California State of Emergency Day Three Reflections



Quote of the Day:
“The kids won’t have room to breathe.”
California State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson sharing about a third grade class he visited that will go from 25 to 33 students

Whew! It was a hot, sweaty day of work, with almost 200 teachers crammed into the Education Committee room, and a bunch of lousy bills from the minority to fight.

SB 266 (Dutton) – The “sub pay” bill. In the face of hacking budget cuts that are on the table, Senator Dutton asked to give school districts the “flexibility” to deal with shortfalls. As it currently stands, laid off teachers can regain their teacher salary and benefits by substituting until they are called back. This bill would allow districts to avoid paying laid off teachers a salary commensurate with their training and skills, and instead be paid at the district’s substitute rate (usually much lower).  There’s an incentive to stay in the profession until you can regain your job! Teachers spoke out thoroughly and eloquently, but the star of the show was Senator Vargas, who CALLED out the bill’s author, Senator Dutton, saying if he wanted to help districts he’d vote on a budget with the revenue extensions and that the problem isn’t a lack of “flexibility” but a lack of revenue, which the minority is causing. He wins the hero of the day award from this teacher!
Final outcome: bill was pulled back into committee without a vote.

SB 355 (Huff) – The “due process/seniority/collective bargaining attacks”
A “kitchen sink” of ed “reforminess”, where to begin? The elimination of seniority that the bill’s author promises will help high minority schools with low tenure teachers? The creation of an “evaluation” system, based 30% on test scores (hey, that the same percentage as in RttT implementing legislation from last year, coincidence?). Supporters that include DfER? Let me count the many reasons why this piece of legislation needed to die, die, DIE! Here in a nutshell are the arguments:

  1. Administrators can remove “bad” teachers, but why on earth did they give them tenure in the first place? Releasing a probationary teacher requires NO REASON! Districts and administration need to do their job!
  2. What would you prefer, a heart surgeon who has been doing their job for many years, and performed surgery many times, or an intern?
  3. This will not solve the disparity of experience problem in high minority/low income schools. That requires investing in those schools to make them attractive….to all teachers.
  4. My argument against “evaluation models based on student test scores” was that I worked in banking risk analysis when they started to develop risk evaluation models that involve the complex mathematical formulas that are similar to what VAT (value added teacher) models use. Given the results in the finance industry, do we really want to bring that to education?

Final outcome: bill was voted on, with support only from the three Republicans on the committee, and was granted reconsideration.

SB 871 (Runner) – The “no teacher raises if the school year is shortened” bill
I did not stay for the discussion of this bill, I apologize, but I had to grab something to eat before the next event.
Final outcome: bill was pulled from the calendar.

The good news is, they’re gone for this year. The bad news? Like Freddie and Zombies, they are sure to return next year…and we’ll be there ;-).

Next up was a Press Conference on the Capitol steps. It started with Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction  (who provides today’s quote) recognizing all the laid off educators, as his remarks were delivered in front of 400 empty chairs that stood for each of the 100 educators and education support staff given lay off notices in our golden state. He was joined by two California Teachers of the Year (ToYs), Shannon Brown and Beverly Gonzalez, who spoke about the cuts to education (thank you ladies!).

The next part of the conference was about thanking our fellow labor allies, firemen, nurses, home health workers, state workers, hotel and restaurant workers, etc. A representative from each group spoke and showed solidarity with us, and asked for our help as we ALL need a budget resolution that does not rely solely on cuts.


There were further afternoon activities, but I had to take care of stuff with my son, so I left at that point. I’ll try to post about it tomorrow!

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