Category Archives: education

The Progressive Case Against the Vergara Decision

Progressives should have serious concerns with the judge’s tentative ruling in Vergara v. California.

First, let it be known that I’m a solid progressive public school employee union activist. I believe bad employees should be fired, but I also have seen egregious employer actions against good employees while ignoring bad employees. In California, we’re pretty darn lucky to have strict employment non-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, laws don’t stop employers from doing bad things…except apparently in case of tenure. I guess tenure is some sort of kryptonite to management. OR

As a gay man fighting against the ability of employers to fire LGBT folks without reason, I find the judge’s reason counter to our own fight for ENDA protections. 2) The judge states that low-income and minority students systemically have low-performing teachers. How is that a tenure issue? That sounds like poor recruiting and retaining of good teachers…probably because working harder for less money is something that isn’t fair. Just ask women who earn $.76 to a man’s dollar. Gov. Brown’s new LCFF is bringing millions into our poorest schools. This will go far in improving our ability to attract and retain good teachers in every school district…assuming administrators actually, you know, manage their personnel.

It’s Time to Take Back UC for California

With the passage of Proposition 30 last November, millions of Californians voted to make personal financial sacrifices in support of public education.  As an elected state representative and former UC faculty member, I feel a special responsibility to ensure that these hard earned funds are being utilized to increase access to UC by Californians.

To be sure, Prop. 30 funds have helped to blunt the assault on access and quality that the financial crisis brought to California’s schools, community colleges and our public Universities.  Some have even enacted additional reforms in order to protect students and taxpayers from future contingencies.

But some, like the University of California, have done just the opposite.

Billions have been squandered on risky investments and oversized executive entitlements.  And UC’s administrative staff-the highest paid public employees in California who have almost no contact with patients and students-have become the fastest growing segment of its workforce.

The UC isn’t just a university.  Through its 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, and nineteen other facilities, it is one of the leading economic, research and health delivery institutions in America.  It serves 200,000 students and 4 million patients annually, and is responsible for 1 in 46 California jobs.  

In many ways, as the UC goes, so goes California.  And things are not going as well as they should be.

Student tuition has tripled, and out-of-state enrollment has skyrocketed.  Courses have been cut and student services slashed.  Debt has doubled.  Taxpayer-subsidized UC hospitals are shirking their responsibility to provide health care to the poor on public programs like Medi-Cal, and they have been hit with millions of dollars in government fines for patient safety violations and court-ordered whistleblower settlements.

Unfortunately, under our Constitution, UC does not have to play by the same rules as other public agencies-even other public schools in California.  

That’s why the real power to change UC lies with all of us-patients, students, faculty, alumni, donors, staff and California taxpayers.  We write the checks, fill the classrooms and hospitals, and maintain the facilities.  For generations, Californians have made the sacrifices necessary to build the UC into a crown jewel.  

If we are to preserve this legacy and strengthen it for future generations of Californians, we must take action to end the cycle of mismanagement that is putting UC students and patients at risk.  We must be vigilant and equally steadfast advocates for the reforms that are needed to get UC back on track.

In short:  we need to come together and TAKE BACK UC.

TAKE BACK UC is a grassroots coalition of opinion leaders, organizations, students, patients, workers and taxpayers from every corner of the Golden State.  Our cause is to raise awareness about problems in the UC system, and to mobilize the public in support of common sense solutions-like increased access to qualified California students with reduced student expense to earn a UC degree, access to UC hospitals and physicians, safe staffing at UC health facilities and campuses, and fair pension reforms.

Ultimately, the time for reform at UC is now.  Last month, a new President took the reins at UC.   Our coalition will show that not only is there a need for change at UC-but that there is a mandate for it.  This isn’t just about sharing our concerns today— but holding the Regents and top UC administrators accountable for results in the months and years to come.  

There are a few things you can do to help grow this watchdog movement right now.

1. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

2. Learn more and lend your name to our growing list of supporters by signing up at  

3. Sign our petition on fair pension reform for UC executives and safe staffing levels at UC hospitals – and share them with your friends!

Thank you in advance for your continued support of public education in California, and your commitment to restoring the University of California to its rightful place as the crown jewel of our Golden State.

Dr. Richard Pan

California State Assemblymember (D-9th District)

Reducing Truancy Makes Us Safer

Everyday, schools in California and across the nation are unable to educate far too many of our students for one simple reason: our youngest students aren’t in class. Some estimates say that approximately one million California elementary school students were truant during the 2012-13 school year.(1)

This week, my office released a major report summarizing the risks truancy poses, and presents several recommendations for what we can do to address these issues. Click here to read the report.

Truancy makes a profound difference in the safety of our communities. When our students drop out or fail to attend school, we spend additional billions in incarceration and lose productivity and tax revenues. One prominent study showed that for some chronically truant students, just one additional school day missed could reduce their chance of graduating by up to 7%.(2) Children who lack that educational foundation are more likely to end up at risk of becoming involved in crime, both as victims and as offenders.

I have long focused on combating truancy because I see a direct connection between public education and public safety. To really make the changes we need, all adults, – districts, law enforcement, schools, parents, communities – are accountable to find solutions. Only by working together can we find the solutions that our students need.

Click here to read my op-ed with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the Los Angeles Times, highlighting some of the ways that we can work together to fight truancy.(3)

Together, we can provide brighter futures for our children and safer communities for all Californians.

Kamala D. Harris is the Attorney General of California. If you know anybody that would like to sign up for our email list, please tell them to click here to sign up to get updates and future volunteer opportunities:

Student-led Campaign for Oil Extraction Tax Announces Strategic Resubmission, New Partnerships

The student-led campaign to pass an oil extraction tax in California via ballot initiative entered a new phase this week. The initiative, titled the California Modernization and Economic Development Act (CMED, for short), began gathering signatures in April and hit the signature gathering deadline set by the Secretary of State today. However, Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the student-led group that drafted the initiative, is announcing plans to strategically resubmit a revised measure: “This Summer has been busy for the CMED team,” said Aaron Thule, Grassroots Coordinator for the campaign, “after a lot of hard work, we have built a signature gathering coalition for Fall and Winter that will be ready to activate and qualify this initiative come November.”

The revised initiative will still utilize a tax on oil extracted from California to make investments in education and energy affordability, and authors have kept the same title. However, the authors made several key changes to the initiative. First, CMED will now feature a sliding scale tax of 2% to 8%, which proponents argue will protect small business owners and jobs. Proponents of the initiative predict that the oil tax would bring in 1 billion dollars a year in revenue for the state. Second, revenue in the revised initiative would be allocated as follows:

– 50% would be placed in a special 30-year endowment for education. After 3 years, the endowment would begin to payout in four equal parts toward K-12, Community Colleges, Cal State Universities and University of California. After 30 years of collecting interest, proponents predict it would bring in as much as 3.5 billion dollars a year (in today’s dollars) for California’s education system.

– 25% would be used to provide families and businesses with subsidies to help them switch to cleaner, less costly forms of energy

– 25% would be allocated toward rolling back the gas tax increase enacted last July, to make gas more affordable for working class Californians.

The growing coalition, which set signature gathering goals to qualify the measure by early Spring, includes the University of California Student Association (UCSA), groups at San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, CSU Bakersfield and several community colleges. California College Democrats and Young Democrats, which have both endorsed an extraction tax for education and clean energy, are also lending support. “It’s hard to believe that California is the only state that practically gives away our energy – especially when, as a state, our schools and colleges continue to struggle and we have yet to provide adequate funding to meet our own renewable energy standards,” said Erik Taylor, president of the College Democrats, who added: “Cal College Dems aren’t the only ones focused on the problem. At the Democratic convention in April, the state party endorsed an extraction tax policy for California. At the Democratic eboard meeting in July, the Young Democrats took it a step further and endorsed an extraction tax for education, renewable energy and community development.”

The UCSA, which represents hundreds of thousands of students in the UC system, plans to organize across several campuses in order to ensure benefits for students. Kareem Aref, the President of the UCSA, commented, “Affordability and funding are critical issues at the UC and Prop 30 simply is not the solution in itself that we need. Our campaigns for this year are designed to ensure a stable and long term funding stream for the UC. We are excited to push CMED to the next level and see this initiative implemented.”

More information and updates from the campaign can be found at

Jerry Brown Stands Up to Arne Duncan

Governor said he supports a transitional curriculum year without mandatory testing

by Brian Leubitz

School “reformers” in DC really love testing. Looooooovvvve it. Testing for good reasons. Testing for bad reasons. Testing to see what kids know of the subject matter. Testing to see how well kids can take a test.

But with the change to the new “Common Core” curriculum, the designers of the California STAR tests haven’t been able to keep up. The new tests that teach to the new curriculum won’t be available until next school year. So, no reasonable person would be pushing testing on an old curriculum, right?

Well, see the first paragraph. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, really loves testing. Loves it so much that he wants the STAR tests to continue, despite the fact that our students are being taught different material. Asm. Bonilla’s AB 484 would allow school districts to opt out of the testing for a year while the curriculum changes. It would also set up an opt-in program for computerized testing for the common core standards.

Really, testing for the current curriculum seems quite simple, but it never is. That being said, it looks like the Governor is undeterred by DoE threats to hold back money:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said California’s request for a one-year reprieve from using STAR tests in math and English for the current school year is unacceptable and may force his department to “take action.”

“No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing,” Duncan said in a statement Monday night. …

“There is no reason to double-test students using outdated, ineffective standards disconnected from what’s taught in the classroom,” (Brown spokesman Jim) Evans added.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who is sponsoring Bonilla’s bill, was in the Capitol on Tuesday talking to lawmakers about the importance of AB 484. The former legislator said it is a better investment to redirect the $25 million used to give the outdated STAR tests to instead allow more students to try new computer-based assessments.

“I’m disappointed someone in Washington would want to interfere in the legislative process in California,” (SSPI) Torlakson told The Bee. (SacBee)

Look, the testing will be back next year. But can’t we just agree that we should be testing on what we are teaching our students? Will one year really make or break the whole system?

Let’s Fix School Discipline in California

By Jory Steele

The school-to-prison pipeline is a heartbreaking problem with huge costs to our state. Not only are we paying more in criminal justice costs than it would take to educate every young person, California is losing the creative energy and productivity of too many students — especially students of color.

The legislature is considering taking a huge towards disrupting California’s school-to-prison pipeline. Assembly Bill 420, which requires approval by the Senate and Governor, will provide educators the guidance they need to keep more kids in front of a blackboard instead of behind bars.

California issues too many suspensions and expulsions, sending students on unsupervised vacations rather than keeping students in school and learning. In fact, California public schools suspend almost twice as many students as they graduate each year.

If you think that suspensions and expulsions cannot play a major role in sending kids into the criminal justice system, think again. Just one suspension triples a child’s likelihood of becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system within one year. A single suspension also makes that child five times more likely to drop out of school. The fact is that harsh punishment like suspensions, which are all-too-easily handed out, is often among the first stops along a pipeline to prison and the unrealized potential of our youth.

And the cost to our state is staggering. Incarcerating just one juvenile costs roughly $200,000 more per year than does educating her.

Let’s consider the role that race plays in determining a student’s likelihood of suspension. Young people of color in our state are much more likely to be suspended than white kids for the same behavior. Vague infractions, such as “willful defiance” can include missing a homework assignment or even wearing a hat. In fact, African-American kids are over four times more likely to be suspended than white kids for this largely undefined infraction.

This is California in 2013. It is mind-boggling that the color of a child’s skin can play such a significant role in the treatment they receive in our schools, and ultimately, in setting the course for their future.

There is one important step we can take towards fairness, justice and safety in 2014, though. AB 420 would bar “willful defiance” suspensions in elementary schools. It preserves educators’ ability to suspend older children for “willful defiance,” but only as a last resort, after other alternatives have been utilized.

AB 420 leaves in place 23 other grounds for suspension or expulsion, giving educators the discretion they need to maintain discipline. It places appropriate limits, though, on this subjective and overused ground for suspension that is so disproportionately applied to children of color.

“Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice,” Governor Jerry Brown stated emphatically in his State of the State speech this year. The Governor’s clever turn of phrase depends upon one fact being universally accepted:

Unequal treatment for children in equal situations is also not justice.

Jory Steele is the Education Equity Project Director at the ACLU of Northern California.

Campaign for Oil and Gas Extraction Tax Responds to Governor’s May Revision of the Budget

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown announced his “May Revise” for the budget. The proponents of the California Modernization and Economic Development Act – a proposed oil extraction tax for the 2014 ballot – offered the following statement in response to his press conference:

“Though we are pleased with the potential funds for K-12 schools and community colleges, the surplus in Governor Brown’s revise of the budget, like the passage of Proposition 30 last November, is only one step in the process of providing adequate funding for K-12 and higher education. An oil extraction tax is absolutely necessary to continue this trend and promote job growth in California.

“UC and CSU enrollment rates have dropped 20% because of recent tuition hikes. This can not continue. By the year 2020 as a result of decreased access to education, the Public Policy Institute of California predicts our state will not be capable of meeting economic demand for highly educated workers. This will only make it more difficult for businesses to find qualified employees, and will perpetuate high unemployment and wage stagnation in California.

“We have great respect for the Governor and especially for his work passing Proposition 30, which was a big step forward for California’s students and our economy. However, we could not disagree more about the urgent need to pass an oil extraction tax in our state and provide critical funding for schools, colleges and universities. Prop 30 should not be an excuse to continue giving away oil and gas that’s extracted from California and sold around the world – especially when making college more accessible has never been so important. Inadequate funding for higher education in California is still a very real problem with long term economic consequences, and a tax on extraction in California would be unnoticeable to commuters and taxpayers: it would only require oil companies to pay their fair share.

“Sacramento can practice real fiscal responsibility by using revenue from energy that belongs to California to boost our economy and create jobs at a time when 9.8% of Californians can’t find work – and subsequently, don’t pay taxes. That’s why CMED uses a consumer-friendly oil tax to make crucial investments in higher education, cities and towns and support for small businesses to switch to less-costly, cleaner forms of energy.”

More information and updates from the campaign can be found at

California Teachers Association Celebrates 150 Years

(A very happy sesquicentennial to the California Teachers Association. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

CTA150logocolor150 years of the California Teachers Association

By Dean E. Vogel

Today, May 9, marks the 150th anniversary of the California Teachers Association. Between the time that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the time he delivered the Gettysburg Address, John Swett founded the California Educational Society, which was to become the California Teachers Association.

It’s a long history and it’s a proud history. Since its inception in 1863, CTA has been at the forefront of every major victory for California’s public schools and colleges. You may be interested to know that:

In 1866, CTA secured funding to establish free public schools for all children in California.

In 1911, CTA led the fight to establish community colleges.

In 1927, CTA won a major legal victory when the state Supreme Court ruled that a school board couldn’t fire a female teacher simply because she got married.

In the 1940s, CTA emerged as one of the few “mainstream” organizations in California to protest against the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Edit by Brian: There is much more over the flip.

In 1988, CTA drafted and won passage of Prop. 98, the minimum funding guarantee for K-14 education.

In 1995, CTA won Class Size Reduction for grades K-3 after a massive media and lobby campaign.

In 2005, CTA won a major Prop. 98 lawsuit against the state and created the Quality Education Investment Act, which used the settlement to fund proven reforms at lower-performing schools.

And in 2012, CTA was instrumental in the passage of Prop. 30, preventing $6 billion in cuts to schools, and for the third time defeated an onerous “paycheck deception” initiative.

For 150 years, with the help of their union, teachers have helped make sure all students have an opportunity at a quality public education. And we continue to do so today. As classroom experts, teachers know firsthand what works. That’s why the California Teachers Association has been championing proven reforms for all students, especially those who are struggling.

Through its internationally recognized and innovative Quality Education Investment Act, CTA is leading efforts to make sure at-risk students get the resources they need to succeed. QEIA uses research-based reforms like smaller class sizes, more counselors and better teacher training. The program’s success can be seen in communities across the state as it helps close the achievement gap for many lower-income students.

Under the umbrella of the CTA Foundation for Teacher and Learning, the Institute for Teaching is an incubator for educational innovation. Through its successful grants, teachers are able to propose and lead change based on what is working in their classrooms.

After years of effort, CTA members have created and are advancing a framework for fair teacher evaluation that puts the emphasis on constructive reform, not punishment. We believe the goal of any evaluation system is to strengthen the knowledge, skills and practices of teachers to improve student learning.

We are excited to be celebrating 150 years of advocacy on behalf of our profession and our students. We know there are many challenges ahead for California’s schools, but working in partnership with the public, we know we can meet them just as we have for the past century and a half.

Dean E. Vogel is president of the California Teachers Association.

PPIC Poll Looks At What We Know of Education

New PPIC poll show support for additional local control

by Brian Leubitz

The PPIC poll, besides taking the standard poll numbers for the governor and Legislature, focuses on an issue at each release. This month, they take a look at what we know of our education system, and what we can do to improve it. But first, you can see from the graph that Gov. Brown is down slightly from his 51% peak in January, but still hovering in a pretty solid position. Without any recognizable challenger on the horizon, these are numbers that should carry him to an easy re-election. However, the political types always prefer to see the approval number above 50%, but there just aren’t any California politicians that really have any numbers that are better now.

The legislature also peaked in January, when they almost reached parity with their disapproval numbers (41-42). They continue a dive back to their normal numbers, this time at 31-53. January’s highs are probably not all that surprising, given the freshly balanced budget that was emerging at the beginning of the year due to the passage of Prop 30. And then, as we tend to not trust our politicians in California, no news is bad news and numbers trend down. But without the major crises that we faced a few years back with our budget, perhaps the new normal on those numbers is higher now.

Moving on to education, we get something of a mixed bag. First of all, few Californians know just how much are schools are being starved of resources. Only 36% knew that we were near the bottom of the fifty states in per pupil spending. On the flip side, more survey respondents (47%) knew that California ranks below average for test results.

But what of those test results? How valuable are they really? Well, here is how Californians see the value of testing:

When asked how confident they are that standardized tests accurately indicate a student’s progress and abilities, about half of Californians say they are very (11%) or somewhat (42%) confident, while 44 percent are not too confident (27%) or not at all confident (17%). Californians were more confident about testing in April 2006 than they are today (63% vs. 53%). Californians are more likely to say that students in their communities get the right amount of testing in elementary and middle school schools (40%) and high school (39%) than they are to say that students get too much testing (24% elementary and middle school, 21% high school) or not enough (29% elementary and middle school, 31% high school).

To be completely honest, I’m not sure what you are supposed to make of those numbers. Apparently we do too much, but too little, but exactly the right amount of testing.

And that is not where the contradictions end. We like our local schools, but every other school isn’t so great. Perhaps that is a result of a real desire for additional local control. In fact, 78% of respondents said that they would support additional local control of the school districts.

Finally, and most importantly for the Governor, large majorities (71%) also favor his plan to increase funding more rapidly for schools with higher percentages of English language learners and low-income students, with 74% believing that system will improve the results.

Clearly there is a much larger discussion still to come about school funding over the next few months.

Campaign for Oil and Gas Extraction Tax Announces Earth Day Rally

by Kevin Singer, Communications Coordinator, Californians for Responsible Economic Development

With one week left until the California Modernization and Economic Development Act – a proposed ballot initiative that would enact a tax on oil and gas extracted from California – is granted official summary and title by the Attorney General’s Office, the proponents of the measure are announcing an Earth Day rally and press conference. On Monday, April 22nd at 12PM students and allies will gather on the historic steps of Sproul Plaza in Berkeley to show their support for the bill, which would infuse California’s higher education system with $900 million for the purposes of reducing tuition and hiring more teachers. The rally will be followed by a press conference, during which the lead proponent, Jack Tibbetts, will give a statement and answer questions.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (CMED) places a 9.5% tax on the oil and gas that’s extracted from California, and would bring in over $2 billion of new revenue for the state. $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California. Another $400 million would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner forms of energy, and $300 million would be allocated for city and park infrastructure. “We want to demonstrate that students are willing to fight and vote for a bill in 2014 that consists of a complete package of investments for their future,” said Sera Tajima, Outreach Director for the campaign. “The fact of the matter is 2014 is an off-year election, and if Democrats are looking for a ballot initiative that will encourage student turn out, CMED is the obvious candidate,” Tajima added.

The announcement comes on the heels of the California Democratic Convention, where environmental activist and philanthropist Thomas Steyer spent a great deal of time talking about the need for an extraction tax. Though he did not specify a proposal he planned on backing, he did not rule out a ballot initiative if the California Senate and Assembly do not act. The bill has already attracted the attention and support from a wide variety of interest groups and individuals, and touts a growing list of endorsements on their website ( In February, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich endorsed CMED, calling the ballot initiative a “no-brainer.” Since then, the group has received enthusiastic support from several environmental advocacy groups, including the Community Food and Justice Coalition, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sustainable Marin and San Rafael, and Mark Reynolds of Citizen’s Climate Lobby.

In a recent turn of events, Dr. Daniel Kammen, Nobel Prize recipient and co-author of Prop 87 (a similar measure on the 2006 ballot), wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal. “Placing a small surcharge on in-state production benefits the state dramatically, spurring innovation on the producer side to reduce costs, and bringing in funds that are critically needed to green the economy, re-invest in education, and meet basic needs.  California is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution, and has profited from this process.  The California Modernization and Economic Development Act is absolutely needed.”


changed the word fee to the word tax, for article explaining difference, see here: http://www.clearthebenchcolora…

fixed a quote by Dan Kammen for accuracy