News Releases

CFT Endorses Hillary Clinton for President

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, June 13, 2016

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Oakland – The California Federation of Teachers Executive Council endorsed Hillary Clinton for president this past weekend. The CFT had not previously endorsed a presidential candidate, but given Secretary Clinton’s win in the California primary and her status as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, the CFT leadership decided that now is the time to pivot to the general election.

Secretary Clinton’s candidacy is historic. As the first woman nominated by a major party for president, her candidacy embodies the striving for equal rights of half the population underway since the Seneca Falls convention of 1848. Secretary Clinton has been a staunch advocate for women’s rights: the right to choose, equal pay for equal work, quality affordable childcare and much more.

Hillary Clinton also brings a deep practical knowledge of national and global politics to her candidacy, and a firm understanding of the importance of unions to our democracy. She is for restoring union collective bargaining rights, increasing the minimum wage and strengthening overtime rules, protecting retirement security, and expanding investments in green infrastructure to create good union jobs while fighting climate change.

We recognize that a substantial proportion of our members supported Bernie Sanders and his fight for single payer health care, a $15 minimum wage, reining in Wall Street, and creating a “political revolution” in this country. We believe that this struggle must continue, and CFT intends to play a leading role alongside the rest of organized labor in this ongoing transformation of our American political culture.

Donald Trump’s candidacy represents the biggest threat to democracy in our lifetime. His hateful comments in the face of the past weekend’s unspeakable tragedy in Orlando, his racist anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric, his misogyny, as well as his denial of climate change, underscore his complete inability to provide leadership at the most crucial times.

The populist message that emerged in the primary is an indication that many Americans want change. We must build a progressive alternative to business as usual, strengthen working and middle class values, and embrace and welcome diversity. With our help, Hillary Clinton will be the president who will make that happen.

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The California Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, and represents more than 100,000 certificated and classified employees in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education.

Failed Vergara Suit Backers in Supreme Court Gambit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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Failed Vergara Suit Backers in Supreme Court Gambit

We learned today that that David Welch and Students Matter have filed an appeal to the California Supreme Court in their failed Vergara v. California lawsuit. We are disappointed but not surprised that they are continuing to spend large sums of money on the suit and the PR campaign attached to it smearing teachers and public education.

The California Court of Appeal, in its unanimous 3-0 decision overturning the poorly reasoned Superior Court ruling by Judge Rolf Treu, left no room for doubt that the case has no constitutional standing, and that its claims are misplaced: “We reverse the trial court’s decision. Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students.” In other words, no connection was ever made between the challenged laws and any student being harmed or any teacher who should not be in a classroom remaining there. We are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the Appeal Court ruling. 

It is past time to focus our attention on the real issues that confront public education in California and then work collaboratively on solutions that we know work. That begins with adequate resources and policies that support smaller class sizes, strengthen peer assistance and review, reinforce positive collaborative district practices, and address the looming teacher shortage.

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The California Federation of Teachers represents more than 25,000 faculty in California's community college system, and 120,000 employees at all levels of education in the state.

CFT files amended lawsuit against Accrediting Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, May 19, 2016

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Broader in scope than the S.F. City Attorney's

San Francisco, May 19, 2016—Today the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) filed an amended complaint with Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The complaint, delayed for more than two years by ACCJC legal maneuvers, alleges a broad array of violations of federal laws and regulations, as well as California common law fair procedure, by the Commission. The plaintiffs, in addition to CFT, include several local community college faculty unions, a number of individual faculty members and a student.

Find the complaint here.

Two years ago Judge Karnow, responding to a suit filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, found the ACCJC had violated four laws in its attempt to disaccredit City College of San Francisco. In the intervening time the agency has also been under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education, the state Joint Legislative Audit Committee, a task force formed by the State Chancellor of Community Colleges, and the California Community College Board of Governors. None of these studies and actions have turned out favorably for the ACCJC, but none have prevented the agency from continuing to violate fair and lawful accreditation policies.

The chief difference between the San Francisco City Attorney's suit and the CFT's—originally filed at the same time—is the wider breadth of the CFT complaint. Judge Karnow's decision reflected the San Francisco violations, but did not examine many other problems the ACCJC has created for college districts across the state.

Said CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, "Despite the wide and growing consensus that the ACCJC no longer meets the needs of California's community colleges, the agency continues to inflict damage on the ability of students to pursue accessible and affordable higher education, and on the ability of faculty and staff to deliver quality education. The ACCJC also harms taxpayers, whose money is wasted by the ACCJC's unfair and illegal practices. It is past time for the ACCJC to be replaced by a responsible accreditor, and it is the intent of this lawsuit to spell out the reasons why."

The plaintiffs allege that the ACCJC unlawfully and unfairly impinges on collective bargaining negotiations authorized by state law by demanding that colleges disregard their duty to negotiate over subjects such as wage increases and faculty working conditions. The amended lawsuit also asserts that ACCJC disregards due process rights of colleges, which are governed by California’s common law fair procedure doctrine. As a result, colleges are denied an opportunity to appeal sanctions and denied written findings of fact on decisions made by the ACCJC. The suit also alleges that because ACCJC has been delegated the job of accrediting California’s community colleges, it must comply with a California open meeting law, the Bagley-Keene Act, which requires transparency, including open hearings by private organizations delegated certain state functions.

Shannon Lienhart, president of the Palomar Faculty Federation and a plaintiff in the suit, said, "The ACCJC has no place in the collective bargaining of my college, and no legal standing to pressure the district over how much of a raise to offer faculty. Nonetheless, the district administration told us that it could not offer more than a 0.85% raise because, according to the ACCJC, to do so would jeopardize our accreditation status."

"While the problems created by ACCJC in San Francisco might have been the worst, and are still reverberating in our student enrollment problems and college administration unfair labor practices, we are just the tip of the iceberg," said Tim Killikelly, president of AFT 2121, the faculty union at City College of San Francisco. "This suit aims to insure that all colleges in the state are protected going forward from what happened to us."

Jim Mahler, president of the CFT's Community College Council, commented, "We are pursuing this law suit due to the continuing unrepentant attitudes and actions of this agency. It is noteworthy that the statewide association of Community College Presidents/Superintendents/Chancellors is seeking to reform the ACCJC and seek a new accreditor for our Community Colleges. But in the meantime damage continues to be done. We hope this suit helps accelerate our progress toward fair accreditation."

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The California Federation of Teachers represents more than 25,000 faculty in California's community college system, and 120,000 employees at all levels of education in the state.

City College faculty walk out for “the college San Francisco deserves”


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Unfair Labor Practices strike calls for rebuilding the college, not gutting it
San Francisco — At City College campuses across the city, 500 faculty walked picket lines beginning at 8 am today to protest the district administration's unfair labor practices in contract negotiations. They were joined by their students and community supporters on behalf of a broad, accessible college, a vision competing with the college administration's stated plan to “realign” the San Francisco Community College District by reducing course offerings over the next few years by 26%.

No classes were held, as Chancellor Susan Lamb decided in advance of today’s one-day strike to close all CCSF buildings. The picket lines, soaked by a brief but heavy morning rain, moved to the Civic Center campus for a spirited (and dry) rally at noon. There, nearly 600 demonstrators called for the administration to come to the table and negotiate in good faith with the people who teach City College's students.



“Our students cannot thrive with plans to cut our college by 26%. These cuts stand in the way of students trying to enroll in classes and pursue their education and career goals,” said AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly. “We offer high-quality, affordable education for all and we have worked to rebuild the college after the accreditation crisis. We want bold new initiatives to increase educational opportunities for all San Franciscans.”

Last week AFT Local 2121 leaders spoke as part of a coalition at a press conference announcing Supervisor Jane Kim's plan to make City College free for its students. This forward-looking action stands in stark contrast to the college administration's hoarding more than 25% of the district's funds in reserves and its plans to downsize the college.

One student on the picket lines at the main City College campus came out early to support the strike. Now taking courses toward university transfer to be an engineer, Jose Franco had been active with Local 261, the construction and general laborers' union. Speaking above the din of bullhorns and cars honking in support he said, “I know what it's like to fight for your wages and workers' rights. Teachers should have a fair contract. They are the mentors that we need to help us reach our academic goals.”

Faculty are currently paid 3.5% below 2007 wages. The administration’s latest proposal offers primarily bonuses that would expire in mid-2017, leaving faculty only 1.5% above salaries from a decade ago. District spending on instructors, counselors, and librarians has declined 9% over a four-year period, while the budget for administrators has risen 29%.

Kate Gougoutas spoke from the picket line at John Adams campus, where she is site coordinator for Transitional Studies. “The high school program, which started in the mid-1980s, has already been cut. We offer a full high school curriculum, but we're down to one section offered per class. If we're cut any more, we won't have a program.” City College's noncredit program, serving 30,000 students, is as vital as its credit-bearing courses. She added, “There's a lack of understanding in the administration as to the history and purpose of CCSF noncredit.”

“What kind of priorities are these?” asked English as a Second Language instructor Jessica Buchsbaum while walking with her students at the John Adams campus. “Faculty in San Francisco are simply asking for a fair wage. In one of the most expensive cities in the country, the administration needs to get real and stop doing the bidding of the ACCJC. Our managers seem to be the only people left in California that don't understand that this lawbreaking accrediting agency is on the way out. The administration should be paying attention to the educational needs of San Francisco, not the bureaucratic demands of the discredited ACCJC.”

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which plunged CCSF into crisis with its illegal actions in 2012 and 2013, caused student enrollment to drop by a third. It is currently under fire from the state chancellor's office, the California Community College Board of Governors (BOG), and the U.S. Department of Education. The ACCJC has improperly inserted itself into the bargaining process, one of the issues noted in the Unfair Labor Practice filed by the faculty union.

Resolutions of support for the strike have streamed in over the past few days. The CCSF Associated Students, the California Faculty Association (CSU), the Chinese Progressive Association, Jobs with Justice, United Educators of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Labor Council, among many others, have sent solidarity messages.

Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have weighed in on the side of faculty. At a press conference held on Tuesday at the Chinatown/North Beach campus, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said, “Faculty have stood with me on many occasions, and I am honored to stand with you.” And President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed walked today with faculty at the John Adams campus.faculty strike aft2121 2

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will be considering a resolution of support for the strike. According to Hillary Ronen, chief of staff for Supervisor David Campos who sponsored the resolution, “We have seen many changes in San Francisco these past few years, but City College continues to play a vital role in training our workers and giving people a shot at a better life through education. We stand by the faculty at City College who do this important work and their students who make this city the diverse and vibrant community that it is.” Ronen spoke at the noon rally, along with Jane Kim.

Prior to the strike the faculty union filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the state Public Employment Relations Board, on the grounds of bad faith bargaining by the college administration and its attempts to skirt the negotiations team with a recent salary proposal, “direct dealing” in the language of collective bargaining.

The one-day faculty job action, led by AFT Local 2121, was the first in the eight-decade history of City College of San Francisco, and only the fourth ever held on a California community college campus.

For more information, aft2121.org.

     

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AFT Local 2121 represents more than 1500 full- and part-time faculty, librarians and counselors in the San Francisco Community College District. It is affiliated with the California Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 25,000 faculty in California's community college system.

 

Faculty Stand Up for City College and the Education San Francisco Deserves

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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Union press conference announces one-day unfair labor practices strike
San Francisco—City College of San Francisco faculty, students and community supporters announced at a Chinatown campus press conference today that no classes will be held tomorrow at all nine City College of San Francisco campuses. However, they said, faculty will still be on campus. Instead of teaching, they’ll be walking picket lines in the first-ever strike of 1500 instructors, librarians, and counselors represented by American Federation of Teachers Local 2121. The unfair labor practices strike is the union’s response to more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations between the faculty union and college administration and occurs after the administration has engaged in numerous unfair labor practices, including bad faith bargaining and attempting to go around the union’s elected negotiations team.

“Faculty do not take this step lightly,” said Tim Killikelly, political science instructor and president of the faculty union, “but administration has left us with no choice but to take action, or risk losing the vital college that we love.” A major point of contention between administration and the union cited by Killikelly is an administration plan to reduce course offerings by 26% over the next several years.

Enrollment declined at the college after the ACCJC threatened to close the school in 2013, causing many students to end their education due to worry they wouldn’t receive credit or be able to apply for student loans. Since then, as California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Joshua Pechthalt told reporters, “The San Francisco Superior Court found ACCJC broke four laws in its attempt to disaccredit the school; the US Department of Education has threatened to pull the plug on ACCJC’s authority as accreditor, and the state Community College Board of Governors is working on a plan to reform the agency in the short term and ultimately transfer the state’s community colleges to a new accreditor. Yet the administration continues to act as if ACCJC’s ideas about how to run the college are legitimate. This is a terrible failure of imagination and lost opportunity for the CCSF administration to map a successful future for the college and for San Francisco’s students.”

The CFT represents faculty in thirty community college districts, including San Francisco, and has led the fight to reform ACCJC’s arrogant and unlawful accreditation practices.

Killikelly sees a continuation of ACCJC practices in how the CCSF administration is negotiating with the union. Despite a massive reserve fund balance approaching 30% of the college’s budget, administration is hoarding the additional funding it is currently receiving from the state, rather than taking the opportunity to fund a diverse course schedule and restore salaries that will keep top talent in the College and in one of the country’s most expensive cities.

The faculty union is asking for restoration of the 3.5% pay cut faculty absorbed during the Great Recession and for 4% raises for the next three years, which will bring CCSF faculty to the median of Bay Area faculty salaries, in addition to rebuilding the college’s course offerings.

CCSF student Win-Mon Kyi said she supports tomorrow’s faculty strike because “A 26% cut to classes jeopardizes our future. Our campus isn’t going to look the same with a quarter of our faculty gone and resource centers further being cut. Diversity studies in particular are endangered. City College has the only Filipino studies department in the nation and we had the first LGBTQ studies program. These programs are in jeopardy of being eliminated and we are losing access to learning about our history.”

Win-Mon praised faculty advocacy for measures that will rebuild the college to serve as many students as it once did, such as a recently announced proposal by San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim to make City College free for all residents and workers in San Francisco. 

Emily Lee, political director of the Chinese Progressive Association, noted that “CPA has struggled alongside City College faculty in the past to save the college when it was attacked by ACCJC. Now faculty are standing up to the administration for the college that our community deserves. In particular we rely on the ESL program to aid new immigrants to the city. It is a vital program that needs to be supported.”

Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Supervisor, voiced his solidarity saying “Faculty has stood with me and I’m proud to stand with faculty and students of City College of San Francisco.”

Hillary Ronen, an aide to Supervisor David Campos and AFT 2121-endorsed candidate to succeed him, announced at the press conference that Campos is introducing a resolution of support for the strike to the Board of Supervisors. Also speaking at the press conference were Associated Students leader Thomas Lee and Chinatown campus faculty member Fanny Law.

For more information about the strike and the issues that led up to it, go to aft2121.org. For more information on the long struggle for fair accreditation practices, go to cft.org.

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The San Francisco Community College Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2121, represents certificated employees at City College of San Francisco. It is affiliated with the California Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 25,000 community faculty across the state and 120,000 education employees at all levels of public education.

 

Issues and facts to consider when reporting on Vergara v. California

Dolores Picture
United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta addresses reporters at press conference outside the L.A. courtroom where arguments were heard on February 26, 2016 in the appeal of the Vergara v. California Superior Court decision of 2014. Huerta described how Students Matter representatives misled her into supporting the Vergara case, and her subsequent demand that the group remove her from their website.

OVERVIEW

A panel of appeal judges in Los Angeles ruled earlier this year to strike down the June 2014 Superior Court decision in Vergara v. California. The suit, and the initial decision by Judge Rolf Treu, proposed to strip workplace rights from 300,000 classroom teachers in California, claiming that what stands between low income and minority students and their constitutional right to equal access to a quality education are state statutes that grant teachers a hearing before being fired (“tenure”), require schools to evaluate teachers for job security in the second year of employment, and give more senior teachers preference over junior teachers in layoffs (“seniority”). The plaintiffs have appealed the appellate court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which will decide sometime this summer whether to accept the appeal.

The Vergara lawsuit is not what it seems. It is an anti-union suit masquerading as a civil rights case. Its plaintiffs were recruited by a corporate law firm supported by a Silicon Valley millionaire, David Welch, who has bankrolled a group called Students Matter. Welch and others are spending millions of dollars in legal fees and on a PR firm to carefully orchestrate a “blame the teachers” campaign to connect dots between a real problem (equal access to public education for all students) and a false cause of that problem (teacher workplace rights).

One of their moves backfired in February when Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez, briefly appeared on the Students Matter website as a supporter of the Vergara case. When she learned more about the case, its backers, and its objectives, Ms. Huerta quickly demanded that Students Matter remove her from the website. In her ‘cease and desist’ letter, she called Students Matter “an organization that blatantly misrepresents the facts and pushes an agenda to strip workers of their rights for the financial gain of its backers.”

To help guide reporters through the thick PR blanket suffocating real information in the case, we offer the following issues and facts to consider before writing about Vergara v. California.

Who is David Welch and why is he funding Vergara v. California?
On the Students Matter website we are told that wealthy Silicon Valley employer David Welch’s “passion for public education arises from his roles both as a parent of three school-aged children and as an employer in two highly successful start-ups in Silicon Valley.” Plausibly personal reasons could drive Welch’s decision to fund Vergara v. California (and similar suits in other states). If his children actually attend public schools then like any parent, he would presumably be concerned about their education. And if he somehow connects his experience as an entrepreneur to the benefits provided—or not—by public schools, say, in creating an educated workforce for him to employ in his businesses, he might be concerned as well. If neither of these things is the case, his “passion for public education” is empty verbiage, and hides other reasons for his actions. Platitudes should be responded to with concrete questions and factual answers.

What might Welch’s status as a corporate charter school investor have to do with this crusade, an attack on the workplace rights of unionized public school teachers?
There is no evidence that prior to founding Students Matter David Welch exhibited any “passion for public education.” Just the opposite: As an article in Capital & Main points out, “The David and Heidi Welch Foundation, for example, has given to NewSchools Venture Fund, where Welch has been an “investment partner” and which invests in both charter schools and the cyber-charter industry, and has been linked to the $9 billion-per-year textbook and testing behemoth Pearson. Welch has also supported Michelle Rhee’s education-privatizing lobby StudentsFirst, most recently with a $550,000 bequest in 2012.”

What is the connection between opposing Proposition 30 in 2012 and support for the Vergara law suit?
The single greatest boost to helping students gain “their constitutional right to equal access to education” in years was the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012. Prop 30 imposed modest income tax increases on the wealthy (people like David Welch) that provide six to eight billion dollars per year in California public school funding. Prop 30 stopped teacher layoffs, restored programs slashed by loss of revenues due to the Great Recession, and directed dollars, through the Local Control Funding Formula, to schools with students that need the most help—low income and foster children, and English Language Learners. These are presumably the students that Students Matter claims it seeks to help. Yet prominent backers of Vergara and Students Matter—Eli Broad, Tench Coxe, Donald Scifres—spent heavily to oppose Prop 30.

Judge Treu referred to a 1-3% teacher incompetency rate. Where did that come from?
This statistic was provided by witness for the defense Dr. David Berliner, professor emeritus of education and author of a number of widely respected books on public education. In his decision, Judge Treu, who said that this number “shocks the conscience,” misrepresented Berliner’s comments.  Here is what Treu said:

There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms. Dr. Berliner, an expert called by State Defendants, testified that 1 to 3% of teachers in California are grossly ineffective.

But here’s what Berliner said when asked later about the origin of that statistic: “I pulled that out of the air. There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.”

Also, Berliner himself never used the words “grossly ineffective.” Like “shocks the conscience,” however, “grossly ineffective” is a phrase that shows up repeatedly in stories about Vergara. As Berliner noted, “In hundreds of classrooms, I have never seen a ‘grossly ineffective’ teacher. I don’t know anybody who knows what that means.” But it sure sounds bad, which is why these phrases are all over Students Matter press releases and carefully mentioned every time a Vergara lawyer or spokesperson opens their mouths.

It’s not easy to find reliable statistics or studies on occupational incompetence, in education or anywhere else. It is extremely easy, however, to find Judge Treu’s phrase in virtually every story on the Vergara suit, thanks to how neatly it fits within the faux civil rights narrative provided by Students Matter’s expensive PR firm, Rally.

The simple reality this PR campaign takes advantage of is that everyone who has passed through the public school system has inevitably come across a poorly prepared or badly performing teacher, and how could it be otherwise? Each student between kindergarten and twelfth grade is taught by around fifty teachers. Do we really expect that each one will be, like Lake Woebegone children, above average? Needed to address this problem is increased support to help struggling teachers improve, and if that effort falls short, counsel them into another career. But that’s not the solution Vergara v. California offers.

UCLA law professor and education expert Stuart Biegel observes, “If 97 to 99 percent of California teachers are effective, you don’t take away basic, hard-won rights from everybody. You focus on strengthening the process for addressing the teachers who are not effective.”

How long should a probationary period for teachers be?
Like the probation period for teachers, that for other public employees varies (example: probationary employment for police averages around a year and a half). Vergara proponents claim that California’s laws providing for “tenure”—the right to a hearing before termination, distinguishing public school teaching from at-will employment—after eighteen months is not enough time for an administrator to make an effective determination of a new teacher’s fitness to teach. A year and a half is enough time to figure out the fitness of a police officer, but not good enough for a public school teacher? Stanford professor and education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond testified in the trial that current law provides enough time to identify teachers who should be counseled out of the profession.

How hard is it to fire a teacher?
If you listen to Vergara backers, it’s impossible to fire a teacher. But here are the facts. During the first two years of a teacher's career, a lengthy probation period, administrators can fire them for any reason, or for no reason at all. After that, the requirements are for the administrator to document the problem necessitating the teacher's dismissal, and convince two out of three people on a panel of experts to agree. That's it. A teacher's simple right to a hearing before dismissal is not unfair to students. To the contrary: students need a stable, experienced teaching workforce, not a revolving door of educators. Numerous witnesses in the trial testified that in well-run school districts, administrators have no trouble determining the capability of a probationary teacher within the time provided by current law and have no trouble removing teachers who consistently receive poor evaluations.

What causes teacher layoffs?
There are two misleading and faulty assumptions embedded in the Vergara argument that seniority order dismissal during layoffs means bad teachers are kept while good teachers are dismissed.

Misleading and faulty assumption 1: The problem with layoffs is seniority.
The cause of losing good teachers to layoffs is the underfunding that causes the layoffs—lack of revenues, exacerbated by the ongoing aftereffects of the economic recession. It is more accurate to say low tax rates on the wealthy, coupled with economic recession, caused our funding crisis for public education, hence layoffs, than to pretend that orderly dismissal rules are "unfair" to new teachers. Prop 30, which Vergara advocates opposed, addressed this issue. There have been very few layoffs since passage of Prop 30.

Once layoffs occur, seniority is the only fair, transparent way to administer them. It ensures equal treatment for all in a difficult time. It replaces the arbitrary authority of administrators to rule by whim or favoritism.

Misleading and faulty assumption 2: Good teachers are young teachers, and old teachers are bad teachers.
Research consistently shows more experienced teachers provide better student learning outcomes than inexperienced teachers. But we all know schools need a mix of younger and more experienced teachers. Younger teachers bring energy and the most recent pedagogy. Older teachers bring wisdom, the knowledge that comes with facing and solving many classroom problems over the years. One intention of the Vergara lawsuit is to drive a wedge between younger and older teachers, and between teachers and parents—divisions that do not serve effective learning for students, but do assist the anti-union cause by sowing suspicion and confusion among natural allies.

The teacher shortage: Is the bigger problem firing teachers or hiring teachers?
We are experiencing a steep decline in attendance in teacher training programs (down 53% in five years), and face a looming teacher shortage. How would making it easier to fire teachers help us to solve our growing teacher shortage problem? Short answer: it won’t. Vergara v. California is one of an enormous cluster of legal attacks on public education and unions funded by wealthy conservatives, who think that defeats at the ballot box can be overcome in the courts. One reason we have a teacher shortage is the real difficulty of the job in an underfunded system, coupled with low pay compared to jobs requiring equivalent education and training. Another is the relative recovery of the economy, providing prospective teachers with alternative, more lucrative career paths. But an insidious third reason for declining enrollment in teacher education programs is the poisonous political atmosphere surrounding public education created by attacks on teachers like Vergara v. California.

What do students and teachers need to succeed, and how does the Vergara suit help?
Students and teachers need the resources and training to succeed: safe and healthy campuses, adequate staffing and school library hours, enough computers for everyone, a well-rounded curriculum, excellent teacher education programs, school nurses, prep time, and systematic mentoring, or peer assistance and review, for struggling teachers. Prop 30 stopped the bleeding of public education resources that began before, but was terribly exacerbated by, the Great Recession. Prop 30 has not provided everything education needs to educate every child well, but it has moved the needle in the right direction.

By contrast, the Vergara suit will not add a single pencil to sparse school supplies (the average teacher spends about $500 a year out of pocket on supplies) or reduce the ratio of students to teacher in a single classroom (California has the highest student to teacher ratio in the country), just as it will not provide any support that any struggling teacher needs to succeed.

The question implied by the Vergara v. California suit is an important one, which needs to be asked and re-asked every day: how do we best educate California’s students? The answer that it suggests—eliminate the rights of the people who teach those students—is disingenuous and deceptive, and no amount of billionaire-backed PR will change that reality.

Back to the main Vergara page

Sources
“David Welch: The Man Behind Vergara v. California,” Capital & Main, February 20, 2014

Dolores Huerta Forces Anti-Teacher Lawsuit Backers to Remove Her Name From “Vergara” Website,” Capital & Main, February 29, 2016, 

Fuzzy Math: The guesstimate that struck down California’s teacher tenure laws,” Slate, June 12, 2014 

"Addressing California's Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions,” Learning Policy Institute, By Linda Darling-Hammond, Roberta Furger, Patrick M. Shields, and Leib Sutcher, 2016

Where have all the teachers gone,” nprEd, by Eric Westervelt, March 3, 2015
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For more information, www.cft.org, or to speak with a CFT representative, call 510-579-3343.

Media contact

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