I opened Microsoft Word and opened a new blank document to write my final weekly column for San Jose Inside. I am doing so with a heavy heart.
I implore you to take an extra moment this week and reach out to thank a teacher for the extraordinary work they do each and every day.
Pope Francis urged politicians last week’s in his apostolic exhortation (official papal message) to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare.” As a spiritual man, educated in high school by Jesuits, I was struck by the Pope’s pointed criticism of economic inequality.
An elephant in the room when discussing publicly-funded charters vs. traditional public schools is collective bargaining—union vs. non-union. I think it is time we face the issue head-on and begin a charter-by-charter, district-by-district conversation. One way to achieve this goal is to experiment with “thin” contracts that forego tenure and seniority-based layoffs, and provide opportunities for performance pay based on results—not just results from state tests.
Recalcitrant school boards and some teacher unions are at the core of a new education battle. A report in the Mercury News last week found that the Evergreen School District’s teachers have been “working to rule”—which means only doing what’s required according to contract, and nothing more—for several months. This type of posturing only hurts students. It also damages the perception of teachers, and will only encourage the continued growth of non-union charter schools. Courageous leaders on both sides have the power to prevent this type of action, or a threatened strike vote by teachers. In order to restore the trust, board members need to take action to form a settlement.
A comprehensive plan must be developed to chart the best course for the ever-expanding charter school movement—before it is too late. Like urban sprawl, the unplanned process will be disastrous. I believe there is still time for a win for our students, a win for the teachers and a win for our region.
What does the Chicago teacher strike and standoff with the city’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, portend for the future of public education? Could a teachers’ strike be in San Jose’s future? Let’s examine the facts as they relate to this struggle for improving public schools.
I tuned in to the Master’s golf tournament Sunday and was struck by the ExxonMobile commercials urging the country to work toward improving our declining global rank in math and science education. The narrator of one of the many commercial spots says, “Today we rank 25th in mathematics. There’s no medal for that. Let’s train more teachers. Let’s inspire our students. Let’s get America back on track.” Easy for ExxonMobile to say, but enormously difficult to do—particularly in California, where we are continuing to disinvest in education in apocalyptic ways.
Last month, public education in this country continued to slip into the abyss. New York City became the epicenter of school reform and the second major U.S. city—Los Angeles Times published individual teacher scores last school year—to implement a public dissemination of individual teacher value-added scores. Value-added scores are a teacher’s rating predicated on the progress each of their elementary or middle school students makes on standardized tests in one school year.