California school spending grows at fastest pace in the U.S.

School union protestFew monetary issues draw more emotion or scrutiny than the ups and downs of government’s educational expenses.

This year, the heated “invest in our kids” debate has rattled state capitols across the nation as teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona walked out of classrooms and headed to picket lines and rallies to protest low wages.

All this labor turmoil comes as California schools have been enjoying nation-leading increases in “elementary/secondary” educational spending, according to new Census Bureau data.

This report by a relatively independent arbiter — covering up to 2016 spending patterns nationwide — gives a glimpse into how California public school budgets compare with nationwide trends. It tallies taxpayer funds going to everything from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and includes charter schools if they’re school-district-funded. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Unions defend recent strikes — but voters should make up their own minds

Teachers unionIn a USA Today op-ed last month, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten defended the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado, by sketching a familiar hero-villain scenario. “Teachers are standing up for their students and themselves against largely red states with weak labor laws and where governors and legislators have opted for tax cuts for the wealthy instead of investments for children,” she wrote. Pointing to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, which she portrayed as a right-wing ploy to “get public sector unions out of politics,” Weingarten proclaimed, “Teachers’ voices — and their votes — are powerful, and educators have parents and communities supporting them.”

Some voters may be persuaded by the argument that teachers are picketing for more money “for children,” but they would be better off looking at some basic facts. While teachers in some cases are underpaid and certain school districts underfunded, teachers on the whole, according to researcher James Agresti, get paid much better than commonly acknowledged. For the 2016–2017 school year, the average salary of full-time public school teachers was $58,950. That figure excludes benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, and pensions, which, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, make up an average of 33 percent of total compensation for public school teachers. When benefits get added in, teachers’ average annual compensation jumps to $87,854. And even that amount doesn’t include unfunded pension liabilities and certain post-employment benefits like health insurance, not measured by the Labor Department. Private-industry employees work an average of 37 percent more hours per year than public school teachers, including the time that teachers spend for lesson preparation, grading, and other activities. “Unlike less rigorous studies, this data from the DOL is based on detailed records of work hours instead of subjective estimates about how long people think they work,” Agresti adds.

Teachers aren’t just well compensated; they’re also more numerous than ever before, especially in proportion to their students. Researcher and economics professor Benjamin Scafidi found that, between 1950 and 2015, the number of teachers increased about 2.5 times faster than the number of students, and hiring of other education employees—administrators, teacher aides, counselors, social workers—rose more than seven times faster than the increase in students. Despite the staffing surge, students’ academic achievement has stagnated or fallen during that time. Scafidi suggests that, had non-teaching personnel growth been in line with student population growth, and the teaching force risen “only” 1.5 times as fast as student growth, U.S. schools would have had an additional $37.2 billion to spend annually. With that windfall, he suggests, we could have raised every public school teacher’s salary by more than $11,700 per year, given poor families more than $2,600 in cash per child to attend private schools of their parents’ choice, and more than doubled taxpayer funding for early-childhood education.

It’s no secret that lavish teacher pensions are eating up money that should be spent on students. Robert Costrell, a finance expert at the University of Arkansas, found that 10.6 percent of all education spending goes toward teacher-retirement benefits—more than double the proportion spent on pensions in 2004. “As a percentage of their total compensation package, teacher retirement benefits eat up twice as much as other workers,” Bellwether Education Partners policy analyst Chad Alderman explains. Teachers—including bad teachers—have a powerful incentive to stay on in their jobs, since they automatically earn more just by showing up each fall, regardless of how effective they are. Pension benefits start accruing later in a teacher’s career, so younger teachers are helping to prop up pensions for lifers, with little to show for it; if a teacher leaves the field early, he gets no pension at all.

States typically administer teacher pensions, but health-care benefits frequently vary according to the local school district. While some districts cut teachers’ health benefits off when Medicare kicks in, others, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, are much more generous. LAUSD provides the same expansive health coverage for retirees (and their spouses) as it does for current employees; neither group pays a premium for its insurance. The district recently announced that the unfunded liability for retiree health benefits has risen to $15.2 billion, up from a reported $13.5 billion in 2016, which translates to a cost of $525 per student.

Come November, the teachers’ unions and their unhappy members will be taking their case to the voters. Taxpayers need to look at the facts underneath the teachers-as-victims rhetoric and vote for fiscal sanity.

The CTA’s ongoing charter school whoppers

Charter schoolWashington Post writer Jay Mathews is “woke” to the fact that the California Teachers Association lies.

Jay Mathews has been around the block a few times. He has been with the Washington Post since 1971, and for many of those years he has written about education issues, often arguing for sensible reforms. Which is why I was stunned to see a Mathews’ headline last week which read, “Maybe this teachers union needs a crash course in truth in advertising.” Seems that the venerable scribe was perplexed and angered by a radio spot run by the California Teachers Association in which the union does its usual – lies, exaggerates, builds strawmen and tries to elicit gasps out of everyone within earshot.

The basic premise of the ad is that evil right wingers Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos and the Koch Brothers see your seven year-old as a cash cow and want her to go to “their corporate charter schools” to make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

CTA business as usual here, but if Jay Mathews is now woke, I guess that’s a good thing.

Mathews also may have gotten a jolt if he saw a recent post on the CTA website in which the union informs us that Tony Thurmond, their candidate for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, will be holding a tele-town hall on May 9th. Alluding to Thurmond’s opponent Marshall Tuck, CTA claims “… corporate billionaires are pouring millionsinto the races of candidates who share their agenda to divert funding away from neighborhood public schools to privately-run charter schools.” In fact, Tuck is adamantly opposed to privately run charters and has stated so many times, claiming, “Profit has no place in our public schools….”

If he hasn’t already done so, I would advise Mr. Mathews to visit a website established by CTA in 2016 called Kids Not Profits. In addition to the exaggeration about the privatization of charters (less than 3 percent in California are), it includes the time-worn fantasy that charters “cherry-pick their students” and weed out students with special needs.

In fact, as R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut writes, the opposite is true. Using information from a report by ProPublica, an organization whose focus is investigative journalism, Greenhut found a national pattern in which public school districts have used alternative schools, including charters,  as a “a silent release valve for high schools … that are straining under the pressure of accountability reform.” These public schools dump off weak students “whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing.”

So just who are the cherry pickers?

Also, parents who have kids with special needs are prone to send their kids to charters. For example, the mother of a child in Florida, who has “oral motor delays, including extreme feeding difficulties” could not find a traditional public school (TPS) that could accommodate her daughter and found a charter school that could.

Looking at the bigger picture, there have been a gaggle of studies comparing student achievement in charters and TPS. Most studies give the edge to charters to varying degrees. But even if charters do the same job as TPS, charters should be deemed preferable as they do it by receiving, on average, 28 percent less funding than TPS.

Additionally, a revealing new study conducted by Patrick Wolf, Corey De Angeles, et al shows that in eight big American cities, each dollar invested in a child’s k-12 schooling results in $6.44 in lifetime earnings in public charter schools compared to just $4.67 in lifetime earnings in TPS.

That traditional public schools dump kids into charters, frequently can’t handle kids with special needs and don’t give students the same bang for the buck as charters are realities that CTA and other teachers unions either omit or lie about when they push their anti-charter agenda.

One other tidbit not discussed by CTA is that charters are less likely to be unionized than they were six years ago. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that 11.3 percent of the nation’s charters in the 2016–17 school year were unionized, down from 12.3 percent in 2009–10.

That Jay Mathews has awakened to the prevalent dishonesty of the teachers unions is encouraging. As we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, I only hope more mainstream media writers follow suit and aggressively expose teacher union mendacity.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center.

School Spending Up; Student Performance Down

School educationCalifornia school boards are prevented by the state Legislature and governor from offering disproportionate pay to employees willing to work in high-poverty zones, cutting pension spending, altering tenure rules or granting principals the power to fire poorly performing employees. The outcome: poor student performance and shaky finances despite a big increase in spending.

All it takes is 62 legislators and the governor to change that outcome. Every legislator knows that school districts should not be forced to grant permanent employment after just 24 months or to divert money from current to retired teachers and should be permitted to pay more to teachers who take on tougher assignments and to fire under-performers.

The only thing stopping them is fear. They are afraid of CTA, the largest commercial and political special interest roaming the halls of the State Capitol. But don’t blame CTA. Its members collect ~$70 billion per year from taxpayers. You too would roam the Capitol if you collected that kind of money from legislators. Blame legislators and governors who don’t have the courage to attack the real causes of school distress. It is they who are letting down students — especially our most vulnerable students. Just look at what’s happening in San Francisco and around the state.

But the legislature and governor don’t get all the blame. Believe it or not, some districts subsidize retirees at the expense of current employees. San Francisco could pay teachers an extra $40 million this year if it stopped subsidizing health insurance for retirees who, like their fellow Californians, could obtain health insurance on the state’s excellent Obamacare exchange (Covered California) until they become eligible for Medicare. The city of Glendale shows how. The San Francisco school board doesn’t need permission from the state to make that change right now. But instead, it is asking voters to approve an additional tax on property. Middle class residents already find it tough going in San FranciscoNow the school board wants to make it even harder  in order to subsidize retirees. Fixing that doesn’t take rocket science. It just takes courage.

ecturer and research scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California school superintendent race: Democratic reformer vs. union ally

Marshall TuckThe 2018 race for state superintendent of public instruction may not have an incumbent but is likely to feel like an encore of the 2014 race, pitting a Democrat aligned with the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers against a Democrat who backs reforms opposed by the unions.

In 2014, Tom Torlakson – a former teacher and state lawmaker – won a second term, touting higher graduation rates and somewhat better test scores. He defeated former Los Angeles charter school executive Marshall Tuck 52 percent to 48 percent in a race in which $30 million was reportedly spent, triple the campaign spending in that year’s quiet governor’s race.

With the strong support of wealthy Los Angeles area Democrats who have been fighting for changes in L.A. Unified and who remember the job he did running Green Dot charters, Tuck is running again.

Subbing for termed-out Torlakson is Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who has worked closely with teachers unions on many fronts – most notably joining in maneuvering last summer that helped kill a tenure reform bill that had gotten off to a strong start in the Legislature. He has also opposed efforts to more closely monitor how education dollars are being spent under the Local Control Funding Formula. The law was supposed to be used specifically to help districts with high numbers of English language learners, students in foster care and students from impoverished families to improve their academic performance. But civil rights groups say the extra dollars often have been used for general spending, including for teacher raises.

Thurmond was also among lawmakers who expressed interest in helping teachers deal with California’s high housing costs, proposing legislation to award $100 million in rental grants to teachers in need. It didn’t advance.

Tuck may have better shot than when he challenged incumbent

The conventional wisdom is that Tuck has a better chance than in 2014 because Thurmond has much lower name recognition than Torlakson. But that could be erased with a heavy television ad run by the teachers unions using the same anti-Tuck themes as in 2014: Making the argument that the charter schools he led are part of a corporate scheme to take over public education.

If Tuck, 44, gets his way, the debate will focus on his reform agenda – the idea that charters serve as healthy competition for regular schools; the need for much better oversight of how the Local Control Funding Formula is used; adopting teacher tenure reform; and accountability standards that make it easier to judge whether a school is improving.

Thurmond’s website emphasizes his view of California educators doing battle with President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over what he describes as their intent to “gut” and “defund our public schools.” Thurmond, 49, a military veteran who was a social worker before running for office, also said teachers need “bonuses and other incentives” to address the shortage of qualified instructors.

Complicating the Tuck-Thurmond race is the likelihood that for the first time in the 21st century, a prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidate is running as an anti-union reformer – which could make schools a more prominent issue in the 2018 election cycle than is normal.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who repeatedly tangled with the United Teachers Los Angeles while seeking authority over L.A. Unified, has already won the endorsement of the state Democratic lawmaker recognized as the leader of education reform efforts: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego.

The CTA endorsed Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the governor’s race and Thurmond for superintendent in October. The CFT did as well in December.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Sued by Students & Parents for Failing to Teach Literacy

School educationA group of parents and students has filed what it hopes will be a landmark lawsuit against the State of California for its public schools failing to teach literacy.

Public Counsel and the prestigious Law Firm of Morrison & Foerster sued the State of California, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for their collective failure to provide every child in the state access to literacy as required under the California Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of parents of students at two Los Angeles schools and one Stockton school, alleges that it is an urgent civil rights crisis that California has the three worst-performing schools and 11 of the 26 worst-performing public school districts in the nation for the ability of students to read and write.

Based on California’s testing standards, the suit states that “under-performing schools throughout California have student bodies consistently achieving less than 10 percent, and frequently less than 5 percent, proficiency in core subjects like reading and math.” To put the crisis in perspective, only 8 children out of the 179 students tested at Los Angeles’ La Salle Elementary were found to be proficient by state standards.

A Los Angeles Unified School District report from an attendance task force found that 800,000 students, or about one out of every seven enrolled students, was “chronically absent” for at least 15 days per year and at risk of dropping out.

Lead attorney Mark Rosenbaum stated that California has 13 percent of the worst-performing U.S. school districts. He added: “Public education was intended as the ‘great equalizer’ in our democracy, enabling all children opportunity to pursue their dreams and better their circumstances. But in California it has become the ‘great unequalizer.”

Rosenbaum referred to the state’s own literacy experts’ report, which concluded in 2012 that “there is an urgent need to address the language and literacy development of California’s underserved populations…”. Despite continuing concerns over the last five years, Rosenbaum argued that the state took no meaningful corrective actions.

During the five-year period following the grim literacy report, per-student spending on California K-12 educational programs did jump by 66 percent, from $9,370 per student in 2012-2013 to $15,521 per student for the 2017-18 school year.

But that concerted effort to improve student literacy was torpedoed in late 2015 by President Barack Obama’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requiring school evaluations to include at least one “non-academic factor.” ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, which relied almost exclusively on regular student testing for grade-level reading and math skills.

Unable or unwilling to improve literacy test scores, the California Board of Education in September of last year voted unanimously to undermine the testing by incorporating other non-academic factors in rating schools that include graduation rates, college preparedness, and rates at which non-native speakers are learning English.

Under the new educational evaluation system adopted by the Board of Education, each California school will not receive an overall literacy rating, but rather receive year-to-year comparative results for how it performs across categories of different student groups.

The Los Angeles Times called the vote the end of a long philosophical shift away from judging schools using only their test scores, “as more people agree that numbers alone can never capture the complexity of classrooms.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Obscure the Declining Performance of California Public Schools

School union protestEducational bureaucrats complain that charter and private schools are “unaccountable.” But in reality, no institution in America is less accountable than unionized, government-run school systems. Virtually no one gets fired when they do a poor job, and when Johnny can’t read, it’s not because he wasn’t taught well, but rather because funding was insufficient, class sizes were too big, poverty was overwhelming — or Betsy DeVos was making everything worse. And when the public schools are shown not to be living up to their promises, the educrats move the goalposts to disguise their shortcomings.

The latest example of this pattern is unfolding right now. The California School Dashboard is a comprehensive rating tool to assess educational performance. Schools, districts, and various student subgroups get placed into five color-coded categories ranging from red (bottom performers) to blue (best performers) on how students fare on the state’s annual standardized test, along with other measures including graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, and college readiness. If a district places in the red on two or more of these metrics, the county offices of education are called in for assistance.

Alarm bells sounded when the 2017 standardized test results in California were announced. They revealed that about 50 percent of schoolchildren can’t read at grade level. The news was especially dismal for black schoolchildren — almost 70 percent failed to read at grade level. When all the data were crunched, the outcomes revealed that, because of the poor test results, many school districts were deep in the red zone. But instead of acknowledging those schools’ failure, the State Board of Education simply decided to move a bunch of schools out of the lowest category. The board brushed aside criticism, referring to the lowering of standards as “a technical matter,” and the change was approved unanimously.

This brazen ploy is the latest in a series of similar efforts by the Golden State education establishment. Just last month, we officially said goodbye to the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), which the state legislature eliminated in 2015 because too many kids couldn’t pass it. The English-language component of the test addressed state content standards through tenth grade, and the math part of the exam covered state standards only as far as grades six and seven and Algebra I. Worse, the legislators chose to give diplomas retroactively, going back to 2006, to students who had passed their coursework but failed the test.

Some cities have used their own methods to lower standards. In 2015, the Los Angeles school board decided to roll back graduation requirements, allowing students to pass A-G courses (classes that are required for college entrance) with a “D” instead of a “C.” If that wasn’t enough, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, students who are destined not to graduate high school get to take “credit-recovery” classes. Some are effective, but many are devoid of meaningful content. Students often complete them in a few hours or over a weekend. Due to the courses, the graduation rate in L.A. zoomed from a projected 54 percent to 77 percent in 2016 within a few months. Referring to the higher graduation rates, L.A. School Superintendent Michelle King had the chutzpah to proclaim that she is proud “of the heroic efforts by our teachers, counselors, parents, administrators and classified staff who rally around our students every day.” King’s comments aside, is it any wonder that three quarters of California community college students and over 40 percent of California State university system students need remediation?

In San Francisco, only 19 percent of black students passed the state test in reading, yet the school board and union colluded to give teachers in the lowest performing school district in the state a 16 percent across the board pay increase. In a statement, San Francisco Superintendent of Schools Vincent Matthews said that the agreement was made as part of the district’s “ongoing commitment to attracting and retaining talented educators.

While San Francisco undoubtedly has some wonderful teachers, they do not deserve a raise en masse. We do not need credit-recovery classes. We should not have eliminated the CAHSEE. We don’t need the state board fiddling with the new dashboard because the results were poor. And as the Freedom Project’s Alex Newman points out, we also don’t need more “tax money, smaller class sizes, more LGBT sensitivity training, more interventions, more amphetamines, more dumbed-down ‘standards,’ or bigger government.”

What kids really need is basic reading instruction with a strong emphasis on phonics, which has served kids well for generations and would continue to do so, if we let it. But if we continue to stroll blissfully down Unaccountability Lane, adopting educational fads and eliminating standards, millions of young Americans will grow up to be functionally illiterate, with dismal future prospects. This is beyond shameful. School boards, administrators, and teachers must be held accountable for the failing systems they run.

LAUSD Is Tormenting Its High-Performing Charter Schools to Death

LAUSD school busEDUCATION POLITICS – The Los Angeles Unified School District and some of the nation’s highest-performing charter schools are engaged in what one report has called a “game of chicken” – with the fate of 14 of these schools and their nearly 4,600 students hanging the balance. But that suggests this is about two parties engaged in dangerous brinksmanship. In fact, it is about charter schools finally standing up to teachers union’s bullying.

Charters are publicly funded schools that offer students an alternative to the local public school monopoly. They have been a particular boon to low-income and special-needs students who are stuck in ill-performing districts. Major school systems, such as LAUSD, and their unions often are hostile to these thriving education alternatives, yet they hold the charters’ fates in their hands – and they use their power to hobble them.

In LA, district staff are requiring the charters to accept 39 pages of newly updated “district-approved language” – regulations that affect nearly every aspect of the schools’ operation. One provision the charters find particularly troublesome is a requirement that allows LAUSD to change the rules any time for any reason.

The stepped-up requirements aren’t that different from what the charter schools have put up with before, but the movement is more united than in the past and has finally had enough. A more favorable political climate has strengthened its resolve. Bottom line: the rules require the charters to comply with increasing portions of the education code, this making them more like public-school appendages than independent entities that can innovate and chart their own path.

The rules increasingly put the charters under the thumb of a frequently hostile school bureaucracy. Just like traditional public schools, they are being forced to focus more time and resources on filling out paperwork and complying with regulatory audits and paperwork requirements. It makes them less able to innovate and focus on the students.

The charters can accept the edicts, or else – the “else” being a denial of the schools’ renewal petition or a refusal by the district to grant petitions that would let new schools begin their operation. The fair-minded LA School Report explains, “An unprecedented number of charter school petitions could be denied (this Tuesday) because Los Angeles charter leaders are standing up against district policies they say require increasing amounts of time and money to satisfy and take away resources from the classroom.”

The head of the leftist, anti-charter “In The Public Interest” offers the full anti-charter spin in the Huffington Post, noting, “A number of Los Angeles charter schools up for renewal this week are throwing a tantrum if they don’t get their way” and “have refused to comply” with LAUSD’s charter policies. Well, it’s hardly a tantrum to contest ham-fisted government rules that are designed to destroy the essence of what they are.

“It’s quite ironic,” said Michael MeCey, director of the Sacramento-based California Parents for Public Virtual Education, which represents online charter families. “For years these districts have told successful charter schools: Either conform to our draconian rules which have created student failure factories or lose your charter.” Such a choice.

So, good for the schools for fighting back, given that conforming to these open-ended rules threatens the very things that make these charters successful. The battle is about their independence, freedom from bureaucracy, ability to experiment, and hold their teachers accountable rather than be subject to the union work rules that coddle poor-performing educators.

The battle has drawn widespread media coverage for local political reasons. The charter-school movement helped elect its first majority of school-board members. So the dispute will highlight whether the new supposedly pro-charter board majority will support these charters in this existential battle. The question is in doubt given that the board last month sided unanimously with the district staff by turning down a high-performing Hebrew-language charter that wouldn’t accept the district’s required language, according to the LA School Report article.

But all is not lost for the charters even if the board votes to deny all the petitions. In fact, a rejection – however unsettling that would be for these local schools – could be good news for them and the state’s charter-school movement by setting a precedent whereby charters could more easily bypass recalcitrant school districts. State law allows charters to appeal their rejection to the county or the state boards of education – both of which are more friendly to charters, and more likely to closely follow California’s generally pro-charter statutes.

This dispute explains why teachers’ unions tried to pass Senate Bill 808 in the last session. Deemed the “charter killer,” the measure would have, in part, prevented “charters who are rejected by their districts from appealing to the county or state,” according to a California Charter Schools Association explanation. The measure would have made the LAUSD board the final arbiter in the current dispute. Fortunately, it died in committee and might not have gotten a signature even if it passed. Gov. Jerry Brown has been supportive of charter schools.

“We are high-performing public schools serving nearly 20,000 students who are mostly students of color in communities with limited access to free, high-quality education options like the ones our schools provide,” declared leaders of LA charter schools in a Nov. 1 media statement. They noted that some of their schools “have been recognized as among the best in the nation” by the U.S. and California departments of education and US News & World Report.

Critics of public schools often note that they put bureaucratic concerns above the education of children. That’s exactly what we’re seeing here, isn’t it? The LAUSD staff has recommended shutting down these schools – not because of any educational problems, but because the charter-school operators are chafing at a set of heavy-handed and bureaucratic rules.

Seriously, who would accept a set of rules that gives one side the freedom to change the rules at any time? “It would be irresponsible for me to include language in our school charter that would include policies that the district hasn’t even invented yet,” said Emilio Pack, CEO of the Stem Preparatory Schools, which are involved in the LAUSD dispute.

While some of the district-approved language requirements are reasonable and not the source of any contention, others go too far. The rules allow for endless investigations, sap time and energy from the classroom and leave the kids and teachers with constant anxiety, as they worry about whether they will have a school to attend the next semester.

Charters thrive because they are freed from the edict-driven, bureaucratic and union-controlled model. Expecting them to thrive while being under the thumb of LAUSD’s sprawling bureaucracy is like expecting an innovative tech firm to succeed while being controlled by the NSA. It’s not a game of chicken, but a game of control. It’s time for such nonsense to end.

Steven Greenhut is contributing editor for the California Policy Center where this perspective originated. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

California school officials use President Trump to mask their own failures

LAUSD school busThe nuance – the back-and-forth – was lost on many Obama-haters who celebrated the president. But it was also lost on Trump-haters, including public education officials and union leaders in California. They’ve used President Trump’s non-decision as an opportunity to rally their faithful by terrorizing undocumented families in the state.

California schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson denounced the president’s message as a “mean-spirited, political attack on students who are working hard to succeed.” Randall Booker, superintendent of Piedmont Unified in the Bay Area, said the president had launched a “direct attack on California families and their children.” In a letter to the California congressional delegation, University of California President Janet Napolitano called the president’s non-decision “callous and misguided” and said it “unnecessarily punishes hundreds of thousands of bright young people.”

Within a week of the announcement, closer to home, the board of the Santa Ana Unified School District voted to condemn the president’s move – or rather “non-move,” if you like. The resolution claimed “great uncertainty exists amongst students about what specific immigration policies will be pursued by the federal government, and immigrants and other populations within the SAUSD community are fearful of policies that may result in deportation or forced registration based on immigration status, religion or beliefs.”

I was the sole vote against the resolution, in part because we already passed a resolution in December 2016 asking Congress to act on immigration reform. But I was especially opposed to the resolution because the “uncertainty” it highlights has been caused by the very people behind this and similar resolutions. They are certainly the cause – and, if you believe them, the cure – of communal anxiety.

But I also voted against the resolution because I see it for what it really is: a tactic to transform Washington politics into local anxiety. Panic is useful for teacher’s union leaders and school officials who hope to distract us from the real issue: their failure to educate out students.

Their failure is documented in state tests that show a majority of our school children cannot read or perform math at grade level. Despite that undeniable evidence, SAUSD graduates these students from high school even though they’re unprepared for college or career. That’s a fraud.

Instead of correcting this social injustice, my fellow board members voted last week to condemn the president. That same night, teachers union leaders took their three minutes at the public-comments dais to condemn me for documenting the catastrophic, decades-long slide in student performance.

There is a crisis haunting our community. But it’s not a crisis the president caused. It’s not a crisis emanating from distant Washington, DC. Indeed, in the last several days, the president has begun talking with congressional Democrats about a deal that would permanently resolve the problem of people covered by the DACA program.

No, the crisis that should concern everyone has its origin right here in Santa Ana, California. It has been created by teacher’s union leaders, their allies and school officials who fail to educate generations of our children – and who attempt to distract us by sowing terror.

Under the law, all children, including immigrant children, have the right to a quality public education. Any other conversation is at best a sideshow meant to keep our community down.

This commentary appeared first in the Orange County Register. Cecilia Iglesias is a Santa Ana Unified school board trustee, president of the Parent Union, and director of community relations and education at the California Policy Center in Tustin. Researcher Stuart Clay contributed to this commentary.

Union lies and chicanery in high gear as right-to-work case heads to Supreme Court

Supreme CourtAmong the greatest myths in recent history include the belief that Che Guevara was a freedom fighter, that China in the 20th Century was a “People’s Republic” and “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” We can now officially add some egregious comments made by union bosses in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the Janus v. AFSCME case.

Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus, who is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Foundation, says, “When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”

The lawsuit is a sequel to Friedrichs v. CTA, which was headed to a SCOTUS victory last year until Antonin Scalia’s death short-circuited the case. But right-to-work proponents are optimistic that his replacement, Neil Gorsuch, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom. As things stand now, public employees in 22 states are forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

Obviously, a favorable ruling in Janus would put a serious dent in in the coffers of government unions. And they are not reacting well to that possibility. In a press release issued by several union leaders after the Janus announcement, many of the comments are simply outrageous. As Mike Antonucci points out, the words “working people” are used 12 times. The union leaders seem to think that “working people” are a monolith with the exact same ideas, beliefs and general worldview. Just a few of the lies:

This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor.

…corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions.

Their goal here, as it was in Friedrichs v. CTA, is no secret: they want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

These quotes, and many others like it, lead the reader to assume that evil rich corporate cabalists have banded together to outlaw labor unions. Of course, the case is simply about giving workers a choice whether or not to join a union as a condition of employment. Period. But as with any totalitarian entity, honesty is a virtue that is shoved aside when its agenda is endangered.

At points, the bilge can be almost comical.

George Leef, director of research at the Martin Center, wrote recently about a lawsuit in West Virginia, where the AFL-CIO desperately tried to overturn the state’s new right-to-work law. The union whined in court that making it voluntary to join would do them irreparable harm and should be stayed pending a challenge to its constitutionality. After finding a friendly lower court judge who was sympathetic to that audacious argument, the state’s Supreme Court overruled her decision.

Can you imagine a bank robber claiming to a judge that he’d undergo irreparable harm if he couldn’t keep the money he had forcibly obtained in a heist?

Not comical, however, is one union’s action, which shows the desperate lengths they will go to keep their bottom line healthy. The Center for the American Experiment has unearthed a disgraceful move by Education Minnesota, the National Education Association affiliate in the Gopher State. Anticipating an unfavorable Janus decision, the union has come up with a new form which includes the following wording:

I agree to submit dues to Education Minnesota and hereby request and voluntarily authorize my employer to deduct from my wages an amount equal to the regular monthly dues uniformly applicable to members of Education Minnesota or monthly service fee, and further that such amount so deducted be sent to such local union for and on my behalf. This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and ends on September 30. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, saying, “Good-by, sayonara, no thanks” to the union once isn’t good enough. You have to do it every year and within a very narrow time frame. Can you imagine a woman who finally gets a divorce after being stuck for years in an unhappy marriage, being told, “Okay, but you have to notify the court every year that you want to stay divorced. And if you miss the seven day opt-out period, you’re stuck with the SOB for another year.”

The teachers unions are in trouble and they know it. A recent Education Next poll reveals that teachers are more likely to oppose forced dues than to support them, by a 47 to 44 percent margin. What we don’t know is how many will stop paying the union if given a choice.

Nationally, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that just 10.7 percent of all U.S. workers are unionized, with government workers being over represented; 34 percent of all teachers are unionized.

Should Mark Janus be successful in freeing himself from forced dues payments, that 34 percent could shrink considerably, in spite of the union lies and flimflam that will undoubtedly escalate.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.