Kappner vs. Olson-Jones for OEA president

UPDATE: Olson-Jones wins, 816 to 124.

Tania Kappner, Tribune file photoBetty Olson-Jones, Tribune file photo

Tania Kappner, a teacher at Oakland Tech and a community organizer for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action Integration Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), wants to lead the Oakland teachers union — a post currently held by two-term incumbent Betty Olson-Jones.

Voting has gone on all week, and ends at 6 p.m. Friday. If Olson-Jones defeats Kappner (who challenged her in 2008), this will be her last term.

Kappner is a regular at school board meetings, and her speeches about the state of public education are a staple, too. She uses the microphone as if it were a bullhorn at a rally, shouting passionately about the “privatization” of public education, school closures, racial inequity and, always, charter schools.

Privatization is also one of Olson-Jones’ favorite (or least favorite) terms. And like Kappner, the current OEA president is staunchly against charters. Under her leadership, the union opposed a tax that sought to raise teacher salaries — in large part, because the tuition-free, independently run schools would have benefited, too — and has stopped participating in a another parcel tax coalition for similar reasons.

You can read Olson-Jones’ “Vote for Betty” flier here. Below is an excerpt of Kappner’s campaign statement:

Because we have been so successful in uniting California to stand up and defend public education and the dignity and worth of our students and teachers, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is spearheading the attack against public education, is now trying to starve our state into submission by withholding federal funds and demanding complete subordination of our unions as the price we must pay for those desperately needed funds to be released. We can stop mass lay-offs and closures in predominantly Latina/o and black inner city districts and throughout our state, but only if we have a union leadership prepared to stand on principle, tell the truth, defy Duncan and the Democrats and continue to build this new movement on an independent basis.

Our union leadership will not be able to defeat this attack without launching our own counter offensive. But this means we must continue to find ways to give more power to our students and the whole new student movement that is coming forward, while playing a more prominent leadership role as a union. At the national level our union leaders are too scared or too disoriented because they remain completely tied to the Democrats to formulate a strategy to defeat Duncan. With-in the OEA, [Equal Opportunity Now] /BAMN has been the only groups prepared to empower our members over and against state or national union leaders, who will betray our union’s longstanding principles and immediate prospects for victory, if we give them the power to dictate our tactics and fail to act independently of them.

I have proven again and again in action, in deeds as well as words that I can and will organize our union to win. For me, defending public education is more important than avoiding open conflict with anyone prepared to let it go quickly or gradually.  …

As your union President,  I would do everything I could to make April 10 remembered as the day teachers and other unions called upon the nation to stand in defense of public education, and used our organizational power, knowhow and resources to get a million teachers and their supporters out marching to defeat this insane and unpopular attack against our students and communities. I would see that our main slogans Our Children Are Not for Sale, No More Separate and Unequal and Restore Dr. King’s Vision for America starting in Oakland and Extending Throughout California  were known in every household. I would fight to win this great fight for justice, right here, right now.  We did not elect America’s first black President to face greater inequality, hopelessness, cynicism and despair. We can win our fight to defend public education, but only if we have leaders bold enough to try.

If you elect me, I promise you, we will not fail. Too much is on the line. Give me your vote so that the best of who we are as teachers, as educators, and as the protectors of our students and communities can shine through.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Harold

    Go Tania!

  • Cranky Teacher

    I don’t know this Tania personally, but I can’t imagine this would be the right time to change horses in mid-battle?

  • Union Supporter-But

    “Can’t imagine this would be the right time to change horses in mid-battle,” is EXACTLY the words said that got our friend and comrade GW Bush re-elected. Not necessarily a trend or “battle” to follow.

  • TheTruthHurts

    If OEA wants to have that woman at the helm, God help us all.

  • Chauncey

    And charter schools are the problem?

    Kappner would be the best choice for charter schools-

    Fight the Power!

  • Cooper

    Wait there could be someone more radical that Betty Jones? Holy ****, Oakland is in trouble!

  • Nextset

    Unions are important and they have to have a leader. But:

    If the teachers of Oakland or any other municipality elect a Communist/Collectivist/Open-Borders/Anti-Nationalist/Multi-Cult as their leader and figurehead they only have themselves to blame for what will happen to them.

    The last thing the teachers of OUSD or any other district nead is a figurehead who is an anathema to the taxpayers and voters. This is not Cuba or some other communist hell hole. If the teachers or the public schools are identified with such evil, they will have lost all identification with good society and their schools will be closed or defunded to the point of closure.

    So elect exactly who you want to be identified with.

    This sort of leadership is a one way ticket to 100% Charter Schools. And it would be for the best. It appears we need to eliminate tenure, have all teaching staff serve at the pleasure of the hiring authority, and while we are at it get rid of benefits and pay teachers with a 1099 as independent contractors to work with assigned students through the internet. They could not do a worse job and would probably do a better one at least at the post primary school level.

    Brave New World.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Wait, voting is going on right now? I didn’t know that.

    It will be the incumbent in a landslide…

  • Cranky Teacher

    “… pay teachers with a 1099 as independent contractors to work with assigned students through the internet.”

    Nextset, you would appear to prefer living in your “Brave New World” than the one which actually exists.

    To wit: Teaching through the Internet would only be viable with exactly those children who the public schools are working JUST FINE: Middle-class and/or functioning household kids who have access to technology and have firm, available adults to guide them away from class.

    But thanks for the chuckle.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Oh, and those middle-class kids have no desire to study from home — school is where the real action is!

  • del

    We compare ourselves to professions, like lawyers and doctors, and complain when we are treated like “labor.” But instead of creating a professional organization, we have a labor union, where demagoguery and posturing are the norm, and we act to “protect jobs” instead of doing good jobs. And then we complain about not being treated as a profession. Someday we may understand why, but clearly with this election we currently do not. No wonder actual participation rates in OEA things are so low… no wonder even a “cranky teacher” doesn’t know there is an election.

  • J.R.

    Bingo, once again you are dead-on correct in your assessment of the situation as it exists. The bad teachers especially long since tenured, do not want change because they are in their “comfort zone” and they do all they can already. The grades are dismal, and more money is going to fix this precisely how? My sincere thanks to all the selfless great hard-working teachers out there, you have made more than a paycheck, “YOU” have made a difference in this world. Thank you

  • TheTruthHurts

    Agree with Del and J.R. Society needs to do more to value teachers, but the teachers need leadership that values the profession just as badly.

    Instead of bemoaning the use of test scores, embrace performance as a concept and engage in the understandably difficult work of devising measures that could actually be tracked without an army of new employees.

    Instead of saying “just follow the evaluation process,” work with districts to determine high standards and then help teachers meet them, and if they don’t, help them out the door.

    You want equity, stop supporting the best teachers going to the schools where they’re needed least.

    Advocate for your students first by policing your own before pointing fingers at others.

    OWN THE PROBLEM before scapegoating students, parents, districts, states, feds, etc. We all know they have something to do with student success. Own your part while you’re making them own theirs.

    IMHO, leadership willing to do this will have far more credibility to advocate for whatever else they want. Leadership that won’t do this will have limited credibility to advocate for anything.

    It’s just like when I heard of OEA passing resolutions about Israel and Palenstine. Who the heck cares what you say about that until you are doing a great job at teaching? I would bet this is where the apathy comes from because such shenanigans would make me apathetic too.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I’m not saying Internet High Schooling is a great idea or preferable. I am saying something of the sort is likely on the way if the economic downward spiral continues.

    I had lunch today with a legislator. I heard something for the first time. We were having a conversation about what the municipalities are going to do about these budgets. What I was told was that “These ARE the good years…” This person is terming out and will likely retire away from California. It seems a high number of people I run into are making plans to retire outside of CA.

    Change is coming. Some people are already making plans, and buying property away from here. When the changes hit some people are going to be a lot more surprised than others. Some will be far more prepared for change than others.

    Brave New World.

  • Oakland Educator

    “It’s just like when I heard of OEA passing resolutions about Israel and Palenstine. Who the heck cares what you say about that until you are doing a great job at teaching? I would bet this is where the apathy comes from because such shenanigans would make me apathetic too.”

    There are a LOT of teachers on rep council who are sick of wasting time passing these resolutions, too. For everyone’s sake, I hope Betty does win by a landslide. She keeps a level-headed focus on district issues instead of wasting energy and alienating members by trying to put together a unified field theory for all liberal causes. I agree with some of Tania’s positions, but she doesn’t keep her eyes on the prize. We’re still working under an expired contract. Focus on Oakland and save other issues for other organizing forums.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Question of the day? While looking around for OEA election results, I found this excerpt from a East Bay Express article. Guess the year it was written.

    “Those wacky Trotskyists with the Coalition to Defend Affirmation Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) just love to lose elections. Why else would they keep running? You may recall that BAMN stalwarts Tania Kappner , Mark Airgood , and Yvette Felarca , tired of undermining UC Berkeley affirmative action groups, took jobs as teachers in the Oakland Unified School District, and for the last two years have plagued the teachers union (known as the Oakland Education Association) with the same divisive mischief they honed so finely on campus. The three sectarians volunteered to be site representatives for their respective schools, which gave them seats on the union’s Representative Council, one of the bodies that sets union policy. Once there, they subjected their fellow teachers to tiresome tirades about standing up for the workers, and they called for the passage of ultraradical resolutions that had nothing to do with the bread-and-butter concerns of teachers. When they weren’t so engaged, they were also running for positions on the school board and the union’s executive board, relentlessly smearing their opponents along the way.

    During the executive board elections in April, Airgood made it into a runoff, but Kappner lost rather handily once again. Undiscouraged, Kappner ran for yet another position, as a delegate to the state council of the OEA’s parent organization, the California Teachers Association. On May 18, the votes were tallied, and Kappner and Airgood lost again. Let’s summarize: over the last sixteen months, Kappner has run for the Oakland school board, the presidency of the OEA, a seat on the executive board, a seat on the CTA state council, an alternate seat on the state council, and another seat on the state council via one of the CTA’s regional “service centers.” And she lost every single time. That’s a record of zero for six–but since the revolution’s just around the corner, who’s counting?· · ·”

  • http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com David B. Cohen

    Without getting into the details of a district election I know little about, I think the comments have helped raise an important issue about the future of our unions/associations. It’s worth holding on to much of what the union does best, in terms of collective bargaining and representing employees as needed, but if we don’t take steps towards professionalizing our own associations, we’ll continue to see conflict where we could see collaboration. Our associations should be helping to solve more of the problems and be open to more innovative approaches in some issues like evaluation, professional development, and permanent status (“tenure”). Of course, for that to happen, we need two other changes. First, more education funding from the state, because as long as money is too tight, unions can only “win” for membership by wrangling more concessions on these other issues. Second, we need membership (teachers) who can advocate change to speak up and get involved in their local associations.

  • Filly

    199–Felarca is now in Berkeley schools. Kappner et al make the union meetings so difficult to sit through. Obstructionist is a perfect term for her. Betty is so much more progressive, in its true definition.

    Unions are about working conditions, not political warfare. I would love for my union, OEA, to show the excellent teachers who work hard every day and need a fair compensation, with materials, supplies and classrooms in good condition, supervised by administrators who are fair, competent and there to make a difference in the city of Oakland. That’s what I hope the new contract will be.

    However, when I think about striking, and the strike in 1996, it really just came down to money. It came on the backs of counselors. I don’t want that to happen again. But I think it will. It’s also difficult for me to want to strike for a big raise when I work a 183 day work year, 10 sick days and 5 personal days (meaning really 168 work days) and lots of benefits. I have about 200 sick days accumulated from my years because I work the days I’m paid for, and I schedule appointments during breaks. Because I don’t feel I work a year round schedule, I feel that maybe my salary shouldn’t be the same as someone who does.

  • Filly

    1996!!! Sorry!

  • TheTruthHurts


    “Unions are about working conditions, not political warfare. I would love for my union, OEA, to show the excellent teachers who work hard every day and need a fair compensation, with materials, supplies and classrooms in good condition, supervised by administrators who are fair, competent and there to make a difference in the city of Oakland. That’s what I hope the new contract will be.”

    Amen and good luck.

    “It’s also difficult for me to want to strike for a big raise when I work a 183 day work year, 10 sick days and 5 personal days (meaning really 168 work days) and lots of benefits. I feel that maybe my salary shouldn’t be the same as someone who does.”

    The number of days really isn’t the core issue. It’s the value of the work. I’ve said repeatedly here that a) I think asking for a raise in this year is silly, and b) society should value what GOOD teachers do far more than it does.

    Society does seem to value teachers work on an hourly/daily rate kind of basis. That’s unfortunate given the value of what a good teacher can do. My frustration is teachers’ unions have resisted any effort to measure/track that value and therefore relegate themselves to the hourly/daily “time-served” paradigm. Internet companies don’t use that paradigm, nor most of the private sector. Using that paradigm, it’s pretty easy to argue that teachers should make less annually than similarly educated full year workers who generally have limited vacation, limited benefits and limited retirement. In times of recession, that argument is even easier.

    Sometimes I think public workers forget who pays their salaries – taxpayers. Not parents, all taxpayers. Well, taxpayers are catching H-E-L-L right now and it’s about to get worse because states (especially CA) are BROKE.

    As workers in the private sector continue to get squeezed (e.g. I believe Katy had furlough days and then a pay cut), the “protections” union workers receive will look more extravagant at taxpayers’ expense. This is already happening.

    I think it is tenure and lack of accountability that hold back compensation most though because they hold back the taxpayer’s belief that they are getting results for their money. As the squeeze continues, this problem will only get worse. Unions everywhere in all sectors are struggling with this problem.

    P.S. it wasn’t 1996, but I’ll reveal the date if a few others guess.

  • Nextset

    Filly said it best. Unions are about working conditions not international politics.

    To the extent the teachers unions have been infiltrated by communist party USA operatives and their fellow travelers they (public teachers) will lose the support of everyone that counts. Such hijacking of the unions speed the demise of their workers. It’s too bad the workers weren’t/aren’t strong and smart enough to see this coming and keep the infiltration out.

    Or is it that the CP-USA types actually do fairly represent the teachers? That should be considered. If they get elected then the teachers are no better than the commies. And the public correctly turns their back on the public schools.

    And the people continue to sort themselves into castes.

    Brave New World.

  • Oakland Teacher

    While I may not necessarily agree with some of the more “globally” (and far left) political OEA members such as Tanya or Mark, I am really glad they are there. Tanya works hard for her students and for her causes, so even though she may not get my vote for OEA president, she deserves the right to run, despite not having a winning record. I do want her as a member of the executive board and on the state rep council, just not as the president. If I were one of her former teachers (and I am old enough to be), I would be proud of who she is. I bet she has some of her former teachers (and her family) out there who are rooting for her along with some of the current OEA members.

  • Filly

    Clarification: I agree with Tania Kappner’s political views actually. I don’t think the OEA is the appropriate venue. The time that she & her group waste at rep meetings is irretrievable. I’ve always wondered why she doesn’t put more effort into running for political office–it’d be more effective. I (and thousands of us) work for our students and we don’t waste people’s time! I root for her, but not here, not for OEA. A union is for the good of the body not for one’s “causes”.

  • TheTruthHurts

    It is interesting that many are willing to acknowledge that fundamentally sound viewpoints can be COUNTERPRODUCTIVE when aired in the wrong venue, at the wrong time and in the wrong manner. OEA will need to figure this out for itself for their election and many other issues.

  • Katy Murphy

    ELECTION UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones defeats Tania Kappner, keeps OEA title.

    Vote count: 816 to 124.

  • harlemmoon

    Now, thoroughly defeated, may she return to her cave.
    Time now to return to the serious debate about the state of schools and the looming budget cuts.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Wow, 124. That’s impressive. Kappner’s more popular than I thought. Also, it seems she’s good for turnout too. This vote got more than the authorization to strike vote. In fact, Olson-Jones got more votes than all who participated in that vote. Hmmmm?


  • David Laub

    Ms. Murphy, I admit to have been mistaken as to your potential caliber as a journalist of worth. Shallow, yes. Eeking out sensationalist and mediocre response from a narrow base of base responders, yes. Well, i guess it pays your monthly bills. Quite a waste.

  • Katy Murphy

    I actually found some of the responses about OEA’s leadership, purpose and direction to be nuanced and thoughtful. You shouldn’t sell your fellow blog readers so short!

    But you’re entitled to your opinion — and, of course, no one’s forcing you to read my work or the comments it elicits.

  • Steven Weinberg

    David, don’t judge the readership of this blog exclusively by the most frequent posters. It has a large audience that never posts, but finds it interesting and informative. I am always surprised by the number of people I meet who are familiar with my submissions.
    There are times that I wish Katy would take a different approach to some stories, but there are times, such as the posting about “School Reform Deja Vu” where she has highlighted exactly what needed to be said.
    It would be nice if the local newspapers could devote more staff time to investigating district expenditures and policies, but I have been a Tribune reader for over 40 years, and the coverage since Katy has been in charge of the beat has been the most thorough, thoughtful, and informative that I remember. There have been several occasions when this blog has alerted me to issues I would otherwise have missed and allowed me to have input before decisions have been made.

  • David Laub

    Noted, Steven. Thankyou, David

  • Ivette

    Anyone else notice that Betty’s flyer doesn’t mention students AT ALL? Why is student achievement not the emphasis of our teachers’ union? I understand that teachers have dealt with unfair treatment in the past, and although conditions are not ideal (especially for new teachers), we need to remember that we are here for our students, not just paychecks and benefits.

    Del: Agreed. Unions are not meant for professions, for trades perhaps, definitely not for what should be the most highly esteemed profession.

  • J.R.

    The big problem with unions is: We as taxpayers and parents and their children are stuck in a situation where we must pay for chaff along with our wheat. Thankfully most of our teachers are wheat quality. If the child wants to learn, even in the “so called” worst schools “he/she” will learn. One fact people need to bear in mind regarding avg. teacher salaries, they are averaged along with support specialists, and other highly paid non-teaching positions which skews the average upward. Teachers are really not highly paid at all especially in California with our high cost of living.I was at a board meeting and I found that one of our districts big expenses is legal costs. Talk about parasitic.

  • TheTruthHurts

    JR. Having worked in a large company, I can bet what the largest legal cost is – GETTING SUED. Probably sued by parents, sued by disgruntled employees and sued for employee misbehavior. That’s life in the big city these days. Even if OUSD has great lawyers or outside lawyers, I bet there are also judgements out there that cost even more taxpayer money and probably more than the lawyers. Sad, but true.

  • Nextset

    Today I was looking at the website for CAVA – California Virtual Academies. This is the vanguard for what I think is coming to render obsolete the Urban Public Schools business model we have operating at OUSD.

    I know one family that has their children enrolled here. They seem extremely happy with the results. Among other advantages the students are able to advance in their strong subjects as fast as they can.

    It is a Simi Valley Based Internet K-12 school that is operating across CA. It is registered as a Charter School in Alameda Co, Los Angeles Co and many other principal counties. The students work through broad band internet connections with webcams and headsets with face to face (internet) teacher meetings, assignments, and class sessions. Books are UPS’ed to the students – the school provides all of the books and materials. Assignments are turned in through Email. The School will provide the computer equipment on an as needed basis.

    I noticed they are hiring teaching staff (as the publics are laying off staff). I wonder if they are unionized?

    This sort of school should be watched. They may be the wave of the future. I find it remarkable that the existing school districts appear to be doing nothing to compete with this.

    Brave New World.

  • Cranky Teacher

    “This vote got more than the authorization to strike vote. In fact, Olson-Jones got more votes than all who participated in that vote. Hmmmm?”

    Different way of voting: Strike vote was IN PERSON in ONE PLACE at ONE TIME. Apples and oranges.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I agree that talking about Palestinians’ plight at a union meeting is inappropriate … just like pushing for a union to train, evaluate and discipline its members is silly!

    And c’mon, professional organizations are hardly a cure-all for incompetence — you have to be a psycho murderer for the doctor boards to even think about pulling your license, while the Bar Association has only one measure it holds to: Passing a test, and taking some classes every few years to refresh your knowledge.

    Whether you like unions or not, whether you make more or less than teachers, here’s the number reason why teacher (and site admin) salaries matter for the kids: Slowing turnover. More money for staff slows turnover. Constant turnover is the single biggest destroyer of progress in struggling urban schools.

    And don’t think turnover isn’t related to getting rid of bad teachers. If your school is desperate just to be fully staffed, how hard are they going to try to weed out the weak but tenacious teachers?

    Districts like Piedmont only let SUPERSTAR rookies get to their “tenured” year, and have the pick of the best teachers from other districts. They always have a flood of eager beavers wanting jobs there. They can cherry-pick.

    I have seen an Oakland school BEG a generally lousy, if basically harmless, teacher to NOT quit. Why? Because said teacher would have to be replaced, perhaps by a sub, perhaps by a TFA kid who might quit after two months. And yes, this was AFTER the recession was well underway.