« Looking to the Past | Main | Unions, Miller Spar over Teacher Pay »

California Teachers Oppose "Miller/Pelosi" Bill


The House Education and Labor Committee invited more than 40 people to speak at today's hearing on their draft bill to reauthorize NCLB.

But today's most important NCLB statement may be on this Web page. In it, the California Teachers Association says:

"NCLB is again now up for reauthorization. And the proposal by California Congressman George Miller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does nothing to improve the law. California teachers are calling on Congress to vote NO on the Miller/Pelosi NCLB reauthorization plan."

The CTA doesn't like many proposals in the drafts (see here, here, and here) issued by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif. They oppose the experiments with pay-for-performance, merit pay, and other things they say would violate their collective bargaining rights, Dean E. Vogel, CTA's vice president, told me in the hall outside of House hearing room. Vogel led a contingent of six CTA members to lobby against the bill. "We're ready in California to go to war," Vogel told me.

I have three points to make here, all political:

1.) CTA, traditionally an ally of Democrats, is taking on the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic chairman of the House education committee. That doesn't happen very often.

2.) Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Miller, and Rep. McKeon are all from California. That makes it the most important state in the debate in the House.

3.) To promote it's campaign, CTA took out a premium ad on the Daily Kos. The union is clearly trying to drum up opposition to NCLB among the Netroots Democrats.

Bonus link:

Here's the CTA press release given out at a press conference in Burlingame, Calif. In it, CTA president David A. Sanchez said: "Unfortunately, the Miller/Pelosi reauthorization plan would only make the law worse."


My sentiments exactly. After reading the major highlights of changes to the No Child Gets Ahead Law, it all seemed like working around the periphery to what the crux of the problem with the law is - the sanctions.

Besides the poor working environment created by the threats imposed by the federal government (and thus the poor learning environment), I don't think anybody has paid attention to how diruptive and traumatic it is to the lives of teachers and students when schools actually get closed down.

I worked in one of those high schools. Those with an agenda will tell you that the staff failed those students. The reality was it was a hard-working dedicated staff, probably like most schools, closing or otherwise. Much of the staff wound up in the reconstituted schools anyway, and magically the schools improved - never mind the huge decrease in class sizes, 65% reduction in enrollment in a school that was at 190% capacity and covert recruitment of advanced level 8th graders. And never mind also the decrease in quality of other area high schools who had to absorb those extra students discarded like dead weight. (You don't really think they actually created more space for these students, do you?) I mean, to heck with everybody else, look at me, right? I guess it's no surprise why some of the less socially conscious wonder what is wrong with, say - merit pay.

Anyway, the students in the closing high school were either tossed around the city to other schools in mid-career against their will or ignored by the higher-ups intent on promoting their reconstituted schools. Talk about bitter students! The atmosphere was poisonous, to say the least. Many quality experienced teachers had their lives upheaved, some more so than others as they felt obligated to stay to the end with "their" students, usually to the detriment of their own careers. It was pathetic.

The only solution that works for poorly achieving schools is to help them get it right with proven tactics like lower class sizes, true parent empowerment, etc., etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. The lack of these remedies in the NCLB Law, and the promotion of sanctions, is a pretty good indication that there are a lot of other motives to this law other than the education of our nation's youth. One only needs to use his/her imagination to figure out what these motives are.

Those were great comments posted by Jason Norman, Teacher.
Especially any reference to
real parent empowerment.

For five years
millions of dollars
that came into school districts
to support Parents getting
help with there literacy
needs has had NO REAL
checks and balances

That is the real disparity
with the reauthorization
terms. Remedies are missing
in action and everyone knows
that real education begins
with discipline, standards
and people working together
against the odds,

The home enviroment is still
the biggest challenge for why
schools are closing, teachers
are on burn out and Principals
have become classic cases of
do what I say and not what I do.

Come to the table with solutions
because we all can say what is
wrong, Can we get some conversation
on what's right and build on that.
Can anybody talk about that??

The CTA has a long history of this kind of action. A few years back,
they tried to get the California State Legislature to wipe out the
state's entire assessment and reporting system. Governor Davis opposed
it. He prevailed. No good deed goes unpunished.

This latest drama illustrates why politicians step in to set education
policy. Unlike just about every other profession - law, medicine,
cosmetology - teachers abdicate their responsibility by refusing to set
any standards for themselves or their institutions.
They work primarily to undo policy, rather than offer something in its
place that is in both their interests and the interests of children.

CTA pushed class-size reduction 10 years ago in California, which
resulted in tens of thousands of "emergency-certified" (i.e., untrained,
untested, and inexperienced) teachers who were concentrated in classes
with the highest proportion of poor and minority children. And they did
not stop there. NEA picked up the mantle and succeeded in helping
President Clinton push the same exact policy at the federal level.
Miller was one of only a handful of Democrats to wisely oppose it. The
Clinton policy was undone by Congressman Miller and Senator Kennedy in

As evidenced in yesterday's hearing, it is questionable whether NEA -
and maybe AFT now that Sandra Feldman is gone - can stick to a deal and
be legitimate players. Right now, they are biting wildly at he apple.
They do so at their peril.

Charles Barone
Legislative Director to Congressman George Miller 1997-2000 Democratic
Deputy Staff Director, House Education and Labor Committee, 2001-2003

Mr. Barone failed to finish his sentence. What he probably meant to say is that teachers refuse to set any standards for themselves or their institutions... according to the whims of politicians whose agendas includes a whole lot of people other than students and teachers. I mean - really - how much money do these politicians raise for their campaigns from teachers as compared to say, Bill Gates?

Is it really believable that teachers would fight against something in their own interests, as Mr. Barone claims?

It's just classic politico-speak. And policy. Basically, deligitimize an idea by enacting it, but then don't properly fund it, don't do the supplemental work necessary to make it work, and then when it inevitably doesn't work, claim that the whole idea was a failure to begin with (although they do just keep talking up the NCLB despite IT'S failure).

To lower class sizes without working on the problems of the teacher shortage and inner-city school conditions is a disingenuous attempt at resolving a problem.

What Mr. Barone really seems to be saying is that class size reduction isn't a good idea in and of itself, just a boon for the teachers, and it deserved to fail.

And by the way, we also didn't do anything about the horrible conditions that teachers and students have to deal with in the low-income areas, and since we don't really know anything about education, we don't understand why no experienced teachers want to work there. So if they don't agree, just force them to go there. (Real free-market proponents, eh?)

Do we really need any more of these absurd insinuations before we realize that we need less politicians determining education policy, not more?

Mr. Norman--the reality is that SOMEBODY needs to determine education policy--and in our political system we call those people politicians. Frankly, I am burnt out by the experience of years of laissez-faire policies--everything at the local level, denial of funding disparities (despite the original intention of Title I to help alleviate these disparities).

I rejoiced, as a parent, at some of the true "parent empowerment" requirements of the original NCLB legislation. Some of this has been subverted (school choice and SES by districts unwilling to play along), but far more--involving parents in improvement planning--has just beein ignored. As a parent who is such a geek that I actually read legislation, I thought that I saw an opening. That is until I started to ask questions like "how are you gathering parent input for the school improvement plan?" and "when is the annual meeting to explain the improvement plan to parents?" I got responses that were the equivalent of patting me on the head and sending me off to (start a) PTA to bake brownies. It took about a year of persistence--working my way up through the school channels to the highest levels to finally get a focus group of parents to discuss communication needs. I don't know if anything was actually implemented (my kid moved up to the next school). Never was the SIP shared or explained (although I read it, and offered some suggestions, critiques, all ignored).

I will be happy to see if the new draft (I haven't read it yet, nor seen any coverage of parent empowerment provisions), puts any more teeth into parent empowerment. My observation, however, is that generally teachers and administrators don't want parent empowerment. If anything they want parents available as a scapegoat (as in "we can't teach these kids--their parents aren't even literate").

I am really, really tired of hearing about the SANCTIONS and how terrible they make the work environment. As I see them, the SANCTIONS are pretty minimal, and even more minimally implemented. Beginning with providing the opportunity to change to a better school (if one is available--in my district there are other schools, but the choice rules are a mess, and the really better schools have long waiting lists and have their own little ways of discouraging students who have difficulties), or receive tutoring. There has been lots of foot dragging and, dare I say it, sabotage, on the part of districts. Next "sanction" is to make an improvement plan (including parents), and implement it. Based on the plans I have read, it is pretty easy to view this as "meaningless paperwork," and maintain the status quo (after all, these kids can't be helped, we are all hard working and dedicated already--what more do they want? And NCLB is up for reauthorization in 07 anyway. this will go away). It is no surprise that some schools rack up five, six, seven years of insufficient improvement and then face the REALLY BIG SANCTIONS. Michigan has some data to indicate that there is a critical mass in terms of reform that is required to make change (something like 3-5 basic reforms). Most schools, however, opt for too little (staff restructure, new principal).

I'm a parent. I am dedicated, hardworking, and I care deeply about education. This is my empowered point of view.

Mr Norman,

If you don't like the requirements of NCLB, what is CTA and NEA's proposal? NCLB has it's issues, and I agree that the sanction issues needs to be addressed, but CTA and NEA are not doing offering a policy proposal, they are essentially defending the status quo. A status quo that has failed not only the students in low performing schools, but also the teachers that desperately strive to teach them. They need to offer a realistic alternative that provides what NCLB provides. They need to be part of the solution, not mere obstuctionists.

As to hebisner's comments, just because the media doesn't report it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The solutions to the problems of education are no different than they've ever been, just like the reform fads of today won't work any better than the ones which they've been re-invented from yesterday.

The only problem is, unlike today's unproven schemes - merit pay, data-driven instruction, small schools, technology, etc. - the real solutions that have been consistently proposed by the NEA, AFT and other traditional educational establishments aren't as sexy and have been consistently ignored and misrepresented. Boring and dated - but proven - things such as smaller class sizes, many more guidance counselors and social workers, quality professional development, enrichment programs, parent education programs, etc., etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. I might add that these proposals are the furthest thing from the status quo as can be imagined.

We've all heard these solutions before but it appears that they still go unacknowledged, such as "...what is the CTA and NEA's proposal? ...they need to be part of the solution, not mere obstructionists."

Unfortunately the NCLB is an attack dog and forces us to play defense. Just because our offense is on the bench and silenced doesn't mean it's not there and not legitimate.

The fact of the matter is the proposals put forth by the NEA, etc. run counter to the interests of those in the business and high-tax-bracket community the government really represents. All these things require a big public expenditure for (which they've proven they won't even do for the underfunded and so-wonderful NCLB), and empowerment of people who - let's be real here - are not, nor have anything in common with, their own children.

The fundamental goals of NCLB are anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-parent (as Margo-Mom's experience has shown), and ultimately anti-student. As such, it should be opposed, regardless if anyone will or will not bother to listen to any of our much more pro-education proposals.

As per the doctor's mantra, "First, do no harm."

Mr. Norman--I would not say that NCLB's goals are fundamentally anti-parent. Au contraire, I find many of the NCLB goals to be unashamedly pro-parent. This does not prevent them from being subverted at the local level by entrenched district employees unwilling to share their turf, or teachers who hold to such bizarre beliefs as that parents "are not, nor have anything in common with, their own children." What on earth does that mean?

It is the politicians - in pursuit of policy whose benefit is ultimately to their own kind - whose children "are not, nor have anything in common with, their own children." I was not remotely referring to the teachers regarding that. My sentence, in retrospect, looks a little confusing.

As for the NCLB, I find it typical that they choose to lay the hammer down on those parts of the law that suit their real purposes, say closing schools that go a long way toward busting unions (and hurting children in the process). But when it comes to the supposed parent empowerment sections of the law, they are toothless.

Local administrators are scrambling to comply with all the testing and reporting objectives but ignoring the supposed parent empowerment sections of it. Clearly, that part of the law isn't what the feds are really interested in.

Besides which, in my city, just about all the parents and their associations are about fed up with the top-down management style that has been adopted from the NCLB and its inherent lack of parent empowerment. They are seething like never before. They have teamed up with teachers (can you believe it?) to fight for a better way to get their students educated. The parents actually had more power before NCLB when rules were made closer to home by a Board of Education and not in the politicians' office.

Whatever the stated goals of NCLB are, the proof is in the pudding through your experience and in those of the parents in my city, and in many other cities, I'm sure. The NCLB is fundamentally anti-parent, consequently anti-student.

In my city, the one aspect that parents have been able to make use of is to leave the district for publicly funded charter schools. While the teachers are fuming about "top down" administration, the parents are fed up with NO ONE listening and looking elsewhere. It's not that the charters as a group are any better--still a poorly performing charter where you are listened to and your child respected and wanted is more attractive than a poorly performing district school that doesn't return phone calls, and publicly proclaims itself powerless against everything (the neighborhood, parents, the administration, the federal government, tests, etc, etc).

Again--parent empowerment is NOT inherently lacking in NCLB. It is actively resisted at the local level.

BTW--as the result of NCLB the local school board adopted a wonderful parent involvement policy. It even specifies that parents will be informed that there IS a parent involvement policy. Hasn't happened yet.

SOME parents can leave for charter schools. And then some of them are closed down also. Not exactly the panacea we're looking for, unless union busting is your goal.

We also need to get past this warped idea that somehow the goals and needs of parents, teachers and students are different. They are inseparable. The idea that we have to put the needs of the students before the needs of the teachers is like saying we need to put the interests of the child ahead of the mother. Absurd, to say the least.

When nobody is listening to the parents, you can be sure that they aren't listening to the teachers either. To regain the power for parents, students and teachers, we need to unify and oppose NCLB and fight for those things I've previously mentioned that we KNOW will improve the schools.

As Napolean use to say, "Divide and conquer."

BTW - There were many good parent empowerment initiatives in some districts before NCLB. Many more than now, I suspect, though I wouldn't misconstrue my words by saying it was nearly enough.

I would hate to think, Mr. Norman, that the inability to listen to parents in inherent in the teaching profession, but you are not listening to me (a parent). I do not find it in the best interest of my family or student to fight NCLB. In fact, it is the resistance to the ideas contained in NCLB that I am opposed to.

Here just like everywhere the debate rages on over NCLB. What has the NCLB legislation given us? Finger-pointing, at anything other than the idea that a standardized test is the measure of how intelligent, smart, educated whatever our children are. As a parent should I measure my childs future successes in life based on a test? I think not.

But here as is the case everywhere we continue to blame each other for some perceived failure. Measuring our child's future on a test is the real failure; the federal and state politicians deciding what is best for our children is the problem.

I'm a Democrat, and I'm thrilled that a few Democrats have finally had the courage to go up against CTA/NEA. The NCLB has serious problems, but its clumsy and desperate measures are what one naturally ends up with when the teachers union refuses to allow any meaningful differentiation between good teachers and poor teachers. We need to keep poorly-performing teachers because not enough good teachers are willing to work for current teacher pay. Poorly-performing teachers should not get the same pay, or have the same responsibilities, as high-performing teachers. Top teachers should get double or triple what they're getting now. And I think we should test the teachers as well as—or instead of—the students.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Maura Larkins: I'm a Democrat, and I'm thrilled that a few Democrats read more
  • D'Cali: Here just like everywhere the debate rages on over NCLB. read more
  • Margo/Mom: I would hate to think, Mr. Norman, that the inability read more
  • Jason Norman, Teacher: SOME parents can leave for charter schools. And then some read more
  • Margo/Mom: In my city, the one aspect that parents have been read more



Technorati search

» Blogs that link here