With Prop. 30 passed, Oakland teachers give thanks — and return to the bargaining table

OEA pic 1
photo courtesy of Janet Lau

On Wednesday evening, you might have seen teachers standing at various Oakland intersections holding “thank-you” signs (as well as the more commonplace posters calling for a fair contract). The act of public thanksgiving was meant for voters who supported Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

The measure’s success at the polls spared California school districts billions of dollars in midyear cuts. It’s also opened the door to renewed contract negotiations between two groups that have long been at odds: the Oakland school district and its teachers.

That’s right, a new teacher contract could be in OUSD’s sights for the first time in — could it be? — nearly seven years. (The last mutually agreed contract, made in 2006, expired in 2008. The district unilaterally imposed a contract in 2010.)

Today, the Oakland Education Association’s bargaining team sits down with representatives from the Oakland school district to talk about each side’s contract proposals and ask clarifying questions. (You can find links to both proposals here.)

“With the passing of Prop. 30, and with a $33 million reserve, the district is in a stable enough position to compensate their personnel, teachers and all of their workers,” said OEA President Trish Gorham.

The OEA is asking for a 4 percent boost to the pay scale, much lower than the 20 percent the union called for in January 2008. OUSD’s proposal calls for revamped teacher evaluations (based on “multiple student learning outcomes”), the establishment of a career ladder for outstanding teachers, and to give individual schools more of a say in the composition of their staff.

It seems both sides left plenty of room for negotiation, perhaps after watching the last attempt at reaching agreement reach impasse, and they’ve agreed to study the issues together. As Gorham said, “Both proposals are short on specifics.”

Twice-monthly sessions have been scheduled for the next three months, with Kei Swensen, a Sankofa Academy teacher, chairing the negotiations for the teachers.

Is it reasonable for teachers to hope that those nine scheduled sessions will be enough? “I think we will be very close to an agreement in three months,” Gorham said.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Trish Gorham

    Photo courtesy of Janet Lau, Oakland Teacher.

    We can always count on the voters of Oakland to support schools. Thank you, once again, for your commitment to maintain a Unified Public Education System.

    And I maintain my optimism for a timely settlement to a fair contract.

  • 1day at a time

    What does “career ladder” for outstanding teachers, mean?

    I thought unions fought against labeling any member as being better than another.

    What about a great teacher that wants to stay in teaching. There are some who see this as a life calling.

    Pay them more!!!

    I have no problem with paying higher taxes to increase salary of great teachers, but i’m dismayed by the idea of paying ALL a higher salary.

    Convince the public that the labor force it supports is systematically monitored for quality assurance.

    How many teachers in their first two years have not been rehired based on evaluation. What’s the percentage? What sources, schools of ed have the best rates? Simple questions.

    What about teachers with tenure (2+years). What’s their rate of dismissal? How many have been dismissed for cause or for lack of performance in the last 10 years?

    What about principals, what’s their dismissal rate?

    The fundamental question is: When the outcomes are unacceptable, but people are rated as performing well – the system is flawed.

    Fix the evaluations for principals and teachers.
    Double salaries for great ones.
    Actively get rid of the bad ones.
    Leave the middlers alone but focus on their development.

    seems logical enough, right?
    Do that and the public would be happy to support increased revenue. But nobody wants to support nonperformers

  • PPS School Counselor Rep

    Thank you for reporting on this very important topic.

    OEA and OUSD will be bargaining for school counselors, school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and nurses’ too!!! We love teachers but we’re all “Educators.”


  • 1day at a time

    Here’s an example for union, district, and government to follow. Here’s what happens when people want to get something done that’ll work for kids. Imagine the transformation if this happened in OUSD. Forget bond measures for buildings… THIS is the type of thing people will pay for (and private money would also flood in)


  • Doug Appel

    There are a whole lot of very good (and some very bad) education reform ideas out there. A new study out of Stanford has some promising directions (see http://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/679) and the recently released Guidelines for Greatness released by the California Department of Education enunciates some sound principals for teacher recruitment, training, retention and career development. But the best models include educators and their knowledge as key elements all aspects of these processes–and accord a subordinate role (if any) to student test scores as a measure of growth.

    1day–I haven’t been able to see details of the Newark agreement. I suspect that the reporting on it you referenced leaves out many details. It is also important to note that Newark agreement was reached with $100 million in outside money from Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Your argument seems to be for non-support for teacher raise because the current system is not perfect and additional paid will not leave undeserving behind.

    And, you pick out a reform faraway that you have read about and want to support. It is not like merit paid hasn’t been tried before. Nor has past experiments brought the outcome advocates of merit paid had hoped. Those districts that have tried it have not moved closer to perfect teaching force except in the minds of the advocates for merit paid.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Harold

    How do you stop Teachers from “chasing” high-performing students in a merit-based, pay system?

  • Jim Mordecai

    It makes as much sense to pay teacher more for working with lower performing students as it does to pay teachers extra for working with high performing students.

    But, merit pay is based on student test based data and not teacher’s performance data. This method of teacher evaluation has not proven reliable.

    A New York Principal was a guest contributor on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post Column, “The Answer Sheet”, for November 13 and argued against using student test data as part of a teacher evaluation.

    Jim Mordecai

    By Carol Burris

    As a high school principal, it is my job to evaluate teachers. I take this responsibility very seriously — it helps ensure that our students receive the rich opportunities to learn that they deserve. With strong teachers, evaluation may entail reaffirming good practice, supporting innovative practice and facilitating ways for them to share their expertise with their colleagues. For novices or those who struggle, we work to improve their practice and, when necessary, to counsel them out or let them go.
    It is because instruction is so important that the sweeping generalizations and false assumptions that have fueled recent teacher evaluation policies are of such concern to teachers and school leaders alike. The waves of misinformation about evaluation undermine confidence in our schools and result in “solutions” based on opinion and gut-level hunches, not research evidence.
    The recent Phi Delta Kappan opinion piece, entitled “Million Dollar Baby,” is an example of the misguided critiques that appear all too often.

    Let me begin by saying that I have always been a fan of the Kappan, which skillfully takes scholarly research and makes it accessible to educators who do not have time to pore over academic journals. Despite that fine track record, the generalizations that form the argument in this month’s editor’s
    note cannot go unaddressed. It is time to get the record straight and address three common fallacies that dominate the new rhetoric on teacher evaluation:

    1. 1. Every former teacher evaluation system was the same and that unitary system was terrible. To quote from the opinion piece, “Unfortunately educators must bear the bulk of the blame for allowing such a lousy system to exist.” In reality, there was never one evaluation system nor was every system
    “lousy.” Rather, each school district has had its own system of teacher evaluation, and some of those have been better than others. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t have substantial room for improvement. But it does mean that it’s ridiculous to start a reform discussion with the contention
    that all districts should abandon their evaluation system regardless of its track record. I would wager, for instance, that Kappan’s editor would agree that the Montgomery County Maryland School System has a nationally acclaimed system, and that Cincinnati Schools had a system, before Race to the Top, that
    has been shown to not only improve the craft of teachers but to increase student achievement. Neither system incorporated test scores. In the small districts on Long Island, most of us did an excellent job evaluating teachers—dismissing probationers who do not merit tenure, helping teachers continue to
    develop, working with and counseling those who needed to improve or to leave the profession, and building on the strength of even our most expert practitioners. Among Long Island principals, you will find few fans of New York State’s new evaluation systems, based on APPR.

    2 2. Tenure is the problem. It is a job for life and it is unique to teaching. The Kappan editorial states that tenure is one of the “unique privileges that teachers enjoy.” But in truth due process before dismissal (tenure) is not unique to teaching. In fact, it is more difficult for a principal to dismiss a custodian due to civil service protection than it is to dismiss a teacher. Civil servants enjoy seniority rights, probation periods, salary schedules, and due process rights for dismissal just like teachers.
    Civil servants, who are broadly defined as those who work for government, include librarians, police officers, firefighters, transit workers, secretaries, and accountants. Due process should not be understood or practiced as a “job for life,” but it should remove the threat of political or arbitrary dismissals.

    There are excellent reasons for such protections. The civil service was established in the late 1800s because prior to its establishment, government jobs were given to political supporters as spoils. The protections were put into place to make sure that public employees were hired on merit and could
    not be dismissed on the whims of the incoming administration. This remains a concern. Public schools are run by politicians—in some cases by mayors, in other cases by elected boards of education.

    As an alternative to tenure, the Kappan editorial suggests that teachers “should receive a contract for a limited period of time, say three or five years”. Although this may sound reasonable, consider the clear consequences. Without the protection of tenure, educators could be dismissed for not pleasing the interests of powerful parents. They could be dismissed in order to bring in friends and relatives of newly elected mayors or board members.
    Teachers could be pressured to pass students who did not deserve to pass a class or be pressured to not discipline a student when warranted. Presently, there is one person in every district who works on a renewable contract: the superintendent. Nationally, the average time that a superintendent stays in a
    district is seven years. For an urban superintendent it is fewer than three years. And the constant turnover of superintendents does not serve students or schools well. Tenure promotes stability and community in our schools. Teacher turnover, even when it is the less effective teachers who leave, has a negative effect on student achievement. Likewise it has been found that churn in the principalship is not good for schools. Such instability does not promote excellence and the courage to make the tough decisions that are not politically popular but serve the best interests of students. Again, this
    isn’t an argument against pursuing ways to streamline the dismissal process; it’s an argument against poorly thought through changes.

    3. 3. High-stakes evaluations are fine as long as they do not rely on a single measure. This is the new popular rhetoric. It is a partial acknowledgement of the many problems associated with using students’ test scores and growth models in teacher evaluations, problems that have been repeatedly documented. And yet the Kappan editor and others still insist on the inclusion of students’ test scores in teacher evaluation. Multiple measures are indeed wise, but the effects of including any given measure need to be understood. Current policies do in fact place test scores in a prominent role, one for which they are not valid or reliable and because of which school districts can expect to be (justifiably) challenged in court by dismissed teachers (as explained in another article in the same November issue of the Kappan). The troubling reality is that these policies will promote teaching to standardized tests and a narrowing of the curriculum.

    The editorial suggests that we also include other untested ingredients, such as student surveys, in the evaluation mix. We should do this, apparently, even though there is as of yet no reliable research base to support the idea. As a high school principal, I thoroughly enjoy working with teenagers. I find their
    opinions to be frank and refreshing. But I do not think it is fair or wise to give 14 year olds a formal role in teacher evaluation. It is bad enough that we are undermining the student-teacher relationship by basing evaluations on those students test scores.

    The magazine’s editor concludes by asserting that “every classroom should have excellent teaching every hour of every day.” I would add that every child should also have an excellent parent who serves them excellent food and provides them with an excellent home in an excellent neighborhood. Let’s also
    add excellent healthcare and excellent supervision every hour of every day as well. If we could accomplish all of that, we would have the highest achieving students on earth. But the rhetoric itself accomplishes little. What we need are research-based policies supported by lawmakers willing to provide the necessary resources.

    In the meantime, while we wait for those wise lawmakers to emerge, perhaps we all could back off and allow teachers to enjoy the same humanity we seem to graciously grant to others. Teachers aren’t perfect, but I must tell you that nearly all of the teachers that I have met over the years are darn good at
    what they do. And the variation in their skill is no wider than the variation that I have observed in other professions whose evaluations we never seem to discuss. Let’s look to improve evaluation systems as well as other parts of our schools. But could we stay within reasonable bounds of critique based on
    fact and research? If we do not stop this constant drumbeat of criticism there will be no one left to evaluate with our new excellent-every-hour-every-day evaluation systems.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    Here’s what would improve the teacher performance of every single teacher: smaller class sizes. The rest, quite honestly, is irrelevant. Give me small classes (8 to 10 students) and I can work miracles with even the most reluctant/underachieving/challenging/etc. student. Beyond that, it’s crowd control and everyone suffers.

    Small claas sizes. The only thing that will work for sure in every single class room.

  • J.R.

    We can’t afford the pension obligations we have now and you suggest to tripling the amount of teachers? Even smaller class sizes would not be effective 100% because you have some kids that refuse to learn, and you have some teachers that are either not good at teaching or just don’t care.

  • 1day at a time

    Harold: Some teachers are chasing high achieving kids already. They choose not to teach in the flatlands. I’m not sure how they’ve set it up in Newark, but it’s worth studying.

    @Doug: this is the kind of stuff that philanthropists want to support. The fact that a Bay Area donor gave to Newark for this instead of a district in his own backyard makes me say, “Why not us?”

  • 1day at a time

    @Jim: I tend to think that the head of the National Teachers Union (Randy W.) took a very balanced approach. Watch the clip. I took the time to read your 13 paragraph response, so I’d ask you to watch the clip and give your thoughts.

    Not every reform initiative is shortsighted, demeaning to teachers, and union busting.

    People are expected to do a good job; they should be paid more when they do a great job. We have smart enough people to figure out the right balance of metrics. I think the OEA leaders and union leaders are capable of figuring this out – especially since Newark already has given a place to start the conversation.

    The old way didn’t work. Teachers’ pay was slotted into a system that didn’t consider their effectiveness. Why would anyone want to continue on that path?

    “It makes as much sense to pay teacher more for working with lower performing students as it does to pay teachers extra for working with high performing students.”

    No it doesn’t. Hospitals pay doctors more to work int he ER for a reason. We want our best to consider working there. We value the ability manage stress and the reduced margin of error so we pay them more. Should be the same in schools or subjects that are struggling.

  • 1day at a time

    @intrepid: thank you for your honesty. Some teachers can work miracles with 30 of the toughest kids in the world. I’m suggesting we pay them more because they are bringing a special ability that you’ve acknowledged is rather amazing.

    smaller classes, though are not going to happen. The research doesn’t support it.

    @ Jim “Tenure promotes stability and community in our schools. Teacher turnover, even when it is the less effective teachers who leave, has a negative effect on student achievement.”

    I couldn’t disagree with this statement more. Not sure if its yours or someone else’s… but it really is quite a remarkable statement. Do many teachers share this opinion? Principals? Parents? Board members? Students? Would love their voices on this one. Do schools suffer when bad teachers leave?

  • IntrepidTeacher

    Maybe some kids can work miracles with 30 kids, but most teachers are merely human and not miracle workers, and the truth is, that after 20+ years in OUSD classrooms, with many colleagues, I have observed even the best are often overwhelmed much of the time.

    I believe that my own personal research and experience does support smaller classes. Why wouldn’t it? I would be interested in seeing research that suggests that teachers and students do better in classes of 30+. Just don’t believe it. I would also be interested in the source of such information.

    I’m sorry that so much time, effort and attention is given to so many other projects which fail instead of addressing the need for smaller, more focused classes where I, as teacher, can care for and develop a relationship with every single student. It is not physically possible for any teacher, no matter how effective, to actually have more than a passing relationship with 160 students each day. I’m lucky if I can actually have more than a 1-minute conversation with each individual student each week, and still get to instruction, planning, grading and other requirements of the job.

    Small classes are the best answer. Find the money, because it’s worth the investment. Yes, I know my words fall on mostly deaf ears. But I’ve never met a teacher who thinks that big classes are better than small ones.

    P.S. I have National Board Certification and other recognitions for being an outstanding teacher.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    *should read “Maybe some *teachers* can work miracles with 30 kids…” (but who knows, maybe some kids can, too…)

  • 1day at a time

    there’s been one study of note that said class size worked:STAR study in Tennessee
    reducing size a third helped poor, black, boys the most. It added 3 months of learning.

    The rest of the research is a wash.

    source is Brookings: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/11-class-size-whitehurst-chingos

  • Jim Mordecai


    You want merit pay negotiated in Oakland. Since Oakland’s charter schools are at-will employees I assume none of Oakland’s 40 charters provide merit pay.

    I am guessing that GO Public Schools leadership is promoting merit pay. Seems like GOPS would be an oganization where you will find like-minded individuals almost any day.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Doug Appel

    1day–You are correct in citing the Tennessee Star Study as the standard for class size studies. It was unique in its approach and used reasonable controls–rare in education research.
    What you do not cite is any research which supports the notion that tenure lowers student performance or that performance based pay improves student outcomes. This idea has been around a long time. The studies done on this subject are interesting to read. Perhaps the most interesting study is the 2010 Vanderbilt POINT study. It hypothesized that providing incentive pay would improve middle school math scores–and concluded that the hypothesis was not confirmable. Despite this, merit pay is widespread in Tennessee (and, increasingly, elsewhere). The question then becomes: If this approach doesn’t work, why has it gained such widespread acceptance? The answer must lie outside of the value of the approach in improving student outcomes.

  • 1day at a time

    Doug – thanks for the tip on POINT. I’ve read up on it this morning. Still gathering my thoughts and will respond soon.

    Jim, I’m talking about traditional public schools. Bringing charters into the conversation is a bit of a red herring. I’m also not sure what GO thinks on this. I’m more interested in what school board, parents, teachers, union, superintendent, taxpayers, and taxpayers think on this.

  • 1day at a time

    Merit pay is about retaining great teachers. Ineffective teachers aren’t ineffective because of low pay. Incentives like this are nearly meaningless to 70% of teachers. But there is a healthy % that we need to do everything to retain. They should not be making less than a neighboring teacher who isn’t effective.

    If a 10-30k bonus helps reduce the attrition rate of our best teachers by 50%, it’s money well spent because cant replace them fast enough – if at all.

    Give the great ones something to shoot for and pay them for the sacrifices they make (greatness is rarely achieved without extraordinary sacrifice).

    Likewise, the tenure debate is meaningless to 70% of teachers. It’s a retention issue. The system has got to be able to EFFICIENTLY remove under-performers.
    Political involvement and such would be no more hindered than it is in any other workplace. Even if it was…. we’re talking about being able to EFFICIENTLY remove
    people who are directly, though unintentionally, undermining our economy, public safety, and children’s opportunities.

    When you do things to retain great teachers, develop your middle tier, and reduce the number of underperformers….student achievement will be transformed in Oakland.

    Of course you start that by getting great principals. More than money, I’d assume that great teachers like working with good principals.

    retention, retention, retention….. retain the right ones.

  • Doug Appel


    I think we have more common ground than the exchanges above might otherwise indicate. Everyone wants to attract, develop and retain great teaching talent. And great leadership and better pay are likely two key ingredients. But you have made several assertions–tenure doesn’t matter to a majority of teachers, paying “good teachers” better will lead to better outcomes, etc., making it easier to get rid of “bad teachers” will improve overall quality, etc. Yet you offer no research in support of these assertions. My view is that much research has been done–and little of it supports these views which, nonetheless, remain very popular.
    Oakland USD has almost 18% first and second year teachers–a measure of teacher turnover which is twice that of any other Alameda County district of comparable size (Source: Ed Data). I conclude from this that OUSD has a big problem retaining teachers (although I don’t have specific data on why this is so–and so won’t speculate). But to offer the view that Oakland has too many bad teachers who are too difficult to terminate and that, therefore, tenure reform is needed, requires more than your opinion to convince me. Where is the evidence? I have reviewed quite a bit of research on this issue and have found little to sway me from a belief that due process rights are essential for a quality teaching force.

  • J.R.

    You will never be convinced because you are part of the system that has failed many children for decades(in terms of grad rates,the need for remediation in HS and college, functional illiteracy etc). How can the poverty rate(even though poverty in the USA is like being wealthy when compared to other countries where the poor are at destitute levels)be 20% to 30% in Oakland and yet the rates of dropouts, academically under-prepared students are way over 50%. This has been going on for decades and yet you do not believe it?

    This article covers these major issues and explains why due process effectively means “job for life”, and the track record of Oakland shows that there are major problems. Many problems stem from the fact that the younger teachers are given the worst classes in the worst schools while veteran opt to teach at hills schools(and people wonder why they leave so quickly). The system is geared toward the rights of the teacher at the expense of students.







    We have lost so many good young teachers in this state over the past few years, and it is borderline child abuse.

  • Jim Mordecai

    1 Day:

    One day I would like the Tony Smith administration to comply with the 55% minimum amount of the budget that is supposed to be spent on the classroom. An administrative challenge the Tony Smith administration has never once met since he has been Superintendent, but a challenge the administrator prior to Tony Smith met and exceeded.

    One day I would also like the Smith Administration to settle a contract with the Oakland teachers.

    One day should come when the contract is settled I am hoping the contract that is settled will move teachers of Oakland from the bottom of compensation when compared to surrounding districts.

    Putting aside the value question of what kind of a teacher attribute deserves merit pay, what good is teacher merit pay if an Oakland teacher salary schedule includes merit pay but Oakland teachers’ salaries and working conditions still lagged behind other nearby districts?

    Fact is Oakland has the highest paid superintendent and the lowest paid teachers in the area. I find that fact without merit for today and hope one day it changes.

    Jim Mordecai

  • 1day at a time

    After reading the articles posted by JR, I am physically sick.

    I am more certain than ever that tenure in OUSD is definitely something that must be dealt with. It’s easy to be distracted by the sideshow (ie all the yelling against charters) and timely red herrings.

    Intent vs impact.

    People arguing for tenure in OUSD may have the best of intentions. They may be living out some Woodstock -style reality where they have to “fight the power” and be protected from the man. They have no idea that they have become “the man”.

    Your intention may be rational and noble, but the impact is absolutely devastating. There is an underclass of teachers that must go. Period. Until we deal with this, the city of Oakland will never reach its potential.

  • J.R.

    Outside of the hills schools, the districts lags way behind other nearby districts. We have a large problem of indifference here, and decades before reform efforts no one ever lifted a finger to change things. Classroom by classroom every teacher challenging and expecting the best from their students and themselves. too much wasted time on artsy fluff, and movies not even remotely related to curriculum. Too many worksheets, and homework not graded and or returned. Too much deviating from state standards, consequently the following teacher wonders what if anything was taught to students.

  • 1day at a time

    Adam Taylor, Oakland teacher, gave up tenure voluntarily. Apparently some of the other teachers at the school also did this.

    JR gave this link and it’s worth reading:


    I found that Adam Taylor became a principal at Brookfield and helped that school improve quite a bit. Katy, please interview him and the other teachers.

    What program trained him to be a teacher? Are they doing anything differently? Who trained him to be a principal? Are they doing anything differently?

    Let’s get real about this. If this system can’t effectively deal with the human resource piece – nothing else matters.

    The public needs to be nuanced enough to ignore the distracting rhetoric about charters and such.

    Find Adam Taylor and his colleagues. Interview him. Understand his training and the rationale for his actions. And, most importantly, what was the result.

  • J.R.

    I am glad you found the piece informative, and all parents should take your advice and ignore the distracting rhetoric and decide the issues for themselves. Parents should get to know other parents(create classroom pools) and give some time to the classroom(and assist with homework as well).

    SECTION 51100-51102

    51100. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
    (a) It is essential to our democratic form of government that
    parents and guardians of schoolage children attending public schools
    and other citizens participate in improving public education
    institutions. Specifically, involving parents and guardians of pupils
    in the education process is fundamental to a healthy system of
    public education.
    (b) Research has shown conclusively that early and sustained
    family involvement at home and at school in the education of children
    results both in improved pupil achievement and in schools that are
    successful at educating all children, while enabling them to achieve
    high levels of performance.
    (c) All participants in the education process benefit when schools
    genuinely welcome, encourage, and guide families into establishing
    equal partnerships with schools to support pupil learning.
    (d) Family and school collaborative efforts are most effective
    when they involve parents and guardians in a variety of roles at all
    grade levels, from preschool through high school.

    51101. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (d), the parents and
    guardians of pupils enrolled in public schools have the right and
    should have the opportunity, as mutually supportive and respectful
    partners in the education of their children within the public
    schools, to be informed by the school, and to participate in the
    education of their children, as follows:
    (1) Within a reasonable period of time following making the
    request, to observe the classroom or classrooms in which their child
    is enrolled or for the purpose of selecting the school in which their
    child will be enrolled in accordance with the requirements of any
    intradistrict or interdistrict pupil attendance policies or programs.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Parents may or may not have a right under Ed Code 51101(a)(1) to observe in a charter school class. The character of charter schools is some Ed Code applies and some Ed does not. But, charter schools are under private management and it is court decisions based on challenging when a charter school doesn’t follow Education Code that defines which Ed Code law is followed.

    Charter school law is opportunity for employment of lawyers.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Doug Appel

    I don’t know what your experience as an educator is, but I served ten years in a classroom in El Segundo before I went to work for CTA. It was an uplifting experience and one I greatly enjoyed. Knowing that I had due process rights and could not be summarily dismissed enabled me to advocate for my students and colleagues to improve the conditions of teaching and learning. If you listen to teachers, you will almost always hear them argue about what’s best for their students and not for themselves. The fact that you have accepted the “bad teacher” narrative as the problem in public education doesn’t make you evil–just misinformed.
    As a product of New York public schools and public higher education, as someone whose entire family for three generations has benefitted from America’s commitment to quality public education and as someone who has spent 21 years in public education in California, I take personal offense at being characterized as “part of the problem.” On the contrary, I have fought and sacrificed for over two decades to maintain a quality public school system in California. I doubt you have done much more but post in blogs.
    You have presented no research regarding the effects of due process on teacher quality or of merit pay on student performance. Just a couple of newspaper articles lacking data and a couple of bloviating opinion pieces. Look to the research first, not the blogosphere.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Let all sides strive to avoid referencing “bloviating” opinion pieces.

    The challenge is that when one agree with an opinion it is a challenge to recognize such opinion pieces as “bloviating”.

    This time of Thanksgiving I am thankful for Doug Appel’s public education that provided me with an unfamiliar word to add to my modest vocabulary.

    Jim Mordecai

  • J.R.

    For the sake of accuracy, I said “you were part of the system that “is” the problem” and there is a difference between the two because there are many wonderful teachers who are being denigrated(and or thrown under the bus) through no fault of their own. We have the best data of all before us, decades worth of lack of achievement under status quo business as usual.

  • J.R.

    Any time someones opinion is countered by reason and evidence, you can bet personal attacks will not be far behind. It’s expected when there is no counter argument that insults are inevitable. I told him the system is failing many kids, and the evidence shows this to be true.



  • 1day at a time

    CTA opposed sb1530. Protecting child abusing teachers from swifter removal.

    Teacher union claimed the bill weakened due process.

    Why didn’t the Trib cover this?
    Why would teachers sit silent while their unions wreck havoc in their name?
    Does being a democrat mean you have to always support teachers unions?

    I read the bill and saw the voting roll. Four ed committee members “took a walk” during the vote so it wouldn’t pass.

    Teachers, wake up!!

    When the Police department, Child Abuse Prevention Centers, Superintendents, School Boards, and Mayors all strongly support something they believe protects children from abuse but your unions say no because they say it infringes on due process… you need to really think about who you allow to speak for you.

    Is it possible the people in Oakland are so disconnected from our kids that we just dont give a rats behind about any of this. Many vote however the teachers union tells them to vote. Many support them blindly and dont hold them or CTA accountable for their actions and positions.

    intent vs impact

    intent: protect due process. protect vs arbitrary abuse of power
    impact: child molesters have cover

    Shame on the union and any teacher who blindly follows the published union code of conduct that essentially says “no snitching!”



  • J.R.

    Can you really trust a person or organization that will not take a stand to do what is right for the most vulnerable inn our society, because it may(I stress may) have an affect on what amounts to jobs and paychecks. It really makes you wonder……..

  • J.R.

    I feel sadness for those teachers of moral courage,faith and the integrity to stand for something in order to not fall for anything. A majority of wrong is still wrong!

  • 1day at a time

    31 things to know about Oakland teachers.

    Oakland teachers…
    1. Want better pay
    2. Aren’t overly connected to the unions’ political activities, especially CTA
    3. Are too busy teaching to pay much attention to OUSD board elections
    4. Make a conscious choice to be a complainer or not (the lounge dilemma)
    5. Think good staff needs balance of young and older
    6. Dont want salary held against them in school budgeting
    7.Think its “sobering” when good teacher is cut over bad one due to seniority
    8. Dont see other people teach very often
    9. Are very well aware of instructors’ skills in feeder grades/classes
    10. Are virtually clueless about teachers in non-feeder classes/grades
    11.Think the flatland v hills thing is overblown. Hills parents can be difficult
    12. Mid-top teachers have diverse views on union. Poor ones are usually diehards.
    13. Spend a ton of their own money on school items
    14. Acknowledge the need to call BS more often
    15. Know teachers who shouldn’t be teaching
    16. Would like some job-embedded pathway to higher pay
    17. Aren’t completely sure how best to use technology in class.
    18 Don’t know about the union’s “code of conduct”, don’t feel bound by it
    19. Believe that having a great principal is important
    20. Feel torn about ineffective teachers. They understand pressure & frustration
    21. Are surprised & embarrassed to learn that sb1530 was killed by their unions*
    22. Think schools are run by uber-liberals. Frustrating if you’re not.
    23. Would pay more attention to people focused on solutions
    24. Loathe paperwork
    25. Like collaboration, but also want their professional space.
    26 Good leadership and school culture impact quality of life
    27. Can get demoralized when poor teachers stay
    28. Can get demoralized when great teachers leave
    29. Get inspired by kids who defy the odds (hence the draw to OUSD)
    30. Feel public critique of union often seems like teacher bashing, intended or not.
    31. Have to be careful not to overwhelm their loved ones with “school talk”

    *most dont know what sb1530 was about

    This list was created from teacher conversations. Had good couple people vet final list. Food for thought

  • teacher

    When I was a credential candidate, one of my classes involved visiting established classrooms suggested by my professor. Unbeknownst to me, several of them were “union die-hards.” I have to say that still, all these years later, I still remember the amazing instruction in those rooms. #12 above makes it seem as though the most involved in the union are there because they are poor teachers, and these types of generalizations are central to the perception of teachers/unions being solely about protecting lousy teachers’ jobs. Every really lousy teacher I have seen (but one) was NOT involved in OEA. I think “die-hards” are there because they: are interested in the political process in general, tend toward activist type activities, like being involved, believe they can affect working and learning conditions and believe strongly in organized labor unions.

    Data does show that ALL of the top states in education have strong teacher labor unions, and that all of the bottom states do not. Whether it is a direct correlation or not, it certainly does not support the claim that unions are the root cause of all problems.

    There are many good points on the list above though. I think that sb1530 is a more complicated issue and needs to be fully addressed and discussed rather than just mentioned.

  • Doug Appel

    1 Day

    I found your list interesting and thought provoking–good on you. I don’t know what your sample size was or how it was selected, but, nonetheless, I suspect it reflects some segment of OEA’s membership as much as anything else.
    I viewed SB 1530 as a histrionic and unnecessary bit of legislation. Once charged with offenses of the type which occured in LA (sex or drug in particular), employees are put on unpaid leave. If they are found guilty of the charged offenses, they generally lose their credential pretty quickly. If not guilty, they retain their due process rights–as they should.

  • J.R.

    This is an disturbing excerpt from a blog regarding the Miramonte debacle and discussion about the impact the bill SB1530 would have had on the case.

    “The bill(SB1530) also would have made admissible evidence of misconduct older than four years. Berndt had prior reports of abuse that had been removed from his file, because a statute of limitations in the teachers contract in LAUSD prohibited their use”.


    It seems as though regardless of opinions to the contrary, unions and their contracts do cause damage intentional or not.

    I am also not surprised to find that CTA was against parental notification as well.



    Do these people really have your child’s best interest at heart, or is there another incentive here?

  • J.R.

    Correction an should be a, I was going to put another word but thought better of it.

    One teachers opinion regarding the cartel: