulty divorcing Penn’s political views from what he does with his acting. Sad to say it, but I think there is a little bit of my son-in-law’s way of thinking in most people in general, especially when it comes to unions.

        In addition, consider some of the propositions CTA has been involved in for the last 20 years. Some of those propositions had nothing to do with education. Some only peripherally touched on educational issues. Whatever the case, it certainly did not cultivate positive feelings in people.

        And, Don, for the record, my comment had nothing to do with union “rights” or what “is.” It had more to do with what “ought” to happen: Unions should maintain whatever degree of “power” that they have, create a little more good press, and walk a little more softly in the political spectrum.

    • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      The unions see any reform or change as a threat to the status quo they so enjoy. That's why the poverty excuse is obsessed over and Gary has never advocated poor families at least investigate the Asian model which enables high performance even when in poverty. He and Caroline simply ignore it because it is inconvenient to their worldview (Thomas Kuhn again). And there are members of every race which achieve this, … Read More

      The unions see any reform or change as a threat to the status quo they so enjoy. That’s why the poverty excuse is obsessed over and Gary has never advocated poor families at least investigate the Asian model which enables high performance even when in poverty. He and Caroline simply ignore it because it is inconvenient to their worldview (Thomas Kuhn again). And there are members of every race which achieve this, success while in poverty. If the union were really focused on poverty they’d advocate more money going to tutors and free books and limits on across the board raises which will crowd out said funding. They’d have creative ideas and investigate why those who do thrive in poverty do so. They’d openly praise those who overcome poverty and advocate all do so. They ignore so many facts and examples. Poverty is not their real concern. It’s a smokescreen to avoid any change in their cherished status quo. It’s not an intellectually honest issue. You can tell by what they are silent on more than what they talk about.

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      I agree with the notion that the one real negative is the politicization (curious that Gary chose that particular quote from Einstein), but for a different reason: politics is a thugs game revolving around money. You need to play by those rules in that game. People lambast unions for doing that yet we’ve given them no choice by taking the opportunity to screw over teachers every chance we get.

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      I think you should reread what Einstein had to say about union involvement in the "political field." As in other issues he knew what he was talking about. A quote from one of the linked studies above: "Teachers are also essential advocates for their students because their needs are bound up with the needs of their students to the extent that concessions for teachers benefit students and enhance teacher quality and student achievement.” As I often … Read More

      I think you should reread what Einstein had to say about union involvement in the “political field.” As in other issues he knew what he was talking about.

      A quote from one of the linked studies above: “Teachers are also essential advocates for their students because their needs are bound up with the needs of their students to the extent that concessions for teachers benefit students and enhance teacher quality and student achievement.”

      As I often say, teachers’ unions in the collective bargaining process push for improvements in teachers’ working conditions which are students’ learning conditions. One of the areas is class size. A district budget is a district budget. There are (were) restricted funds and then general funds. Both class size reduction and teachers compensation come out of the general fund. In effect teachers trade improved instructional conditions (lower class size) for the possibility of improving take home pay. But wait, some say, lowering class size makes the teacher’s job “easier.” Not really. If you have 33 kids in a class you can give each student 3+% of your energy. In a class of 20, each student gets 5% of your energy. In either case, you expend 100% of energy, but have a greater chance of success with 20 kids. With 33 you give fewer assignments that are time consuming to correct. With 20 you do more. And so on.

      In the political sphere, teachers’ lobbying is also on the behalf of students. Sometimes it’s direct, Prop 30 likely would not have passed without union involvement. Sometimes it’s more oblique, like Prop 25 that reduced the budget vote to a simple majority. Many times the unions support social., health, and other welfare programs because it’s right and just, and because kids learn better when they have a support system.

      The public interest is better served with union involvement.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        So here's Gary again portraying a bias as objective. Here he says - "Both class size reduction and teachers compensation come out of the general fund. In effect teachers trade improved instructional conditions (lower class size) for the possibility of improving take home pay." Teacher's aren't trading anything. Technically speaking, unions aren't elected governing bodies and they don't determine what goes in the general fund (except through their lobbying and campaigning efforts), but Gary wants us … Read More

        So here’s Gary again portraying a bias as objective.

        Here he says – “Both class size reduction and teachers compensation come out of the general fund. In effect teachers trade improved instructional conditions (lower class size) for the possibility of improving take home pay.”

        Teacher’s aren’t trading anything. Technically speaking, unions aren’t elected governing bodies and they don’t determine what goes in the general fund (except through their lobbying and campaigning efforts), but Gary wants us to believe that it is only that way because of largesse of the union – as if it is only through its goodwill that we can have class size reduction. It is this kind of hubris that pervades his thinking and that of union leaders like him. By his thinking we should thank our lucky stars they don’t insist on class sizes at 60 so teachers can get a raise.

        Then he says – “In the political sphere, teachers’ lobbying is also on the behalf of students. Sometimes it’s direct, Prop 30 likely would not have passed without union involvement. Sometimes it’s more oblique, like Prop 25 that reduced the budget vote to a simple majority. Many times the unions support social., health, and other welfare programs because it’s right and just, and because kids learn better when they have a support system.”

        Yikes! Right out of the gate after the passage of Prop 30 unions across the state were making demands for salary hikes, not class size reduction. As for his touting of the benefits of union support of social programs because as he said, ” The public interest is better served with union involvement”, now we know what is in the public interest – whatever the union says is in the public interest. It doesn’t matter that there’s a long history of failed social programs or that union members may not have the world view of the hard-core left wing progressives and may simply want the union to function to safeguard them in the workplace.

        Geez

        • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          Gary has a point, I have been surprised there was such enthusiasm for smaller class size. It does reduce teacher salaries. I feel 25 in Kindergarten would be fine especially considering on average it would be 23 with an absence and a sickness, and would allow 25% higher pay than 20. As for other issues, it's hit and miss, and neither here nor there. However, the union is against the benefits of … Read More

          Gary has a point, I have been surprised there was such enthusiasm for smaller class size. It does reduce teacher salaries. I feel 25 in Kindergarten would be fine especially considering on average it would be 23 with an absence and a sickness, and would allow 25% higher pay than 20. As for other issues, it’s hit and miss, and neither here nor there. However, the union is against the benefits of children when they allow policies which enable serial hooky players to prosper at the expense of children. Also, there’s no way you can tell me kids are served when the likes of teachers like Pang and Berndt and Schmuckler are defended. When you defend the bad, it isn’t in line with what’s good for children. But I have been surprised the union pushes for smaller classes. I don’t think it should go back to 30 but I would favor 25 from K-3. As for Einstein, it’s like quoting Jefferson, times have changed so much it’s not really relevant. I doubt Einstein would have defended Berndt or Pang or Schmuckler or Ho. There’s just no way. There are thousands bad teachers the union defends. I also know Einstein was very proud of Jewish intellectual achievement and would not have approved of the way Gary ignores over-achievement in scholastics by Asians in poverty. I know Einstein did poorly in school and then became a genius, I know the whole story, but he was very proud of the number of Jews winning academic and scientific awards. He would have wanted to give credit where credit was due and would not have considered poverty to be an excuse for poor academic performance when there are ethnic groups which thrive even while in poverty.

          Also, Einstein was meticulous in addressing each point in his essays. He would not have ignored any fact, be it Asian achievement, poor teaching, poor parenting, or any other one, including many I don’t mention and lead to conclusions I disagree with. He would have been very thorough in addressing each point, not ignoring entire batches of facts as Gary and Caroline both routinely do.

  17. Educator 2 years ago2 years ago

    "Scores controlled for poverty the US scores near the top..." Is there an article anyone can point me to that explains this in more detail? I've read this before but have never seen the actual data. I've also read that our richest students get lower scores to other nations' richest students. So I don't know what to believe in these international test comparisons. In the end, for me I say … Read More

    “Scores controlled for poverty the US scores near the top…”

    Is there an article anyone can point me to that explains this in more detail? I’ve read this before but have never seen the actual data. I’ve also read that our richest students get lower scores to other nations’ richest students. So I don’t know what to believe in these international test comparisons.

    In the end, for me I say who cares. Well I guess it’s important to look at international test comparisons to some extent but it’s just one of many things to look at. Asian nations’ education ministers are bashing their systems saying why can’t we teach like the Americans, while here we’re so worried about Shanghai’s scores.

    Replies

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      When someone says 'correcting for poverty' the intention is to attempt to make a comparison between two different entities more 'apples to apples' than it might otherwise be. A simple example might be if one school consists of students whose parents are highly educated while another consists of students whose parents have only minimal education. In california, approximately 8 out of 10 (give or take) children of parents who have graduate degrees will score proficient … Read More

      When someone says ‘correcting for poverty’ the intention is to attempt to make a comparison between two different entities more ‘apples to apples’ than it might otherwise be.

      A simple example might be if one school consists of students whose parents are highly educated while another consists of students whose parents have only minimal education. In california, approximately 8 out of 10 (give or take) children of parents who have graduate degrees will score proficient on the English CST. In contrast, only about 3 out of 10 (give or take) children of parents who have not graduated high school will score proficient on the CST. So if your school consists entirely of one of these groups of students, it is likely that its average proficiency rate will differ by almost 50 percentage points from a school that consists almost entirely of the other. Simply comparing those proficient rates is not considered apples to apples, especially when trying to use these scores to measure school ‘quality’ (parent income level is obviously a phenomenon largely independent (in a causal manner) of the school).

      The same concept exists in international tests where a country may only have a few percentage childhood poverty rate, while the us has about 20 to 25 (and much higher in some areas). So similar to above, comparing them straight up is not considered apples to apples. Thus some effort has been made to ‘control for poverty’ in that realm by comparing the results of only our districts or students with similar poverty rates to those other countries. For example, lets say finland has a childhood poverty rate of 4%, then we’d compare their results to only districts or students with rates of 4% (roughly speaking). There are a number of articles where this was applied specifically to PISA results. Although this is not the one I was thinking of, this one shows some actual numbers:
      http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2014/02/pisa-its-still-poverty-not-stupid/

      Obviously, that is independent of the question of whether we should even believe test scores. 🙂

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Navigio, you are right that income and education of parents plays a huge role, but we should seek out outliers and use them as models. Who does well even when in poverty and even with low education? Asians. Nigerians. Russians. Lebanese. Cubans. How? Studying more hours, seeking out libraries, tutors, using resources. Poor Asians outperform average income whites and are equally to upper middle class whites. This … Read More

        Navigio, you are right that income and education of parents plays a huge role, but we should seek out outliers and use them as models. Who does well even when in poverty and even with low education? Asians. Nigerians. Russians. Lebanese. Cubans. How? Studying more hours, seeking out libraries, tutors, using resources. Poor Asians outperform average income whites and are equally to upper middle class whites. This shows a culture more focused on education, more ready to spend the little money one has on a tutor or a book than a once in 2 years trip to Disneyland or nice clothes or alcohol or cigarettes, or even drugs.

        Schools need to make up for bad parenting. How? By convincing all kids to give their best effort. Not just a soft best effort agreed to by soft American society. If you spent an hour playing video games and an hour watching a show last night and you get a B you didn’t “do your best.” You need to convince kids to sacrifice. You also need to provide tutoring to those who needed. Kumon should be available to the poor just like reduced and free lunches, it is food for the soul. For the mind. Equal access for rich and poor to high test scores and university educations should be as important to us as lettuce and carrots. We should tax luxury items and use the tax to pay for more tutors. It’s all a matter of priority.

        • Komisarka 2 years ago2 years ago

          Floyd - How can schools make up for bad parenting? You yourself identify good parenting as parents who make their children study more hours, seek out libraries, work with tutors, and use resources. "Poor Asians outperform average income whites and are equally to upper middle class whites. This shows a culture more focused on education, more ready to spend the little money one has on a tutor or a book than a once in … Read More

          Floyd –
          How can schools make up for bad parenting? You yourself identify good parenting as parents who make their children study more hours, seek out libraries, work with tutors, and use resources. “Poor Asians outperform average income whites and are equally to upper middle class whites. This shows a culture more focused on education, more ready to spend the little money one has on a tutor or a book than a once in 2 years trip to Disneyland or nice clothes or alcohol or cigarettes, or even drugs.”
          I’m a teacher, Floyd, but I can’t make them make their children study at home, go to the library, hire tutors when necessary, give up alcohol, cigs and drugs, unplug the video game and read a book, and go to the museum on Sunday. Floyd, I’ve got news for you, it’s not teachers who are the reason why our schools might not be doing as well as others, assuming that they are not doing as well as they should. I think they are probably doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

      • Educator 2 years ago2 years ago

        Thanks navigio. That article was just what I was looking for. I'm certain I've read articles that said our richest children do average or worse compared to other nations' middle income kids. This seems to contradict the article you shared. I'll see if I can pull up the article and will post here. Perhaps it was a different test and not PISA. I seem to remember Waiting For Superman had a … Read More

        Thanks navigio. That article was just what I was looking for.

        I’m certain I’ve read articles that said our richest children do average or worse compared to other nations’ middle income kids. This seems to contradict the article you shared. I’ll see if I can pull up the article and will post here. Perhaps it was a different test and not PISA.

        I seem to remember Waiting For Superman had a segment on test scores and how the U.S. sucks compared to other nations (don’t remember if they mention poverty or not), but that U.S. students have the most confidence. I think it was made to be funny, like “Hah! Our students are stupid but cocky.” But I’d argue that things like associated student body, theater, football, clubs, sports, etc…help our students develop leadership skills (and perhaps arrogance), that actually helps our country thrive. And things like associated student body, theater, sports, don’t necessarily help with test scores in the way focused tutoring would (like how Asian countries do it). Anyhow, this is another topic.

        Thanks for writing.

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Educator: The following is an oft repeated statement by Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor at USC, and recognized education policy expert. You will find his various sources listed at the bottom. Have fun. "Twenty-three percent of American children live in poverty, the second highest among all economically advanced countries. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American test scores are at the top of the world. This means that poverty is the problem, not teacher quality. Instead … Read More

      Educator:

      The following is an oft repeated statement by Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor at USC, and recognized education policy expert. You will find his various sources listed at the bottom. Have fun.

      “Twenty-three percent of American children live in poverty, the second highest among all economically advanced countries. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American test scores are at the top of the world. This means that poverty is the problem, not teacher quality.

      Instead of denying teachers due process based on bogus measures of quality, let’s protect children from the impact of poverty. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The best teaching in the world will have little effect when children are hungry, undernourished and ill. When children have no chance to read on their own, the literacy development will be very limited. Our focus should be improved food programs, health care and libraries. ”

      Sources:

      Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Vary from year to year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.) Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14607;

      23% levels of poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

      Controf for effect of poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

      — Stephen Krashen

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        The poverty excuse, again? So how is it that poor Asians out perform? It isn't poverty, per se. It is poverty-induced trauma of which some cultures have a lot more of than others. I agree that out-of-school factors are more significant that in-school factors, but that isn't a reason to overlook the latter. In fact, it gives more gravity to the need to reform what is more readily reformable. That doesn't mean … Read More

        The poverty excuse, again? So how is it that poor Asians out perform? It isn’t poverty, per se. It is poverty-induced trauma of which some cultures have a lot more of than others.

        I agree that out-of-school factors are more significant that in-school factors, but that isn’t a reason to overlook the latter. In fact, it gives more gravity to the need to reform what is more readily reformable.

        That doesn’t mean teachers are not being unfairly singled out as the cause of underachievement by the “deformers”. I’m still waiting for teachers and their representatives to anything but guard the status quo.

        • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

          Explain how ‘poverty’ is different from ‘poverty induced trauma’ and how one is an excuse but the other is not.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Because a child hails from a lower income home doesn't mean that child is suffering from PTSD, etc. I don't have statistics on this. Perhaps you do, Navigio. My anecdotal experience with my own son's inner city school, a school that has large over 60% of poor students, is that most of these students do not have these kinds of extreme problems though they have more than other groups. Conversely, some students who … Read More

            Because a child hails from a lower income home doesn’t mean that child is suffering from PTSD, etc. I don’t have statistics on this. Perhaps you do, Navigio. My anecdotal experience with my own son’s inner city school, a school that has large over 60% of poor students, is that most of these students do not have these kinds of extreme problems though they have more than other groups. Conversely, some students who hail from middle class backgrounds do and no one mentions them.

            That is to say, poverty is correlated with increased psycho-emotional issues. Poor Asians have far less because poverty in itself is not causal. I’ve never heard of poverty as the clinical cause of emotional distress.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            I don't think anyone ever claimed that putting a bunch of money in a parents bank account an hour before the CST would cause their child's score to be higher. The term 'poverty' is a proxy for all the circumstances and/or causes that can impact a student (and in this case be reflected in their achievement measures). While its clear there can be variability in the effects, extent of influence and even resistance to those … Read More

            I don’t think anyone ever claimed that putting a bunch of money in a parents bank account an hour before the CST would cause their child’s score to be higher. The term ‘poverty’ is a proxy for all the circumstances and/or causes that can impact a student (and in this case be reflected in their achievement measures). While its clear there can be variability in the effects, extent of influence and even resistance to those circumstances, I think its pretty clear that there is a large degree of commonality within any subgroup defined by parental income (as well as other, probably even more important metrics, such as parental education–which of course correlates to income). I also dont think it even has to be ‘explicit trauma’ per se, rather other, less actively trauma-inducing things such as limited vocabulary exposure, limited cultural exposure, limited educational access and resources, etc, etc. I also dont think it really matters how deterministic these things are because people who invoke the ‘poverty card’ dont do so as a means to simply give up, rather to try to make sure we dont actually make things worse by focusing on the wrong issue. That’s important to understand because from that viewpoint it is not an excuse at all.
            I also believe it is important to remember that children have very little control over the environments in which they grow up. While creating policy that punishes adults for their own mistakes may make policy sense (because they have some level of control over their lives, and an ability to understand cause and effect and to modify their behavior and sometimes circumstance), young children do not have that ability to any extent. Creating policy that sentences them to languish in denied opportunity because of the actions of their parents is not only illogical, it is immoral.

  18. Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

    I would not argue there shouldn't be teacher's unions, but I would ask that teacher's unions acknowledge that bad teachers exist and they do hurt children. Most teachers are good, but if you assume all are good, you give carte blanche to all to feel it's OK to take a day off when not necessary, which hurts kids with subs, or protect bad teachers, which hurts kids in obvious ways. We should fight … Read More

    I would not argue there shouldn’t be teacher’s unions, but I would ask that teacher’s unions acknowledge that bad teachers exist and they do hurt children. Most teachers are good, but if you assume all are good, you give carte blanche to all to feel it’s OK to take a day off when not necessary, which hurts kids with subs, or protect bad teachers, which hurts kids in obvious ways.

    We should fight for more money going to schools, more tutoring, and more of a priority being placed on all children studying hard and striving. We need to close the achievement gap and give all kids a chance and unions should fight for that.

    But it does make me sad when teacher’s unions pretend there are no bad teachers. No one could pass a lie detector test that they believe it is not unreasonably difficult to fire a bad teacher. They always start by talking about no due process, when there are 5 rounds of it. They never propose a middle ground, just bring up a nightmare scenario of arbitrary principals firing people for the hell of it. They lose me, as a parent, when they don’t show concern about the effects of unnecessary absences and poor teachers. Most teachers should be praised, but not all. There are good and bad in every profession. Go to http://www.ratemyteacher.com. Look at Lowell in SF and Ms. Nahleen Pang. Look at the past 20 comments. These are kids suffering, frustrated. Their voices should be heard. They are a victim of a bad teacher. Read these comments and feel the pain. No one is saying Unions hurt kids by all they do, but defending teachers who are horrible does hurt kids, and the union still does that way too much, almost automatically.

    Replies

    • Jeff 2 years ago2 years ago

      Ratemyteacher.com is a joke. The teacher information regarding who’s working at my school hasn’t been updated in many years and anyone can write whatever they desire, truth or not. That website should be out of business!

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Jeff, you are wrong here. I'm not saying everything on there is right, but like most reviews, you take out the best and the worst and you get the truth. The top few are probably written by the teacher or a friend or family member. The bottom, maybe someone who particularly dislikes the teacher. But read Nahleen Pang's reviews (Lowell High School, San Francisco) and tell me she should be teaching. … Read More

        Jeff, you are wrong here. I’m not saying everything on there is right, but like most reviews, you take out the best and the worst and you get the truth. The top few are probably written by the teacher or a friend or family member. The bottom, maybe someone who particularly dislikes the teacher. But read Nahleen Pang’s reviews (Lowell High School, San Francisco) and tell me she should be teaching. Every review says the same thing, and trust me, it’s not lies. My daughter says they’re all true and she never wrote a review, and when I went to the back to school night, I asked other kids an open question and heard the exact same thing.

        I had another bad teacher at Presidio. When I complained about one teacher who insulted my daughter’s genetics and said she should not strive for an A and should just study half an hour and if you get a B, accept you’re a B student, I was told by the counselor that it was odd I’d complain. She was a wonderful teacher and she’d never heard a complaint. Over the next 3 years, 5 other parents complained about her to me and all said they had complained to the counselor.

        It’s all a game. Administrators want to make you feel out of line and weird if you speak out on behalf of your child. Ratemyteacher.com exposes the truth about teachers who would rather keep it under wraps.

        Online reviews are not 100% right, but someone felt strongly enough they took the time to write it knowing most would never see it or ignore it. There’s something to it. It’s a great web site. It’s the Edward Snowden of public education. It gives hope to the hopeless and a voice to the voiceless. Truly bad teachers should be exposed. They should change, or find another profession. Since the system does nothing, only public pressure has a chance.

    • Brutus 2 years ago2 years ago

      Do you know why Teachers unions, or any other union for that matter, defend sub-par teachers or members? It is because they are required to do so by law. If they don't represent a given member, that member can file a Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) suit against the union and the individual union representative. Losing a DFR claim will clean out a union's treasury, and the individual union rep. can be sued personally for … Read More

      Do you know why Teachers unions, or any other union for that matter, defend sub-par teachers or members? It is because they are required to do so by law. If they don’t represent a given member, that member can file a Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) suit against the union and the individual union representative. Losing a DFR claim will clean out a union’s treasury, and the individual union rep. can be sued personally for DFR as well. So their life savings and home can be taken from them if they don’t represent ALL of their members equally. Believe me no union rep. wants to fight for an employee that doesn’t pull their weight, but the personal consequences of not doing so are to risky.

      • Educator 2 years ago2 years ago

        I think there’s a difference between represent and defend. I thought union officers are supposed to represent (but of course a lot defend) in order to fulfill their DFR. I think the problem a lot of the public has is it becomes defend at all costs. It’s also difficult to differentiate between represent and defend too.

      • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

        “Losing a DFR claim will clean out a union’s treasury, and the individual union rep. can be sued personally for DFR as well.”

        Then, we can ease the Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) for unions enormously by making the process of firing an ineffective teacher simpler, shorter, and cheaper for both sides! Less process requires less representation.

        • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

          Dismissal is not a collective bargaining issue, it is an issue of statute. The union is not required to provide representation in dismissal, though both organizations often do. The employee has the right to have a union representative present during meetings with employers. During the hearing before the Commission on Professional Competence an attorney is typically the employee representative. Eliminating due process is often suggested for various perceived problems when "process" is deemed to … Read More

          Dismissal is not a collective bargaining issue, it is an issue of statute. The union is not required to provide representation in dismissal, though both organizations often do. The employee has the right to have a union representative present during meetings with employers. During the hearing before the Commission on Professional Competence an attorney is typically the employee representative. Eliminating due process is often suggested for various perceived problems when “process” is deemed to be “too slow.” Capital punishment would be an example. As the Innocence Project has uncovered there are a significant number of people on “death rows” who might have been erroneously executed if not for due process. There are any number of cases where public school teachers were threatened with firing, or fired, because of faulty application of “process” and a rush to judgement. Due process is enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights for the very good reason it is a very American value.

          • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Gary, I'm against the death penalty because it is irreversible and in my view morally wrong. However, if you argue there should be some due process, would you acknowledge 5 steps taking years and hundreds of thousands of dollars is too much? Would you acknowledge bad teachers exist? Take a look at Nahleen Pang at Lowell High School in San Francisco, reviews going back years and years saying the same thing. … Read More

            Gary, I’m against the death penalty because it is irreversible and in my view morally wrong. However, if you argue there should be some due process, would you acknowledge 5 steps taking years and hundreds of thousands of dollars is too much? Would you acknowledge bad teachers exist? Take a look at Nahleen Pang at Lowell High School in San Francisco, reviews going back years and years saying the same thing. You can’t tell me this is a rush to judgement, and she’s still employed with no movement to fire her. There are more teachers pretty much everyone reasonable knows are bad and are still working years and decades later than there are teachers who have been arbitrarily dismissed. With 91 in 10 years, and only 19 for poor performance, statewide, this is obvious. Would you settle for 2 rounds over 2 months to make sure it’s not arbitrary, but in which at least over 50% of initial principal decisions are upheld? Or do you want to just do what we’ve been doing, make it so no one really ever has to worry about taking a day off they don’t need, getting bad ratings by students and parents, not listening to a principal or doing a bad job because the job is a lifetime right enshrined in State Law? You never suggest alternatives to the status quo or acknowledge it can get it as wrong as an arbitrary principal the other way, to the detriment of children. Read all of Pang’s reviews, I dare you, feel the pain of all those kids and multiply it by 20. What’s more important? Where’s your heart in all this?

    • tom 2 years ago2 years ago

      Floyd, I'm in your camp over here in the SF East Bay fighting to put our kids first and provide more resources for them. The union work rules and contracts in CA have clearly become too protective and onerous for Districts to effectively manage. The Vergara case and the 51 witnesses were able to convince the Judge and confirm what those with experience in education already know. Did anyone happen to see … Read More

      Floyd, I’m in your camp over here in the SF East Bay fighting to put our kids first and provide more resources for them. The union work rules and contracts in CA have clearly become too protective and onerous for Districts to effectively manage. The Vergara case and the 51 witnesses were able to convince the Judge and confirm what those with experience in education already know.

      Did anyone happen to see the guest editorial from none other than Antonio Villaraigoso in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago? It is available on line and a good read. He says it is time for the teachers union of make some reforms. It is interesting that he would now come out and say this AFTER his 12 years as the mayor of LA. Better late than never I suppose.

      To Gary Ravani’s article about the benefits of unions, teachers in Charter Schools are not unionized, Principals have much more flexibility with employees, and academic performance overall is improving with this model. It is interesting to note that Charter Schools that don’t perform can and do get shut down, unlike State-run public schools. Charters are growing at 10% per year in CA so the CTA should think hard about refusing any and all reforms lest they go the way of the buggy whip.

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        It's like the book by Thomas Kuhn, 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'; it is a failed paradigm and the status quo supporters like Gary and Caroline focus more energy on attempting to maintain the paradigm by finding obscure flaws, and of course any side will have some flaws, rather than looking at the bigger picture. Gary and Caroline and others won't even mention a huge flaw in the tenure system, but will proactively obsess … Read More

        It’s like the book by Thomas Kuhn, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’; it is a failed paradigm and the status quo supporters like Gary and Caroline focus more energy on attempting to maintain the paradigm by finding obscure flaws, and of course any side will have some flaws, rather than looking at the bigger picture. Gary and Caroline and others won’t even mention a huge flaw in the tenure system, but will proactively obsess over something minor like 2 of the 9 students being white in the lawsuit or one teacher being good. Anyone who has kids in public school and goes to ratemyteacher.com knows bad teachers exist and some teachers call in sick or miss days just because their contract allows it, not because they did their best to miss as few days as possible and couldn’t do it. We need a new paradigm. It’s very interesting. When I read Thomas Kuhn’s book, I thought of science, but I see the most clear demonstration of it in social science issues such as this. That’s why I say it’s a heart issue rather than a brain issue. I believe if the brain were the issue at hand, anyone would have to admit at least a couple percent of teachers need to be fired and most need to be under pressure to take fewer days off and work harder, but it’s the heart. The heart is hardened against putting children first. Children are best seen but not heard. Adult’s job security is the sacrosanct priority and children fit in after that. It’s really a heart issue. Keep up the good fight.

    • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

      " They never propose a middle ground, just bring up a nightmare scenario of arbitrary principals firing people for the hell of it. " And if principals are corrupt, stupid, and incompetent enough to fire people for "the hell of it", then they are corrupt, stupid, and incompetent to hire new teachers for the hell of it, and to grant them tenure for the hell of it. And if teachers can be … Read More

      ” They never propose a middle ground, just bring up a nightmare scenario of arbitrary principals firing people for the hell of it. ”

      And if principals are corrupt, stupid, and incompetent enough to fire people for “the hell of it”, then they are corrupt, stupid, and incompetent to hire new teachers for the hell of it, and to grant them tenure for the hell of it. And if teachers can be hired and granted tenure by such unfair and incompetent gatekeepers, the public needs an effective way of weeding out such hires after tenure is granted unfairly. Even if the weeding occurs years later when competent administrators finally take office.

      The “bad principal” argument is actually an argument in favor of expeditious means to remove even long employed teachers who were hired by bad principals.

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        I agree 100%.

      • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

        No, it’s an argument that good administration matters for the system to work as designed.

  19. David B. Cohen 2 years ago2 years ago

    Great post, Gary. Thank you for making the case so clearly – yet again.

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