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    California and Massachusetts Buckle Under Union Pressure

    About a month ago I wrote about potentially promising legislation making its way through the California legislature. Bill SBX5 1 was intended to make California competitive for the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top funds. After the bipartisan bill passed in the California Senate, it died in the Assembly Education Committee–largely in part, it seems, to union pressure.

    Bill SBX5 1 would have given children attending the lowest-performing schools in the state the opportunity to transfer to good schools. It also would have provided a system for rewarding educators who consistently improved student scores. It was struck down and replaced by a watered-down, union-supported bill sponsored by Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), the education committee’s chairwoman.

    The new bill, ABX5 8, eliminates the school choice option and increases regulations of charter schools. It does, however, get rid of the cap on charter schools, as SBX51 would also have done. That’s one of the few similarities between the bills. Governor Schwarzenegger states that if the Brownley bill reaches his desk he will veto it. There is fear and frustration that by striking down SBX51, California will not be competitive enough in its reforms to qualify for Race to the Top funds.

    Here’s a typical statement from the California Teachers Association (CTA), a union: “Education reform shouldn’t be a race; it deserves serious attention that will actually help kids and improve student achievement. Proposed reforms need thoughtful discussion with all stakeholders, including parents, teachers and community members. They should not be sprung on the public just hours before last-minute hearings if any meaningful input is really going to take place.” -CTA President David Sanchez

    Is the slow, ongoing path to failure preferable to a competitive race to success?

    One article I read reported that CTA developed a strategy this summer to fight Race to the Top legislation and set aside up to $950,000 for it. Making sure the Romero bill wouldn’t pass was part of that strategy.

    Brian Nestande (R-Sacramento) stated in a press release: “President Obama offered us the chance to promote excellence and secure needed funding for our schools, but instead Assembly Democrats chose to embrace the status-quo.”

    Transitioning from West Coast unions to East Coast unions, the title of a Boston Globe article pretty much speaks for itself: “Teachers’ test-linked bonuses overruled: Arbitrator decides high-scores reward violates contract”.

    Boston public schools intended to pay math teachers at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science and two other schools participating in the program bonuses for high scores on Advanced Placement exams. Math teachers would have received $100 for each high score achieved by their students. It was part of an Exxon Mobil-funded grant program. The program was seen as an incentive for teachers to teach Advanced Placement classes, which require much work and preparation.

    The Boston Globe reports that the program was dismantled when “the arbitrator ruled that Boston officials failed to negotiate the bonuses and other aspects of the program with the union before entering into an agreement on Feb. 28, 2008…”

    The Globe further states: “While the unions support the idea of more AP courses, the groups oppose bonuses for individual teachers, arguing they go against the spirit of teamwork among faculty.”

    AP participation had soared in the schools participating in the program.

    Ahh, the future of education…it’s looking like the slogan will be: sign on the union line.

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