This past Monday I was in Sacramento, California’s state capital, talking with members of the legislature about recommendations for reimagining permanent status as tenure for teachers. The members of the state legislature who I met with welcomed a new idea for creating a teacher tenure system. Like me, many of them are concerned with the rulings in the Vergara case, which is awaiting a hearing in the state appellate court. The Vergara case argues that California’s permanent status policy, as it stands, denies students the right to a high-quality education.
The state leaders I spoke to are ready to work on issues raised by Vergara now, and it is my hope that the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) will join in the conversation to create a new tenure system this summer for three reasons, but first #1:
Restore faith in our public school system
Earlier this year, Los Angeles held a primary election for four seats on the school board. I received many flyers for both the primary and the final elections and one flyer I received from the Democratic Party left me gob-smacked - a flyer titled, “Los Angeles Democratic Voter Guide” that endorsed a number of candidates for a number of offices (i.e. city council, community college board, school board, etc.). The Democratic Party had endorsed two candidates for the school board that my teacher’s union, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), radically opposed: Tamar Galatzan and Ref Rodriguez. Historically, democrats in the state of California usually side with teachers and the teachers union. So what was happening?
A very robust charter school movement within the state really took off in early 2000 and has grown ever since. When I think about west Los Angeles (Santa Monica, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Malibu), areas with lots of voting democrats who believe in school choice, school accountability, I think of as a faction of our Democratic Party who believes the teachers union is standing in the way of making California schools better. Teachers have lost their own party in many ways because of millions of dollars of union spending on political campaigns, lobbying, and now lawsuits.
Interestingly, when polled the public supports teachers, but not teacher unions to fix what’s wrong with public education. The union called on teachers here in Los Angeles to phone bank and walk the precinct, which led to Tamar Galatzan’s defeat but not Ref Rodriguez, who also happens to be one of the founders and an executive with the charter school group known as Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC).
As a union representative (I sit on UTLA’s House of Representatives), it is clear to me that our teaches union must restore public faith in public education through advocacy of some common sense change such as reimaging permanent status as a tenure system for teachers similar to those in place for college professors. I alone, am willing to call for the creation of a teacher tenure system but I want my union, CTA to be involved so that we can create a system that works for all our students and for teachers. (You can read more about what a possible teacher tenure system could look like - ideas that I shared with state leaders in Sacramento - here). The best possible tenure system can only be developed with many voices at the table.
More reason to come in my next two blogs...
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