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Laura Manriquez, who won a grant to help cover the cost of getting a teaching credential, working with kindergarteners at Aliso Elementary.

Classroom veteran looks forward to being a teacher

By Laura L. Manriquez

I recently became aware of an opportunity to obtain financial assistance in earning a teaching credential through the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program, which is intended to attract classified staff who are interested in becoming teachers.

California is facing a shortage of qualified teachers, and I see this as an opportunity to do my part in helping to close that gap by educating the young students in my community as a credentialed teacher. So, with renewed hope, I submitted my application in the anticipation of possibly receiving assistance with tuition, textbook costs, and student fees. I was pleased to be chosen for participation in the program, and I am moving forward with my plan to earn a California Multiple Subject teaching credential. This is a huge step forward in realizing my dream.

My journey to becoming an educator began when my family’s financial situation required me to return to work after my youngest child entered kindergarten. Prior to that, my associate’s degree in fine art had led me to be a staff artist at a newspaper, and later a graphic designer, art director, commercial illustrator, owner of a design and marketing firm, and even a faculty member at a local trade college.

The union officers have worked tirelessly for me personally on more than one occasion, and I continue to appreciate their courage and dedicated support. I trust my union, and knowing that it advocated for this program encouraged me to apply.

But eventually, my career took a back seat to my role as mother, and I wanted a job that would allow me to be available to my two young children before and after their days at grade school. So I became an instructional assistant in 2000, working part-time at Aliso Elementary School in the Carpinteria Unified School District, a job I have held continuously since then. There I learned about child development, multiple intelligences, inquiry-based learning, classroom management, and much more.

After two years in the school system, I saw that students were exposed to very little enrichment in the arts and sciences and I realized that my skillset could help fill that gap. I became an instructor for various after-school programs in public schools, private schools, and special enrichment programs sponsored by the city or the arts council, and designed and wrote curriculum for the courses.

Often I worked at two or three schools daily, commuting within a 50-mile radius. At night, after helping my kids with homework and preparing dinner, I would stay up late preparing for the next day’s work; first as an instructional assistant each morning and then as an enrichment instructor each afternoon.

Teachers and parents encouraged me to offer more, and in 2002, I created Kids Love Art!, an enrichment program held during spring, summer and winter breaks in Carpinteria. This made for a year-round schedule of dizzying proportions. As the program’s popularity grew, I added science and engineering to the curriculum.

Kids Love Art! operated until 2014 and reached many local students, something that continues to be a source of personal pride for me. As it wound down, I reentered college, attending CSU Channel Islands to earn a bachelor’s in fine art. Three years and $30,000 of student debt later, I graduated magna cum laude. Fifteen more units of early childhood education earned me a Child Development Permit as a master teacher and site supervisor.

During that time, I often thought about earning a teaching credential, believing that my skills as an educator after 17 years in the classroom could be put to best use as a credentialed teacher, only to realize it was out of reach considering the student loans I already carried.

Then, I learned from the Santa Barbara County Classified Credentialing Consortium that, through the Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program, funding was available for eligible applicants to receive up to $3,300 per year for up to five years.

I also learned that the CFT, a parent to my local union, was instrumental in obtaining funding in the state Legislature for this important program. My local, the Carpinteria Association of the United School Employees, AFT Local 2216, has been an indispensible employee advocate in my district during the years I have been employed as an educator. The union officers have worked tirelessly for me personally on more than one occasion, and I continue to appreciate their courage and dedicated support. I trust my union, and knowing that it advocated for this program encouraged me to apply.

So, I’m sending a wish for the best of luck to all classified employees who want to earn a teaching credential, and I encourage you to follow your dream by applying for the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program if it’s available in your district or county. In following this dream, teachers can help so many others realize the dream of a high-quality education and therefore, a higher quality life.

Laura Manriquez is an instructional assistant at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria and a member of the Carpinteria Association of the United School Employees, AFT Local 2216.

We must protect children, not the merchants of death

By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President

Another week, another mass shooting, more condolences from elected officials…and nothing gets done. As of this writing, we have had 19 shootings of some sort on campus this year, and we are likely to have another before this article gets published.

The numbers are mind-numbing: According to the New York Times, more than 430 people have been shot in 273 school attacks since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.

The daily shootings of brown and black youth that take place across the country may not get the same attention the horrific mass killings receive, but they take and destroy lives just the same. We can establish laws that regulate seat belts, speed limits, and the use of alcohol, yet we cannot manage to effectively regulate guns.

We are not the only country where this kind of tragedy happens. What is different in America is the deadly grip the National Rifle Association has on the political process. Its ability to mobilize its members squelches all efforts at gun control. The NRA has effectively linked gun control with a perceived challenge to the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The American people, who in the majority support stricter gun control, are going to have to rise up and demand that their elected representatives act.

I’m not going to get into what the founders meant by the Second Amendment. To me, that debate has always seemed to miss the point. The men who wrote the Constitution were fallible. The original Constitution didn’t do a number of things and we fixed them.

This can be fixed as well, but it won’t take a constitutional change to make that happen. The American people, who in the majority support stricter gun control, are going to have to rise up and demand that their elected representatives act. We can be inspired by the young people who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, whose activism has prompted national action and a corporate boycott of the NRA.

NRA adherents try to pawn this off as a mental health issue, not a gun issue. Obviously, it can be both. When the CFT tried a few years ago to promote legislation that would have funded mental health professionals and nurses in every school, it was stopped in a state legislative committee. Politicians can talk about the need for mental health awareness, but unless the funding is there to train and hire more professionals, all the rhetoric is simply meaningless.

Something else is going on that also very disturbing. How is it that a young man with his whole life to live could take 17 lives and effectively destroy his own? This has played out over and over again. There is a despair in this country so deep that human beings act out in ways that are unimaginable and it happens with such regularity that it’s beyond epidemic proportions. When you combine this with job loss in communities plagued by the opioid crisis you get a sense of how profound a situation has developed.

On a recent trip to a small town in Ohio where my daughter is going to college, my wife and I had dinner at a well-known chain restaurant. It struck us that in the two adjacent large outdoor malls, every store had been shuttered. A once-thriving community had been decimated. The opioid epidemic that is rampant in Ohio is a reflection of the despair in the same way that killings in schools, concerts, and movie theaters are acts of despair.

The trifecta of despair, availability of guns, and lack of mental health services will mean more senseless violence. We need political leaders willing to take on these issues and not be afraid of the wrath of powerful political forces.

Q&A: Get to know Tony Thurmond

Meet the CFT-endorsed candidate for state superintendent of public instruction

Quick download: Q&A with Tony Thurmond (pdf, 3pp)

In a race important to all educators, the CFT has endorsed Assemblymember Tony Thurmond for state Superintendent of Public Instruction. CFT President Josh Pechthalt said Thurmond, a former social worker, has demonstrated “time and again he is a champion of public education. His policy positions solidly align him with the needs of students, parents and educators.”

California Teacher asked Thurmond about his positions on education issues ranging from early childhood to higher education.

Why are you running for Superintendent of Public Instruction?

I am passionate about improving public schools because it was my public school education that prepared me for a 20-year career as a social worker and inspired me to serve on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board, the Richmond City Council, and now in the California Assembly. It’s time to make our public education system among the greatest in the nation, and I won’t stop until we get there.

What would be your top three priorities as SPI?

1) Opposing Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s anti-public
education policies and creating an education rainy day fund to protect against any future Trump cuts;

2) Attracting and retaining qualified teachers by providing them with affordable housing, recruitment bonuses, scholarships, and higher wages;

3) Preparing California students for the jobs being created by our fast-growing 21st century economy.

Do you support expanding early childhood education?

The research clearly shows that the first five years of life are critical in making sure our children reach their full potential. However, as many as 170,000 California children did not attend preschool last year and will suffer the associated consequences. This is unacceptable. I’ve increased funding for early education as an Assemblymember and I will continue prioritizing investment in early education as SPI.

Do you have a proposal to increase funding for early childhood education?

This year, I introduced AB 43, a tax on private prisons that would shift $450 million from our criminal justice system to early education and after-school programs. I also authored AB 435, which allows counties to use all state funds allocated for early learning and care, guaranteeing that families in need receive these critical services.

As SPI, I will work tirelessly to make sure all children receive high-quality early childhood education. My work in education and social services showed me the impact that early education has on our kids, and that’s why I’ve made it my priority in the Assembly.

What is your position on charter schools?

I believe that charter schools should be required to follow the same guidelines as other public entities for disclosing how public money is being spent. In the Assembly, I co-authored legislation that bans for-profit charter schools and I voted for legislation that increases accountability of charter schools.

Charter schools should be authorized by local districts, because they have to host the charter and provide the services that the students and the charter will need — they are much better suited for this than the county or state.

Do you believe charter schools should be more transparent and accountable?

Yes. In the Assembly, I’ve supported several bills that increase accountability and transparency for charter schools, including the enforcement of the Brown Act on public charter school boards and the upholding of credentialing standards for charter school teachers. I voted to eliminate discriminatory preference in charter school admissions. I believe that charter schools must be measured through the same lens as public schools, follow the same guidelines, and be held
publicly accountable.

Do you oppose vouchers for sending children to private schools?


What is your position on using student test scores to evaluate teachers?

My career as a social worker has provided me a unique perspective into the lives of California youth. I understand the hardships youth face at home and in life, and how those challenges can follow them into the classroom.

Teachers can’t control these factors and very often must go beyond teaching to the test to give these kids the education they need. That’s why I support more comprehensive approaches to evaluating teacher performance. Student test scores can be a valuable part of state and local continuous improvement systems, but should not be the sole basis for judging teacher performance.

Do you support bringing nurses and mental health professionals back into our schools?

In the Assembly, I’m working to expand school-based health, mental health, and social service programs to remove the barriers that impede the ability of many of our
students to learn.

As SPI, what would you do to support classified employees?

As chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, I’ve fought for living wages, fair work rules, and family leave for all workers. My bill AB 670 has extended classified employee status to part-time playground workers. As superintendent, I’ll keep fighting so that classified employees can feel safe doing their jobs and providing for their families. I will ensure the classified voice is present in all relevant decision-making processes.

Should community college be free to all who wish to attend?

Yes. In 2015, I worked to create a pay-it-forward system, allowing college students to attend at no cost and then begin to repay after graduation according to their job and ability to pay. I’m interested in continuing to work on this and other strategies to make college more affordable.

Do you support giving part-time community college faculty pro rata pay and benefits?


How have you supported career and technical education?

In 2015, I co-authored a bill to expand CTE. I currently serve on the Assembly Select Committee on Career and Technical Education and chair the Assembly Select Committee on STEM Education. One of my highest priorities will be to modernize our education system to prepare our students for the jobs of the future by creating internship programs with tech companies, placing tech mentors in schools, and modernizing curricula to include tech.

What do you see as the role of adult education?

We need to ensure every student, regardless of age, has the resources to succeed in our economy. Adult education helps parents to be engaged in their children’s learning experience while also supporting their own personal development. Over the years, I have supported increasing funding for adult education.

As the SPI, what kind of working relationship would you seek to have with the CFT?

I will work closely with the CFT, because I know that improving our public education system is incumbent on ensuring that teachers and classified staff have the support they need to give our kids a great education, and I will ensure that we model at the state level highly collaborative working relationships.

How do you compare your qualifications to those of the other candidates?

The most important difference that separates me from the other candidates is my 12 years of education experience. I have run afterschool programs and taught life skills and career training. I have served as an elected local school board member.

In the Assembly, I fought for money to ensure youth in foster care have the opportunity to go to college, and to increase funding for early education. I passed laws to increase accountability for charter schools and ban for-profit charter schools, to provide $38 million to reduce truancy, expand community schools, and facilitate restorative justice programs. I’m fighting to provide money for preschool and afterschool programs, and to reduce our statewide teacher shortage by providing incentives to attract and retain more teachers.

No other candidate is better equipped to lead the resistance against Trump and DeVos, whose sole purpose is to undermine and defund our public education system.

Who is the billionaires’ choice?

Five people are vyingfor the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but Thurmond’s main opposition comes from Marshall Tuck — the candidate voters rejected four years ago in favor of former teacher Tom Torlakson.

In 2014, Diane Ravitch called Tuck “the candidate of the power elite, the billionaires who cynically employ fake rhetoric about ‘it’s all for the kids,’ when their real goal is to demonize teachers and invest in technology.” She added, “They have zero commitment to public education as a civic responsibility.”

Tuck, a former Wall Street banker and president of Green Dot Charter Schools, largely ignores issues of economic inequality and poverty, and their impact on the classroom. He supports the so-called “education reform” agenda that says schools should be run like businesses, and he is backed by anti-union billionaires who will likely flood the state with ads.