Archives for category: California

The leading advocates for privatization are funding Marshall Tuck’s campaign for State Superintendent of Education in California. If you want to get rid of public schools, Tuck’s the guy. If you want to improve public education, vote for Tom Torkakson.

From the Torlakson website:

Pension/School Privateers Invest in Tuck for Schools Chief

A handful of ultra-wealthy donors who support school privatization and cutting public pension systems are behind a flood of spending supporting former Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck’s campaign for state schools superintendent, campaign disclosure records show.

Far from “Parents and Teachers for Tuck,” the $4.7 million collected so far comes instead from sources that support school vouchers, privatization of public pension systems and using disruptive business tactics to overhaul public schools.

Major funders include:

$500,000 from Carrie Walton Penner, whose family made its fortune running anti-union, low-wage paying Wal-Mart. The Walmart 1% website reports that Penner’s biography includes serving on the board of the Alliance for School Choice – a school voucher advocacy group.

$300,000 from John D. Arnold, a former Enron trader and funder of efforts to persuade governments to cut public employee pensions. In February, the New York Times reported that a public television station returned $3.5 million Arnold’s foundation had paid to underwrite a series examining the economic sustainability of public pensions.

$1 million from corporate CEO Eli Broad. He drew statewide attention when it was revealed he had donated $500,000 to a group with ties to the Koch Brothers to defeat Proposition 30 and pass Proposition 32.

Here’s how Parents Across America, a public school advocacy group, described Broad’s approach: “Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by ‘investing in disruptive force.’ Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or ‘churn’ is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

Carl Cohn is one of the most respected and wisest figures in American education today. He was a successful superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego. He currently is a member of the California State Board of Education.

He writes here about the flawed logic of the Vergara decision, in which the judge ruled that teacher tenure and seniority were unconstitutional in California.

Cohn says the decision contradicts the reality of schools today, as well as what he observed as a superintendent.

He writes:

“What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.

“Serving as superintendent in both Long Beach and San Diego for 12-plus years, I didn’t see the “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” – the places where teachers are assigned and do nothing while any of a range of charges against them are adjudicated – that have become a part of the popular-media-driven narrative about urban schools and districts.

“I saw remarkably heroic classroom teachers who delivered high-quality instruction on a daily basis. Sure, there were times when a teacher wasn’t performing up to par and needed help. And yes, there were times when a teacher needed to find a new career. But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case.

“In my experience at Long Beach, the biggest help in counseling a teacher toward finding a new career was the head of the local teachers union, who understood that keeping a sub-par teacher in the profession was bad for both the district and the union. Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district.

“In recent years, it has become fashionable to suggest that the battle in urban districts is all about adult interests versus the interests of schoolchildren. The truth is that an effective leader of an urban school system goes to work every day trying to figure out how best to motivate, inspire and develop the adults who work with kids. Those superintendents who feel that they can transform kids’ lives by fiat from the superintendent’s suite are kidding themselves and fooling the public. Enlisting, engaging and collaborating with classroom teachers are the only ways to genuinely move the needle on student achievement.”

He adds:

“Some change may well need to be considered in the length of time teachers must serve before gaining tenure. Most observers are waiting for some grand bargain to be crafted at the state level. But I think this would be best done from the “bottom up” in urban districts like San Jose and others, where district and union leaders are coming to the same conclusion that some beginning teachers are better served by lengthening the probationary period. State leaders and CTA need to get out of the way and let this happen.

“The work of improving urban schools is a long, hard slog. It requires stability of leadership and governance, along with taking the time to develop mutual trust between administrators and unions on building the capacity of the vast majority of the teacher workforce. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

“California is a great state that should never consider turning back the clock either on the civil rights of urban students, who have the right to a high-quality public school education, or on the employment rights of the dedicated teachers who I saw serving them so well in both Long Beach and San Diego.”

Peter Greene has a very engaging post about the insanity of Marshall Tuck’s run for State Superintendent of California.

 

Greene can’t believe that Tuck believes what he is saying and promising. If he delivers, he will destroy public education in California, get rid of experienced teachers, somehow find inexperienced replacements for them, and then what? Then Californians will know that the whole reformster agenda is a fraud. Maybe, just maybe, Greene thinks, it would be a good thing to have this expose happen.

 

What qualifies Tuck to run the state education department? Well, he was an investment banker. The rich and powerful like him. He has friends in Hollywood. He thinks no teacher should have tenure. He failed as leader of Green Dot. He failed running the mayor’s takeover schools. That means he is an expert on reform.

 

Greene writes:

 

Tuck is popular with the Let’s Kick Teachers’ Asses crowd, which is why this election matters. Current Superintendent Tom Torlakson pissed off a lot of powerful people by deciding to challenge the Vergara ruling, and if elected Tuck will put an end to that toot suite.

 

I confess to being a little fascinated by the Tuck candidacy, because what is the end game here? I mean, unless he’s an idiot, he has to know that the same smoke and mirrors that create the illusion of success for charter schools cannot be scaled to the state level, and his bold claims that he can raise California’s educational standings will fail hugely. “Throw out difficult students who make school look less successful” only works if there are other schools to send them to. Maybe he has figured out how to scale charter success with, say, a plan to push all low-performing California students into Nevada. But I’m doubtful. He has to know that he cannot deliver any of the results he is promising.

 

So if he’s not an idiot, what’s the plan here? Just get in there and strip as much money as possible out of the system and walk away? Destroy the teaching profession and public education and just hope nobody notices or cares? The usual reformster profile is to find yourself a job where you aren’t accountable to much of anybody and where the reporting of results is entirely under your control. But Tuck wants to be responsible to the state voters for an entire state system whose results will be pretty hard to hide.

 

If this guy is elected, shame on the voters of California. Their children will get what they don’t deserve.

 

 

David B. Cohen is a National Board Certified Teacher at Palo Alto High School, respected by his peers and students. He is spending this year traveling California, meeting teachers, learning about their practices, and writing about the great teachers he finds.

He has started a Kickstarter campaign and needs your help.

Unlike the “reformers,” David is not looking for failure. He is looking for success and knows he will find it and document it. He is a gifted writer.

Politico.com reviews a number of governor’s races around the country, and here is the takeaway: governors who cut education funding are on the defensive, even insisting that they didn’t do it.

Consider this:

” The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

“- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

On California it is a close race for state superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and investment bbanker-charter cheerleader Mardhall The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

In California, it is a right race for superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and privatizer Marshall Tuck. The future if public education in that state hangs in the balance. If Tuck wins, expect more charter schools and attacks in due process rights for teachers.

Ken Futernick, a wise educator who has written about the improvement of the teaching profession for many years, has a brilliant article in the Los Angeles Times about “grand bargain” post-Vergara. Futernick testified for the state in the Vergara trial. He has long understood that schools in urban districts with low scores often have poor working conditions, inadequate resources, and high teacher turnover.

The term “grand bargain” typically refers to compromises by warring parties. In this case, he has laid out a program that all states can learn from.

He writes:

“Unless it’s overturned on appeal, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s June decision in Vergara vs. California making it much easier to fire teachers will hurt students if lawmakers, unions and other state education leaders don’t move beyond its limited focus and address the many factors that adversely affect student learning and teacher performance.

“Stakeholders must come together around a “grand bargain” that would address not only teacher incompetence but all the obstacles educators face that, in the end, prevent many students from learning.”

Making it easier to fire “bad teachers” won’t make it easier to hire good ones.

“To be sure, many of those who teach in poor neighborhoods don’t have the same effect on test scores as those who teach in wealthier schools. But most schools that serve poor and minority students — those with high concentrations of English learners, transient students, students with health problems and so on — have fewer resources to meet students’ many needs, larger class sizes and inadequate materials and facilities. In addition, they are staffed with many beginning teachers who turn over at high rates. Not surprisingly, student achievement suffers.

“Also, schools that serve poor students routinely assign teachers to subjects in which they have no expertise. For instance, a 2008 study showed that 27% of math courses in schools serving poor students were taught by teachers who were not qualified to teach math.

“Why are schools that serve poor and minority students overstaffed with inexperienced and out-of-field teachers? Most teachers seek to make a difference and are eager to teach disadvantaged students. But many don’t want to teach in such schools because most of them are extraordinarily difficult, dysfunctional places to work. The teachers there suffer from poor professional support, low morale, run-down facilities, a revolving door of principals and unrelenting accountability pressures.

“Ineffectiveness in the classroom often does not derive from incompetence.

“Consequently, administrators in these schools can’t attract and keep enough well-qualified, experienced teachers. That, in turn, highlights another critical flaw in the judge’s decision — the assumption that these schools can find suitable replacements for fired teachers. Quite the contrary, and administrators’ power to fire teachers without real due process will only exacerbate the teacher recruitment problem….

“For starters, the state should develop a new teacher dismissal process that is fair and efficient. It should not take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fire an ineffective teacher if he or she has been given a reasonable chance to improve, has been carefully evaluated and hasn’t done better.

“[Governor Jerry] Brown signed legislation this year that provides a fair and efficient way to adjudicate cases of gross teacher misconduct. Education leaders should develop a similar way to handle cases of teacher incompetence. They also should develop solutions for the other statutes that the court struck down, such as the one that allowed teachers with more seniority to keep their jobs during layoffs. California could do what other states have done, recognize experience along with other factors in making layoff decisions.

“But California must have a solid due process system for teachers, and contrary to popular belief, that’s all that tenure provides. Without a reliable way to determine whether a teacher is truly incompetent, the state will return to an era when employment decisions were fraught with abuse that included higher-salaried, experienced teachers replaced with less-expensive beginners and competent teachers fired because of their political or religious views.”

“Here is the framework Futernick suggests for a “grand bargain”:

“*The state must develop a robust teacher evaluation framework designed to help all teachers improve, not just to identify low performers. Such systems would ensure that principals and other evaluators have the time and training needed to conduct meaningful evaluations.

“*The state should build on the successful peer assistance and review programs that exist in places such as Poway Unified and San Juan Unified. These programs provide high-quality support to struggling teachers. Most participating teachers improve; those who don’t either leave voluntarily or are dismissed without grievances and expensive lawsuits.

“*The state and school districts must improve the conditions in hard-to-staff schools to attract and retain the best teaching candidates and the strongest principals. Among other things, these schools need high-quality professional development, time for teachers to plan and collaborate, and the authority to make professional decisions.”

Without adequate resources, changes in the law will be a hollow promise.

San Diego’s Superintendent of Schools Cindy Marten announced that the district would return the armored vehicle that the Pentagon had given the district.

“Superintendent Cindy Marten announced the decision in a statement Thursday night.

“Some members of our community are not comfortable with the district having this vehicle,” Marten said. “If any part of our community is not comfortable with it, we cannot be comfortable with it.”

“The decision to return the vehicle, valued at more than $700,000, was praised by school board trustee Scott Barnett, who last week announced his opposition to the idea.”

After the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of Michael Brown, the public became aware that the military was giving weaponry and armored vehicles to police departments and school police. Public revulsion to militarization of civilian authorities and police has caused some, like San Diego, to return these “gifts.”

In a much-awaited decision, Governor Jerry Brown has appealed the Vergara decision.

LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown appealed a court ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s teachers, setting himself apart from leaders in some other states who have fought to end such protections or at least raise the standards for obtaining them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed the appeal late Friday in a Los Angeles County court on behalf of the governor and the state.
The move came a day after Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu finalized his June ruling that found five laws violated the California Constitution by depriving some of the state’s 6.2 million students of a quality education. He’d earlier said the system “shocks the conscience.”

The governor’s one-page notice of appeal said that under the state’s constitution “the important issues presented in this case — if they are to have statewide legal impact — must be reviewed by a higher court, either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of California.”

It says that for reasons that are “unclear and unexplained” actual school districts were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit before trial, meaning the court’s decision “applies only to parties that have no role or duties under the challenged lawsuits.”

It also criticizes Treu for failing to provide details on the legal basis for his reasoning, and simply making his tentative decision final instead of elaborating and expanding on in the ruling that was affirmed Thursday.

Republicans had urged state leaders not to appeal the ruling and criticized his decision to do so Friday.

“A federal court ruled that the State of California is depriving minority children their constitutionally guaranteed right to an equal education and the governor decides to appeal? Unbelievable,” Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in a written response.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson had asked the attorney general for the appeal earlier Friday because he lacked the legal authority.

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Schools in California, issued a statement today declaring his decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara decision. Torlakson is a veteran educator. His opponent Marshall Tuck immediately attacked Torlakson. Tuck, a former investment banker, was active in the charter school movement. Tenure is not the only or the most important issue that divides them. Tuck’s penchant for privatization would undermine public education across the state.

I know Tom Torlakson well. He is humble, knowledgeable, and understands schooling. I hope the voters of California are wise enough to re-elect him.

Tom Torlakson said today:

Friends,

Earlier today I issued a statement regarding my decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara case, which has drawn considerable public attention in recent weeks.

Here is the complete text of my public statement:

“The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.

“No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.

“In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.

“While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review.”

Best regards,

Tom

Another scoop by KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson. The California State Auditor is investigating four of the state’s 11 Magnolia Science Academies, part of the Gulen charter chain.

“After sampling transactions from Magnolia campuses in 2012, L.A. Unified found over $43,000 in duplicate payments to vendors, flagging those as potential misuse of funds.

“The Los Angeles Unified school board ordered a second audit in 2014, voting to close two of the schools if any fiscal problems arose.

“The audit, which the district is calling a “forensic review,” revealed that schools sent $2.8 million to the network’s management organization. The funds were poorly documented loans, and much of the cash was never paid back to classrooms, according to L.A. Unified.

“District auditors found the management organization met the definition of insolvent, operating on a $1.7 million deficit.

“Magnolia refutes much of the findings.”

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