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Are our elected officials for our kids or for the unions?

Original post made by Voter on Jan 7, 2010

Californians who care about public schools have something to cheer about. Pushed by President Obama's Race to the Top competition and by grass-roots parent efforts, lawmakers finally passed bills that position California to make big changes long resisted by entrenched educational interests. Senate Bill SBX5 1 moves the state forward in setting high standards and evaluating teacher and principal effectiveness based on student progress.

Voting against these reforms included Assembly members Hayashi and Torrico, and Senate Member Corbett. Abstaining (as to not upset the unions) was Assembly Member Buchanan (former school board member). All of our local state representatives voted to support the unions at the expense of improving our school system.

For all of you who are upset about school funding, you should contact these representatives and give them a piece of your mind. We also need to vote these people out of office. Education is one of the most important items our state takes care of and these members are more concerned with the unions than our students. Our schools will never get to where they should be with representatives voting down real reform.

Comments (33)

Posted by with you, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Right you are. It's time for the public to choose. PUBLIC UNIONS -OR- ourselves...that's our kids, our families, us the taxpayers.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Jan 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Unions exist for a reason. VOTE CAST FOR UNIONS!!!

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Mission Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm

We almost lost a lot of federal money because of the votes of our elected officials, in addition to reforms that will help our schools. Instead of people lobbying for more money in a parcel tax, we should be going after legislators like this who are the causes of our problems. Assembly members are two year terms. Lets vote them out next election. As an independent I don't care what the party is. Just need legislatures that fear the voters more than the unions.

Posted by Do the right thing, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The current info released today by PUSD and the fiscal situation is 9 pages in length.

After proposing to cut every possible advantage our children have in this district, on the last page, at the bottom of the list, under large bolded font that states Negotiable, is the step and column increase that would save the district 1.6MM.

I propose we start with fiscal change at the bottom of page 9 that is, if we really are for "the children"...

A tear to my eye? No.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I have never been happy with Torrico. He is a career politician and casts his vote only for his own interests. In this case, he didn't want to risk the ire of the teachers unions. Very little of his district is in Pleasanton - most of his district stretches down to San Jose and the schools aren't so great would think he would be more interested in the kids usual, he's thinking of himself. But Pleasanton residents can't do much to get him out because there are so few of us in his district and the voters in Milpitas etc. must not read the paper much...

Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Kids can't vote nor do they contribute to campaign can figure out the answer.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Torrico's background before he was in politics: lawyer for the unions. I could not think of a worse combination of qualifications. If he gets in as Attorney General, the state is screwed!

Posted by Karen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

As for Step and Column:

Rewarding anyone for being in a job year after year with no regard to their performance is no different than promoting an underperfroming student to the next grade just because they showed up for school all year. Most schools don't pass kids on to the next grade unless they reach a certain level of performance (passing grades) so why should we pass the teacher on to the next pay step without reviewing their performance?

We have many outstanding teachers in this district and they have nothing to worry about.

Posted by Bonnie, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Yes, Torrico's entire history is PRO-PUBLIC union as #1 priority. Sidebar: Those involved like Pelosi, Obama, house Dems etc. who are writing law to TAX everybody receiving good medical plans ....are making secret deal (probably already done) to buckle & cave to all unions GM, etc who have the FINE insurance (like Congress), to back out and NOT tax them, meaning Congress will DOUBLE tax you even more...shame on you for accepting good insurance.....they're gonna get you BIG time...MUCH more than 6 months ago when they decided they'd have to sock it to cadillac plans!!

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm

A freeze to step and column is $1.6 million 2010-11 and $3.2 the following year (assuming all people remaining the same). I didn't write down the projected deficit for that year. I think a parcel tax for priority values with a S&C freeze for the life of the tax could get it passed and maybe we could put money in the reserves, pay Sycamore, and our other loans as well.

Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm

"so why should we pass the teacher on to the next pay step without reviewing their performance?"

The annual review process for teachers is very in depth, detailed, and has always been required by the district. It is based on their performance and detailed records are kept. Input from parents can also be a part of a teacher's "file". Any parent can write to attest to a teacher's performance whether it be a positive or negative.

Posted by Fed Up Too!, a resident of Beratlis Place
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:04 am

You people do alot of yakking and bitching. Organize yourselves, get a plan together and get the publicity neccessary to raise a ruckus. Hayashi who is a "Carpet Bagger" to start with, Corbett and Torrico will come running.....or will run away. all you people do is bitch and flap your yappers. Get off the computer and work for change!!!

Posted by Karen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:08 am

To Get Educated:

The teacher reviews cannot have been "in depth" because, if they were, there would be several current teachers who would not be working now. A handful of teachers have been virtually "tarred and feathered" in the community of parents. Parents have been exasperated with certain teachers for years and we all know there is a collective groan at the beginning of each school year (or a shout of joy !) when parents find out which teachers their children will have that year. Ignoring this fact is like ignoring the elephant in the room. The district ignores complaints from parents. Period. If you think about it, there is an elephant residing in a number of classrooms.

Like it or not, parents know who the great/good/poor teachers are but it makes no difference because the great ones get the same pay as the poor ones and the poor ones remain in their positions, causing parents to joust, jostle and fight to avoid them every year. That is not a good situation for the great teachers nor is it good for the kids.

By the way, there are some really fabulous teachers in the district and mostly very good ones...and they know that they are good. It's not a secret to anyone. When parents complain about teachers, we are not talking about them.

Kudos to all the great teachers my kids have had. I think we have expressed our appreciation to you over the years. You have made a difference in our lives and you should be rewarded above some of your colleagues who don't do all that you do.

So much for Step and Column...It's not fair to the good teachers and it's not fair to the community.

Posted by Educated, a resident of Foothill High School
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:13 am

Get Educated:

What you say about the annual review process may be true...but it does not affect the teacher's pay increase. A D- teacher gets the same step and column increases as an A+ teacher. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's my understanding. Plus, it's VERY difficult to get rid of a D- teacher, especially one who's been around for a few years. Pleasanton teachers are very well paid. There's no reason we should have to keep C and D teachers around.

Posted by Kristine, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:01 am

What is all the kids vs. union c**p? I am genrally not a fan of unions, but the teachers' union is, for the most part, looking out for the kids welfare more than the Sacramento dolts in the Legislature that blow our money, and parents that are dialed out and uninvolved. It amazes me when people carp about teacher's pay and see nothing wrong with paying a BART slug a six-figure salary. In the U. S., teaching is one of the most unappreciated professions, far different than in the countries that are now kicking our butts, and where teachers make more than doctors and attorneys.

Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:15 am

Unions breed mediocrity in job performance by protecting the low performing workers, while demoralizing those with higher skills and better work ethic. Also, with their targeted union campaign contributions they have bought and paid for most of our current crop of "public servants" (union puppets).

Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:18 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Kristine, your entire post is valid except for the part about the union looking out for our childrens welfare. Nothing could be further from the truth, otherwise, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

To Kristine:

"but the teachers' union is, for the most part, looking out for the kids welfare"

You are either part of this union or drinking the kool-aid. The teachers union cares less about students. Their purpose, as is the purpose of all unions, is to look out for the interests of the members (teachers) and get as much money as they can. Same thing with all public employee unions. BART unions do not care about the riders, Police and Fire unions do not care about the residents. Goes on and on. Sole purpose is jobs and salary. This is nothing against those working in the unions (teachers, fire, and police) as they are generally good people but the unions care about one thing. Everytime the president of CTA gets on a radio ad and says "it's for the children" I want to throw-up.

Posted by W Ron Sutton, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

I don't know the details, so I speak only in generalities.
Let's keep all of us focused on Best Practices, regardless of personal consequences. That is the only fair way for taxpayers and stakeholders, en toto. Let's not let any one group "outweigh" the greater good.

Posted by Me, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:38 am

So with everyone talking about freezing step and column increases, how do you propose compensating and keeping good teachers in the district once the economy rebounds? Teachers' salaries to education are well below the mean for similar hours worked outside of the schools. Have any of you received a raise this year? If so did you donate it all to the school district? Teachers accept being under compensated for several reasons. In the case of most it this includes getting real value from fulfilling their desire to make a real difference in the world. Also included is the trade off of job security and pay getting closer to that mean over time. Teachers have the same hierarchy of needs as the rest of us!
If you are suggesting merit based compensation, how do you propose measuring merit? Annual testing might be useful if you can gather enough meaningful statistic and are capable of interpreting them over a great enough time span to eliminate statistical anomalies that exist. Anomalies are caused by the likes of such things as imbalance in the number of idiot 'parent/student' to teacher ratios, non English speakers, and special need children.
As a parent I have heard this teacher or that teacher was awful only to have my kid learn inordinate amounts when placed in those classrooms. Some parents think teachers are terrible because they don't want to see their kids go through the struggle of growing up!! (IE the teacher gives more than 5 minutes of homework a week) Conversely I have heard a he or she is great only to have it be a free period for my children.
For newer teacher in the step and columns the failure to fund their steps will push more out of the profession (along with those who left with their pink slips).
When the economy recovers and the school districts start issuing emergency credentials like they did in the 90s because, there are not qualified teachers to be had, the same amnesiacs will be saying why don't we pay them more so we can get qualified teachers in our district. It is a vicious cycle.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 8, 2010 at 10:58 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"CTA advises local unions not to sign MOU [for Race to the Top]"
Web Link

Why overreact? I haven't seen talk about a permanent S&C freeze. Average teacher salary ~$80K for 180 days is well below the mean?

There are pre-existing merit pay schemes (some even created by teachers, I have to dig that one up again) that utilize student test data in the evaluation. It isn't a matter of proposing, it is only a matter of exploring which system we could implement. A fair system can be worked out.

Yes, the emergency credentialing was a result of poor planning on California's part in implementing K-3 CSR. It is the prime example of how teacher quality affects student achievement and how CSR is sensitive to that. It is the example of why it is so frustrating to have a system that benefits unions more than children. If teacher quality has a big effect on students, then as someone whose money goes towards making sure students get a quality education, I'd want my dollars spent on ensuring that is truly the case and not that the money is going to protect poor teachers.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Here's the LA Time's investigation bit on California's poor record of handling teachers.

Web Link

With the Race to the Top legislation that was just signed by Schwarzenegger, hopefully stories like this will change.

Posted by art lover, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I disagree with just about everything our (I pander to a lot of rich people but say I represent the working class) President stands for- BUT he has finally had the gumption to stand up to teacher's unions. We live in only a FEW states that just will NOT do merit pay. President Obama has chastised California for this. The school district was so surprised when the parcel tax didn't pass- well recklessly giving $30,000 to a private marketing firm that tried to make taxpayers out to be heartless horrible people unwilling to make sacrifices while teachers, school board members and administrators more or less sat back and expected this thing to win, was laughable. I rarely read anything of substance in the papers by our superintendant, or school board members that really addressed how everyone could work and sacrifice together. No, they were perfectly willing for taxpayers to take the hit and let status quo reign- in that the teachers unions have a strangle hold on politics in this state. Please don't insult us by saying the unions are there to benefit our kids. Please remember how you feel when it comes time to vote!

Posted by Parent, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Jan 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm

If doctors can have patients die on them and face almost no repercussions, then teachers can have students fail and be considered courageous.

If engineers get to select the projects they take on the materials they use, then teachers should get to select students and curriculum.

If lawyers are allowed to decide which client is worth defending, then teachers should be able to decide who is worth educating.

Posted by letsgo, a resident of Castlewood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

If anyone talking about merit pay has a link to info on a real merit based pay progrma that is working, please post it. I've seen some "merit" programs that give the best teachers bonuses of like $500 or $1000. While nothing to sneeze at it doesn't seem to me to be much of an incentive. I'm not exactly sure what a true merit program would look like and have troubles envisioning how it would work.

For those who say that the union is responsible for keeping bad teachers in place, apparently you have never tried to fire someone in the private sector (at a large company that the employee views as having deep pockets). Without blatant rule breaking it takes a LONG time to actually fire someone. Its much easier to try to get them to quit.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

To letsego,

The private sector is easy to terminate employees if they do not belong to a union. In California at least, we have at-will employment. You can fire an employee and not give a reason. In fact all HR people will tell you to never give a reason for firing a person as they could come back and challenge that reason. At-will gives the employer the right to terminate with or without cause.

Posted by Hard working teacher, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I am a teacher, living in Pleasanton, but working in another district by choice. Most children in Pleasanton come in knowing many of the standards, because they have educated parents that are constantly educating their children and giving them experiences that add to their knowledge. I choose to work in another district where the students absolutely need their teachers. Most of these kids have parents who work more than one job, speak English as a second language, have little food in the house, few opportunities to go outside their community or to participate in extra-curricular activities. Unfortunately, people want to grade the progress of teachers and schools purely based on scores which do not account for these differences. I work extremely hard each and every day to give my students the best education I can. People who want to believe that a students knowledge and score is purely a result of the teacher and/or school have no idea how many factors contribute to their scores. Should teachers like myself be penalized for choosing to work hard and teach in a lower socioeconomic area?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Hard working teacher asked: "Should teachers like myself be penalized for choosing to work hard and teach in a lower socioeconomic area?"

No! It is a well-recognized issue. A well-designed and fair merit pay system could account for that issue.

Posted by Hard Working Teacher, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Unfontunately, from experience I can tell you that it is not a well recognized by all or even many. If I saw a well-designed and fair merit pay system I would support it. However, there are other issues to consider. I am very worried about any system that would cause teachers to compete rather than collaborate and share good ideas. I have seen far more progress at our school through collaboration.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I would hope any part of a merit pay system, however defined, includes those identified for the recognition sharing best practices and collaborating with peer groups. Why would that stop? If everyone floats to the top, everyone gets merit pay. Do you tell the brightest students not to help others because they will end up competing? Illogical.

Posted by Qwerty, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2010 at 8:11 am

Yes, this sort of thing is upsetting, but rather than spending 100% of my available time "raising a ruckus", I'm using it on a local level with individual families. If we wait around for the government to clean up their act and create the right type of programs, then we end up losing out in some respects. When programs get eliminated I think about what I can do within my own family and my friends' families and try to create small programs amongst ourselves to make up the difference. Although I will spend some of it through voting, expressing my views, etc. I will make sure that at least 50% of my time is going back into the local community trying to make an immediate difference with the kids themselves.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

Back when our children were in these schools, there were "30 moms who did it all." We said that in jest, because of course there were many more. But we ran into each other everywhere. We worked for the unification of PUSD, we helped get the first bond passed, we read and worked on legislation, we started PIE, we were the room moms and parent club presidents, dads and moms were often coaches of name that sport, and at least three of us became board members. Our extended families helped too. We were "it takes a village" before Ms. Clinton wrote about it. And we did it when classes were 30:1 and school enrollments were much bigger.

And I know families are out there now doing the very same things. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it is why Pleasanton is Pleasanton. It's a vibrant community because of its young families. It would be pretty boring place without you!

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

Back to the question at the top of the page

Basically if you have enough information to formulate the question, you already know the answer.

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