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Redeeming the promise of public education

This fall, for the first time in thirteen years, my family was no longer engaged in the annual rituals of preparing school binders, filling backpacks, reviewing class schedules and discussing prospective teachers. My daughter Danielle graduated high school from LAUSD last June. Now starting classes at a top college, she embodies the fulfillment of the promise of public education.

When Dani turned five, my wife took her to Ms. Navarette’s kindergarten classroom for the first day of elementary school. I couldn’t go, because at that moment I was teaching across town at Manual Arts High. But it was an emotional day for me, knowing my girl was now embarked on a new chapter of her life, and I felt the resonance of our shared surroundings in my classroom.

Every day after school for a year I heard about Ms. Navarette. Dani adored her teacher, and through Ms. Navarette, Dani quickly learned to love school. Although not every one of her teachers over the years measured up to Ms. Navarette, most did.

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State of the Union 

Delivered by CFT President Joshua Pechthalt on April 1, 2017


Sisters and brothers, members of the CFT. It is always great to be at our convention, to see friends, to think about the year gone as we prepare for the challenges ahead.

And boy do we face some tough challenges.

The election of Donald Trump jeopardizes the progressive gains of the last 80 years. Trump also threatens, almost daily, the basic sense of ethics, civic mindedness and fairness, valued across the political spectrum.

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The Meaning Of Passing Prop 55

This Nov. 8, one of the most important issues facing voters in California is the continued funding of public education. 

Of course, all the media attention will rightfully be on the outcome at the top of the ticket. The election of Hillary Clinton as the first woman president of the United States ― breaking the toughest of glass ceilings while repudiating the politics of hate, fear and misogyny – will be much to celebrate. A huge second win will be Democratic control of the Senate, especially when we elect Kamala Harris as California’s first African-American female senator. 

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Improving what works in education, not marketplace gimmicks

“We need to get rid of the bad teachers and the current system is too costly and time consuming,” has become a common refrain. The recent decision by the State Supreme Court not to hear the Vergara v. California lawsuit and the defeat of proposed legislation by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla reaffirmed, for some, a sense of frustration that a broken system will continue.

Children deserve top notch teachers. Most do have good teachers, some great ones and, unfortunately, some have poor ones who should not be in a classroom. How we ensure good teachers is an area of contention.

Those behind the Vergara lawsuit and similar efforts believe that creating more competition in our schools will help push out poor teachers and keep the good ones. Few workers, they say, have the workplace protections enjoyed by many teachers and other unionized workers.

However, using the marketplace as a model for public education doesn’t work. Our children are not commodities to be weighed, measured, evaluated and sold. We value art and music in education because they help our children become well-rounded individuals. And we rightly devote resources to special needs children so they reach their full potential. In a marketplace, less capable children might be cast aside because they can’t compete.

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Don’t let millionaires dictate fate of California’s schools

This piece originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee

Millions of California schoolchildren are starting another important academic year. This includes my daughter, a high school senior who along with her classmates has been buffeted by changing policies and budget cycles that have had a profound impact on her education.

While our public schools still lag far behind the national average in per-pupil spending and average class size, since Proposition 30 was passed by voters in 2012, our schools are in much better financial shape with more teachers, counselors and course offerings, and smaller classes.

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