Tag Archives: teachers

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.

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 http://www.cmedact.org

This is your time…

We have asked a lot of our online community over the last 10 months. You have been there with us, and for us, every step of the way.

You helped us get the campaign started – donating 20 hours of volunteer time or $20 to the campaign through our 20/20 program.

You helped us put together coffees in every corner of the city so we could meet your friends and neighbors.

You packed the house at our campaign kick-off event in May.

You gathered so many signatures that we were the only campaign to file more than 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

You helped us earn the support of the Sierra Club, teachers, the CA Nurses, the SF Labor Council and over 46 other community organizations representing hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors.

Over 2,000 of you have donated to our cause.

We are right on the verge of winning this race and creating an independent City Hall for the next four years. We need your help now more than ever.

We have 3 days to go until the campaign fundraising deadline at midnight on Saturday. Our goal is 100 online donations by midnight on Saturday. Will you help us win this race by making a contribution before the deadline?

In the past two weeks, we released our 20-point plans for improving our public schools and continuing San Francisco’s environmental leadership. We have released more public plans with more detail than any other campaign.

We have received the endorsement of the teachers and the San Francisco Labor Council. Our volunteers just finished door knocking their 300th precinct!

You have helped build this campaign from the start.

We have seven weeks to go to change City Hall and take back our city. This is our time.

We have 3 days to go until the campaign fundraising deadline at midnight on Saturday. Our goal is 100 online donations by midnight on Saturday. Will you help us win this race by making a contribution before the deadline?

Thank you for everything that you have done.


Leland Yee

PS – We are on the verge of winning this campaign and taking back City Hall from the inside power brokers. Please help put us over the top with a donation.

Yee Announces Plan to Strengthen San Francisco Public Schools

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Mayoral candidate and Senator Leland Yee unveiled his policy plan to strengthen San Francisco’s public schools. The plan, entitled “It Takes a Community,” contains 22 specific commitments that Yee will embark on as Mayor to address the underlying problems facing the city’s school system and to help turn around public education within San Francisco.

Yee – the only candidate to attend San Francisco public schools as well as send his four children to public schools – unveiled his plan today along side teachers, parents and former students at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School (formerly Commodore Stockton School), where Yee was a student as a young child.

Yee’s plan includes policies to provide affordable housing for teachers, time off for parents to participate, free Muni for low-income students, community services through school programs, and more college savings accounts.

“The best way to keep families in San Francisco is to improve public education,” said Yee. “A fully engaged and committed Mayor, who works in partnership with the school district, teachers, and parents, can make a real difference. This 22 point plan will not only help our kids, but will help our entire community and improve our economy.”

Yee began his political career as member of the San Francisco Board of Education in 1988.  Prior to serving as a Commissioner, Yee was an educator and child psychologist in the public schools. As a state legislator, Yee has fought for students and teachers – from authoring legislation to increase mental health services to voting against budget cuts to education.

As a result of his experience and commitment to public education, Yee is endorsed by the United Educators of San Francisco, California School Employees Association, and the California Nurses Association.

Yee has also been honored as the “Legislator of the Year” by the California Association of School Psychologists, California School Nutrition Association, California School Employees Association, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, Associated Students of the University of California, and the California Faculty Association, among others.

“Leland Yee has been a child psychologist, a teacher in the classroom, and will always be an educator in his heart,” said Kim-Shree Maufas, Board of Education Commissioner. “He’s one of us, he’s been there for us, and he’s the mayor who will be best for our schools.”

“Yee’s plan for schools demonstrates his commitment to education,” said Dennis Kelly, President of the United Educators of San Francisco. “San Francisco Teachers trust Leland to prioritize our kids and schools and we are proud to support Leland Yee for Mayor.”

The highlights of Yee’s plan include:


  1. Increase student success with wrap-around “community school” services
  2. Prioritize underperforming schools for community school reforms
  3. Reduce truancy and dropout rates, and expand programs for at-risk youth
  4. Free Muni for public school kids
  5. Promote school-based healthcare services for the entire family
  6. Expand nutrition education to improve healthy eating at home
  7. Bridge the digital divide
  8. Make college a goal for every student
  9. Make the Dream Act a reality
  10. Improve language proficiency for all students


  1. Expand teacher recognition and incentive programs
  2. Teacher Power: appoint educators to city boards and commissions
  3. Develop the best future educators by recruiting the best college graduates
  4. Real affordable housing for educators
  5. Help teachers pay for classroom materials


  1. Create network of community partners to expand reach of wrap-around services
  2. Expand and formalize partnerships with universities to share space, service-learning opportunities, and align strategic plans
  3. Expand partnerships with businesses to ensure college and career connectivity
  4. Create alliance of school and parent advocacy groups to improve connectivity and collaboration


  1. Time off to attend school functions and parent-teacher conferences
  2. Support and promote the SFUSD Parent Engagement and Partnership Plan
  3. Community school wrap-around services for parents

To read Yee’s entire plan, visit www.LelandYee.com.

Yee immigrated to San Francisco at the age of 3. His father, a veteran, served in the US Army and the Merchant Marine, and his mother was a local seamstress. Yee graduated from the University of California – Berkeley, then earned a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, and later served in various mental health and school settings. He and his wife, Maxine, have raised four children who all attended San Francisco public schools. Yee has served in the State Legislature, Board of Supervisors and Board of Education.


Californians: We Support Our Public Workers

Yesterday, we saw with strong turnouts at We are One rallies across the state, that Californians don’t take kindly to the anti-worker tone emanating from some of the other statehouses.  But now we have numbers:

In the aftermath of major demonstrations by labor unions on Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and to bring attention to working families, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) today released new polling results showing that 56% of California voters have a favorable view of public employees and 61% support their right to bargain together. With public sector workers under assault and major battles over union rights in Wisconsin, California voters also sided with the Wisconsin public employees (56%) over its governor (37%). (Tulchin Research/CFT)

The poll asked 800 Californians a variety of questions on public workers, and they basically all turned up the same answer: Californians understand that public workers have a tough job, and that they should be supported.

Talking Budget Cuts with California’s Teachers

(Disclosure: I work for Yes on 24)

I had the opportunity to speak this morning with three California teachers about the budget cuts they’ve faced. We also discussed the high stakes of the November election and Proposition 24. All three of the teachers to whom I spoke, Mary Rose Ortego, Sergio Martinez and Tyrone Cabell, are working actively to try and restore the terrible budget cuts in our schools.

Mary Rose Ortega, who teaches third grade, summed up the state of affairs. “30,000 teachers have been laid off in the last 3 years”, she said. With the budget the way it is, she told me, we can expect thousands more pink slips soon.

The numbers became even more shocking when we discussed the effects on individual classrooms. I learned that class sizes have gone up to 40 in most elementary schools, and resources are incredibly scarce. Teachers are rationing paper, textbooks aren’t updated or replaced even when torn, and teacher’s aides have had their hours cut so students are getting even less one on one attention.

Sergio Martinez, who teaches fifth grade, highlighted the damage to the school infrastructure. “We’ve had nurses, counselors, librarians’ hours cut”, he explained. With the library being closed more hours each school day, kids can’t get to the books or the computers. If they don’t have those resources at home, they just aren’t getting them at all.

Of course, test standards haven’t changed one bit. Students and teachers are simply expected to do more with less, and only they will suffer the consequences.

Finally, Tyrone Cabell, who teaches special education, laid out the most chilling picture. Before the draconian cuts began, special ed classes in California were supposed to hold 8-10 students each. Now it’s 15. I asked him to describe how he does his job, and he simply told me “It’s impossible”.

Impossible. That is a word we should NEVER have to use in reference to educating our children. If California cannot give veteran teachers like Mary Rose Ortega, Sergio Martinez and Tyrone Cabell the resources to make their jobs possible, then California is failing our children. Meanwhile, in 2009 California handed a generous set of tax breaks to multistate corporations. If those corporations don’t pay their fair share, schools suffer. There’s just no way around it.

All three teachers stressed to me that passing Proposition 24 in November to end the corporate tax giveaways is a key first step in restoring the funding schools deserve. The corporations don’t want to give up their tax breaks, and they’re running a vigorous opposition campaign. Please stand with the teachers, not the corporations. Vote Yes on 24.

Some things aren’t negotiable

Dear Friend,

Some things in life simply aren’t negotiable – like a high quality public education for our children.

My parents emigrated from China to San Francisco when I was three years old. San Francisco public schools gave me the foundation and opportunity to succeed in America. They did the same for all four of my children.

That’s why it’s so important that we stop the budget cuts to education being proposed in Sacramento right now. They will hurt our children, our families and our community.

Check out our first TV commercial of the campaign  – on our Facebook page or at LelandYee.com – and join with me and teachers from across California to put a stop to these unconscionable cuts to education.

In today’s tough economy, middle class families depend on high quality public education. It’s the backbone that has driven California’s economy to become one of the most dynamic in the world and made our state a land of opportunity.

Join our campaign and send a message today that some things aren’t negotiable – even in Sacramento. Our children, our families, our teachers and our communities deserve better. Join the fight to protect public education.


Senator Leland Yee

Vouchers Again? And the LAUSD Test Data

I want to like Joe Matthews and “Prop Zero.” I know a lot of smart, wonkish people have loved his book. But it seems these days that you can’t keep a job in the media without picking an issue to punch some hippies on. Apparently, Matthews has decided to pick on teachers. Well, at least their unions. You see, teachers unions aren’t allowed to advocate for teachers and do their jobs. They’re supposed to be education policy officials for some reason. (This must have been a “new rule” at some point.) The new ethos in America is to stop anyone from doing well if you can’t too, I guess.


Today’s blog post is entitled, “Teachers Aren’t Secret Agents.” (No linky.) As if the only public scrutiny teachers face is a potential LA Times database. Have these people completely forgotten school boards? There is also data published all the time on the individual schools. It’s also completely ignorant of what goes on in schools right about now: a lot of breaking down of last year’s test score data to work on areas of improvement.  

This is completely leaving aside the question of whether these scores measuring anything or the right things. So, even assuming that’s true now we have “reasonable liberals” like Kevin Drum and Joe Matthews saying that it’s a good idea to publish all of this data about teachers because, umm, they are public employees and data is good. Or something. Except that even public employees still have a right of privacy with respect to their personnel files. Except that there is a virtual certainty that this data will be used to harass, settle personal scores, and for all kinds of shenanigans. There will be a “nobody could have predicted” moment.

I tell teachers (my mom and mother-in-law are teachers, my wife was for 6 years before moving into administration, and I taught in community college about 10 years ago) that they need to accept testing as part of their job now and try to use it to their advantage: it provides a quantitative metric of their job performance (even if it’s not measuring anything you believe in). Many people would love to have something like that to always make sure that they can prove they are performing. It’s not the ideal situation, and the unions that are supposed to improve their working conditions are under no obligation to support it, but that’s the lemonade to be made here.

But that’s a far cry from suggesting that the James O’Keefes of the world should be given all of this information to be used for whatever purpose they want. And, I still am shocked that people think that it’s a good idea to make the teaching profession even tougher. Low wages (especially for the amount of education required), increasing instability, tough working conditions, and now this? And somehow the big evil teachers’ unions are all powerful?

And then there’s a companion piece from Dan Quayle’s lackey on the same blog today (NO linky) rinse and repeating all of the voucher arguments once again. This is another one of those hippie-punching “credibility building” issues for liberals. Even The West Wing flirted with this one. See, it’s clever. Make us feel sorry for those inner-city colored children who will suddenly all magically have access to perfect clean suburban schools if they just have vouchers.

My head is about to explode. Seriously.

I have your solution to the “problems” in schools right here: triple the wages for teachers. You will have young people with Ph.D.’s from the top schools clawing each other’s eyes out to fill almost every position. Competition to get the best test scores will be fierce. Know how I know? This is what big corporations, law firms, banks, etc. had to do in the late 90s to keep each other from stealing each others talent.

But see, this simple “Econ 101” style “supply and demand” fix that is almost Ayn Randian in its oversimplicity never occurs to the free market defenders of the Constitution for some reason. And to me, that completely destroys THEIR credibility on the issue. They want better schools and better teachers but they also want to be able to pay them nothing in crumbling buildings.

It’s a lie, a hoax, it is destroying our future and it gets traction with every attempted hippie punch by fame seeking media whores like the aforementioned.

Update: Add David A. Lehrer of the LA Jewish Journal, whoever he is.

There Will Be … Uneducated Californians

You know how we keep cutting teachers from districts all over the state?  Well, some folks are thinking that maybe you can’t do that without consequence. You know, maybe people would want to avoid a job that carries big risk of layoffs without the big salaries you see in other risky professions.

As thousands of laid off California teachers sit out the school year, educators are worried about the long-term effect of losing so many teachers. Some instructors are considering leaving the state or even the profession, and if history is any indication, fewer young people will pursue careers in teaching.

“The pipeline issue is one of the most significant challenges that we’re dealing with, with the layoff situation or the pink-slipping,” said Margaret Gaston, executive director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit focused on strengthening California’s teacher workforce. (LA Times 10/3/09)

At various times in the last few years, some California districts have had to hunt desperately to find teachers, and then only to lay them off a few years later. This constant state of flux is bad for the teachers, bad for the districts, and certainly bad for the students.

Cut me please

Cut my services please.  

I make a good living in California.  I pay tons of taxes.  Like my liberal friends (I am a moderate and think both parties have no credibility), my kids are not even permitted to step foot on a public school.  I get next to nothing from the state except crowded freeways, state parks that charge for parking, horrid emergency rooms, and the highway patrol.  the only useful thing for me is the UC system as i went there and hope my kids can go.  

So here is my offer.  Cut all of my services.  Close all the state parks immediately, i will suffer.  Pull the plug on the UCs, and if my kids want to go to college, they will work a job and borrow.  

But in return, i want some pain inflicted on welfare moms, on teachers, on the community colleges, on the schools, on the hospitals, etc.  

what is so unfair about all this.