Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Courtesy of the Fordham Institute, we again learn that there has been a large uptick in the number of non-teaching staff employed in our public schools.The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach,” informs us that:

The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers, more than three million strong, now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures. But is this growth necessary—or even sustainable?

A look at countries which typically beat us in international comparisons tells an important story. Switzerland spends 70 percent of its compensation dollars on teachers and just 14 percent on other staff. In Finland those numbers are 51:11 and Slovakia 54:14. But in the U.S., we spend 54 percent on teachers and 27 percent on non-teaching staff.

In another study, The Friedman Foundation – using U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics data – found that between fiscal years 1950 and 2009,

… the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.  

The Vergara case was back in the news again at the end of August. After Judge Rolf Treu reaffirmed his original decision, CTA, CFT and the state of California immediately appealed. The unions issued a joint statement, stating that “Judge Treu’s decision striking down five California Education Code provisions is without support in law or fact, the appeal says that Treu’s reversible errors are too numerous to list.” To read the entire statement, go here -  During their recent debate, Governor Jerry Brown and challenger Neel Kashkari had a brief discussion about the appeal. Brown’s comments ( and Kashkari’s heated rejoinder ( leave no doubt as to where the two men stand on the case.
On the Common Core front, there was a reasoned discussion in the Washington Times between Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey. While the two men differ greatly on the subject, they do agree on certain facts as laid out in this informative piece. To read it, go to
We have come across a website that you and your students might find beneficial. offers homework help and claims that “…80% of questions get answers within 10 minutes.” To check it out, go to  If you find the website beneficial and helpful to your students, please let us know.
Regarding the seemingly endless Los Angeles Unified School District iPad saga, a new chapter has been written. Via some “smoking gun” emails, there are allegations of impropriety by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and his top adviser Jaime Aquino. No charges have been filed … yet. For a basic overview on the latest turn of events, go to

According to a report on school choice by Katie Furtick, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, more than 2.3 million American students were enrolled in public charter schools in 2012-2013. Additionally,
States continued to expand their school choice options last year, with 13 states creating or expanding their tuition tax credit programs, private school scholarships or school choice vouchers.
  • Forty-eight school choice programs are now available to children and their families in the United States. This includes 22 voucher programs, 16 tax credit scholarship programs, one education savings account program and eight individual tax credit programs.
  • 260,000 students used vouchers and tax credit scholarships in 2013.
  • Enrollment in public charter schools increased by more than 250,000 between 2012 and 2013, totaling 5 percent of public school enrollment nationwide.
To continue reading this brief overview, go to  To access the entire report, go to 
The teachers unions seem to be getting it from all sides these days. The Wall Street Journal’s Teachers Unions Under Fire ( informs us that the percentage of elementary and secondary teachers who are union members is down about 20 percent since 1988.
Also tenure, an important component for the unions in the Vergara case, has fallen out of favor with the public. In an Education Next poll ( released in August:

… Survey respondents favor ending tenure by a 2-to-1 ratio. By about the same ratio, the public also thinks that if tenure is awarded, it should be based in part on how well the teacher's students perform in the classroom. Only 9% of the public agrees with current practice in most states, the policy of granting teachers tenure without taking student performance into account.

And finally, there are some interesting results in the yearly Gallup poll that surveys Americans on their attitudes toward labor unions. This year a question was added about right-to-work laws, and the responses were not good news for the unions. As Mike Antonucci writes,

The poll finds 82% of Americans agreeing that ‘no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,’ a position advanced by right-to-work proponents. Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the ‘free-rider’ problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’

And a reminder: If you are an NEA/CTA agency fee payer, you must apply for your yearly rebate between now and November 15th. For more info and form letters, go to
If you are a member of AFT/CFT or UTLA, please call 888-290-8471 or email for more information.)
And finally, we still have a limited number of T-shirts available. They are navy blue with the CTEN logo on front and “A resource for all who care about education” printed on the back. They come preshrunk, in small, medium, large and XL. If you would like one, all you have to do is make a $15 donation to CTEN via PayPal - - and let us know what size and where to send it and we will get it out to you promptly.

As always, thanks for your continued interest and support of CTEN.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Most of you are back to work now. We sincerely hope that you had an enjoyable summer, and that the always busy start of a new school year has been smooth sailing.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping story of this – or any – month is the internal CTA document that Mike Antonucci unearthed and posted a couple of weeks ago. “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share…” is a brief PDF in which the largest state teachers union in the country envisions the future. Apparently, CTA is resigned to the fact that forced union dues – the so-called “fair share” – sooner or later will go the way of the dodo bird. I would urge you all to read this revealing document. (

In a similar vein, last week CTEN participated in National Employee Freedom Week ( which is a national effort to inform union employees about the freedom they have to opt out of union membership. Alternatives include becoming an agency fee payer or identifying as a religious/conscientious objector. To support NEFW, CTEN board member Rebecca Friedrichs wrote an op-ed for the Orange County Register (,%202014.pdf ) and participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage foundation ( Additionally, I had an op-ed posted by Investor’s Business Daily ( ) and recorded a 30 second radio spot which ran on KABC in Los Angeles last week. (

In teacher union news in other states, now that Michigan is a right-to-work state, the Michigan Education Association is doing everything it can to prevent teachers from leaving. MEA has been anything but forthright in its dealings with teachers who are no longer interested in being in the union. A typical story is Rob Wiersema’s who was also a panelist in the Heritage Foundation event linked above.

In December 2012, Michigan passed a Right to Work law, which allowed teachers and other workers to keep their jobs without belonging to the union. Until then, union membership was all but a requirement for employment.

“I thought, great, I’m out,” Wiersema said. “As soon as I heard you could leave, I thought, great. My contract is up in 2013. I sent letters to the MEA and the local association to say I quit, but it obviously didn’t work.”

He called the union and sent letters asking how to leave, but he got no reply. In June, he sent a “quit letter” to the state and local branches and the school. In July, union dues showed up on his credit card.

“I disputed the charge and said I wasn’t going to pay it,” he said. “Then I heard the MEA was going to go after people who didn’t pay it and have their credit reports take a hit.”
To read more about Wiersema’s (and others) trials and tribulations go to

And in Wisconsin, Act 10 – which gives teachers the right to not pay union dues and limits collective bargaining – has survived yet another challenge. On July 31st, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended a three-year battle over Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation delivering a 5-2 decision in the law’s favor. To read more, go to

Back in the Golden State … things are heating up in Los Angeles. New UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl is talking tough – saying outright that if teachers aren’t offered a generous pay hike, there will be a strike. Not one to be easily cowed, LAUSD superintendent John Deasy had a few choice comments for the union. To read both sides go here - and here -

In other news, researcher Collin Hitt reports on a Mathematica study which dispels some of the oft-repeated myths about charter schools, in this case the KIPP franchise.

KIPP schools demand a certain kind of student – a student who is willing to put in long hours and put up with very strict rules. KIPP has been shown to substantially increase student test scores. But critics argue that the culture at KIPP has major effects on recruitment and retainment. KIPP schools attract better students and are more likely to weed out low performing students, the argument goes. If this is true, KIPP students who persist in school are more likely to have a high-achieving peer group – and the effects of simply being in a peer group are really what explain any positive effects at school. A new study from Mathematica destroys this critique.

As the Common Core battle rages, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi takes a refreshing view. While Common Core critics typically use the federalist argument or simply trash the quality of the standards, Izumi looks at the standards’ implementation. It’s not a pretty picture.

Bryce is a sixth grader at a public school in Northern California. He is a very bright student, achieving several perfect scores on the state’s math exam and consistently receiving A+ grades in math. Yet, Core Connections has had a discernible negative impact on Bryce.

Under Core Connections, Bryce and his fellow students are organized into teams of three to four students. Bryce says that there is unequal participation among team members, with more advanced students being more involved and carrying more of the work.

Further, not all the groups finish at the same time. Those that finish early can’t go on to harder problems, but have to wait until other teams finish. Oddly, Bryce says that his teacher doesn’t want early finishers to read because that’s English language arts, and not math.

Since the teamwork method started, the class usually doesn’t finish math lessons in time, and sometime it cuts into their science time or the math is simply not completed. Bryce emphasized that this situation happens a lot. When asked if the class starts the next day where they left off the day before, he answers “no,” saying that the class simply goes on to the next new concept.

In late July, Ray Fisman, an education economist from Columbia University, wrote an article for e-magazine Slate claiming that Sweden’s universal school choice program has caused a decline in student achievement. However, several other researchers found Fisman’s contentions to be way off the mark. To read the original piece and the blowback, go here -

CTEN sent out an email last week with agency fee payer information. In case you missed it, here is the text of that email:

If you are a member of CTA and considering becoming an agency fee payer, it’s a two-step process and now is the time to get started. To get a full rebate, you must have your resignation form in the mail by August 31st. (If you resign after Aug. 31 you will get a prorated rebate.) Then between September 1st and November 15th, you must submit a request to receive your full rebate. For more info and form letters, please go to   

(Also, teachers who mention CTEN when they sign up with the Association of American Educators for the first time will get a $30 discount off the regular $198 first year membership.)

If you were a member of CTA and have already become an agency fee payer, you must apply for your yearly rebate between September 1st and November 15th. For more info and form letters, go to
If you are a member of AFT/CFT or UTLA, please call 888-290-8471 or email for more information.)

If you are interested in giving CTEN brochures to colleagues, you can print them right from the home page - - Brochure.pdf  Or, if you prefer, we will be happy to send you as many preprinted ones as you need.

Also, anyone wishing to donate to CTEN can do so very simply through check, money order or PayPal -  As a non-profit, we exist only through the generosity of others. Thanks.

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dear Colleague,

After the Vergara decision last month, the judge stayed his ruling pending an appeal by the teachers unions. However, there was still fallout. AB 1619 would have required school districts with fewer than 250 students to grant tenure to teachers after three years, but in light of Vergara, the bill died in the Senate education committee. Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who has become involved with education reform, launched the Partnership for Educational Justice in New York in December 2013. Inspired by Vergara, she has identified six children who have agreed to serve as plaintiffs, arguing they “suffered from laws making it too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to fire bad teachers.” And then there was a USC poll, which among other things found that when asked about California’s teachers unions, “49 percent of voters said they have a “somewhat or very negative” impact on the quality of K-12 education, with 31 percent saying unions have a “somewhat or very positive” impact.” To read more, go to  

A second legal decision also has the unions livid. On June 30th, the Supreme Court agreed with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Harris v Quinn and ruled that home care workers could not be forced to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Justice Samuel Alito did stop short of throwing out the 1977 Abood decision which allows unions to require nonmembers to pay fees for collective bargaining, as long as the dues are not used for ideological or political purposes. However, there is another case waiting in the wings which could lead the court to throw out Abood and make paying dues to a union optional nationwide. To read more go to

In the April letter we told you about a pending bill, AB 215, which was signed into law on June 25th by Governor Brown. The law streamlines the discipline and appeals process by expediting cases of serious misconduct, those involving sexual abuse, child abuse and certain drug offenses. While the legislation has its critics, it would seem to be an improvement over the mess that existed before. To read the new law, go to

The Common Core debate still rages. With accusations flying from both sides, it’s important – as best as possible – to keep your eyes on the facts. Joy Pullman, research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, has some harrowing information about the costs of CCSS for Californians. She writes,

Back in 2011, the California Department of Education estimated phasing in the national curriculum and testing mandates would cost almost $760 million. In 2013, lawmakers voted to spend $1.25 billion for that purpose, almost twice the initial estimate.

Just a few months later, they’re back for more. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, chair of the Assembly education spending committee, recently proposed sending schools another $1.5 billion for the same purpose. If this bill passes, Common Core will have cost California taxpayers nearly four times as much as the state told them it would cost just three years ago.

One of the side effects of Common Core has been a renewed look at “high stakes” testing, with people from both sides of the political spectrum arming themselves to do battle with those they feel are over-testing our kids. At times like this, it may be interesting to ponder, “What would libertarian sage Milton Friedman do?” And over at the NCPA blog, John Merrifield and Benjamin Scafidi do a good job of “asking” the late economist his opinion. To learn what they came up with, go to

The 2014 NEA convention has come and gone and there were no surprises. President Dennis Van Roekel’s speech was boilerplate, trashing various bogeymen, including “corporate reformers like Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, and the like.” Though Van Roekel didn’t mention Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the NEA did adopt the resolution which calls for Duncan to step down. The resolution blamed Duncan for a “failed education agenda” consisting of policies that “undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.” To read more, go to
Speaking of Duncan, he has unveiled a 50-state strategy last Monday “for putting some teeth into a requirement of the 12-year-old No Child Left Behind Act that has gone largely unenforced up until now: ensuring that poor and minority students get access to as many great teachers as their more advantaged peers.” So is this move yet another federal boondoggle?  An idea whose time has come? Government overreach? All of the above? To read more about Duncan’s plan, go to

And finally, there are a few school choice bills that have been flying under the radar, although the California Federation of Teachers picked up on the blip and mentioned them on their website.

We have recently learned that Senator Dianne Feinstein is considering two Senate bills, S. 1968 and S. 1909, that would have a devastating impact on public education in California and around the country.

Going into loopy mode, the union then proclaims:

These bills propose to siphon Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds to private schools through a voucher system. Vouchers are nothing more than a vehicle for gutting school funding and for ultimately denying equal access to public education.

To track these two bills – and many others – go to

CTEN also has two Facebook pages. If you have a Facebook account, we urge you to visit ours and let us know your thoughts. Having a dialogue among teachers is an effective way to spread information and share experiences and ideas. Our original Facebook page can be found here!/group.php?gid=125866159932&ref=ts  Our second page, which deals with teacher evaluation and transparency, can be accessed here -!/group.php?gid=126900987357825&ref=ts

And we hope you are having a great summer!  

Larry Sand
CTEN President

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dear Colleague,

Undoubtedly the education story of the year is the decision in the Students Matter (Vergara v. California) case. Judge Rolf Treu ruled in favor of the plaintiffs every way imaginable, and as a result, the state education code will have to be changed. The tenure, seniority and the dismissal statutes have been deemed unconstitutional and will have to be replaced. While many reformers have been triumphal in response to the ruling, I’m afraid that may be short-sighted because no one knows what will replace the now-defunct laws. It could take years to rewrite the statutes, and the legislature may choose solutions that are little better than the current state of affairs. And nothing will change for the time being since the teachers unions are appealing the ruling. I would urge you to read the 16-page judgment for yourself and not rely on the bevy of articles that have been written about it, many of which are quite misleading. To read the decision, go to  City Journal’s associate editor Ben Boychuk comments here -  The teachers unions were not shy – to say the least – about responding. CTA weighed in here -  (I will have a piece published in City Journal (accessible at shortly where I look into the future and speculate about the fate of the issues in question.

The pension problem in California isn’t going away. The latest plan from Jerry Brown is rankling some and will have an effect on just about every school teacher in the state.

California's public school districts could face difficult cutbacks if state officials move forward with a plan to bail out the retirement fund for teachers, officials and educators say, but even those painful steps may fall short of curing the pension deficit if investments don't meet expectations.

Under a proposal released last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, more money will flow into the California State Teachers' Retirement System to begin closing an estimated $74-billion shortfall. But addressing that problem creates a different one: School systems would have to quickly pare back spending for next year, and they would face steeper diversions of dollars in later years.

The National Council on Teacher Quality has come out with a study on teacher absenteeism. 

Teachers in the nation's 40 largest school districts came to school 94 percent of the time in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a think tank that advocates tougher teacher evaluations. "Like clockwork," said Nancy Waymack, the group's managing director of district policy. On average, the urban teachers missed about 11 school days out of 186, and used slightly less than their allotment of short-term leave.

But the National Council on Teacher Quality classifies 16 percent of teachers in those cities as "chronically absent," meaning they missed 18 or more days per school year. Together, chronically absent teachers accounted for one-third of all teacher absences. Districts with formal policies designed to discourage teachers from missing class "do not appear to have better attendance rates than those without such policies," the report concludes. 

On June 3rd, Californians voted for – among other things – the Superintendent of Public Instruction. While current SPI leader and CTA choice Tom Torlakson came in first, he didn’t get a majority of the vote and was forced into a head-to-head election in November with reformer Marshall Tuck, who came in a distant second. For more, go to

From Kansas, we have a story: “State Board of Ed approves regulations for hiring teachers with subject expertise but no education degree.” While teachers in California can circumvent the traditional ed school route to the classroom, Kansas is taking it to another level. To read the story, go to

Late last month, we sent out the results of the Survey Monkey poll we took on Common Core. In case you missed that email, the results are attached. And again, many thanks to those of you who participated.

The subject of “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” is certainly a contentious one. The Los Angeles Unified School District has decided to eliminate them – in reality, district offices that house teachers who have been accused of various misdeeds – and instead, the teacher will have to sit at home during the school day. The Los Angeles Times reported on the story - Former state senator Gloria Romero, who now heads up the Foundation for Parent Empowerment, doesn’t like the decision. To get her take, go here -

If you are still using a school email to receive these newsletters, please consider sending us your personal email address. More and more school districts are blocking CTEN.  In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues and encourage them to join us.

If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – please let us know.

And have a great summer!  

Larry Sand
CTEN President