Sunday, March 22, 2009

Racial Impact of RIFs

Lost in the outcries over the state budget and the painful cuts to our schools is the racial impact of those cuts.  If the youngest teachers in California are given pink slips, who will the students see in their classrooms?


Teachers of color are more likely to lose their jobs than white teachers.  San Leandro is not unlike most districts in California. More than 70 percent of the students are people of color, but more than two-thirds of the teachers are white.  Yet, at a CTA-hosted meeting of San Leandro teachers receiving RIF (reduction in force) notices, 23 teachers showed up, more than half (12) were people of color and 21 were women.


Of course, the RIF lists are determined by a combination of factors, especially seniority and appropriate credentials for the teaching assignment.  But older teachers are more likely to be white, and teachers of color tend to be younger, with less tenure.  So after the cuts are finalized, our kids of color (the majority throughout California) are more likely to see teachers in the classroom who don’t look like them.


The bad news is magnified when you consider that the schools likely to see the greatest turnover are the schools with the least-tenured teachers.  Those schools tend to be more urban, more diverse, and more impoverished. The bigger the district, the bigger the impact. 


So in schools where talented young teachers of color have stepped into leadership roles, many of those students will now see older, whiter teachers fill those classrooms, teachers who haven’t established relationships with the students or their parents.


The truth is that students will be seeing less of whichever teacher they have, with the dramatic increases in class size that are coming from the budget cuts.  No surprise, that impact will also be greater in schools with more kids of color.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Debate on Merit Pay

It seems like everybody is crying out for this teacher merit-pay idea, if only it weren't for the big, bad teacher Unions who are in the way.  Apparently, the Unions' only real interest is in protecting a bunch of miserable older teachers who can't teach, and only show up because they're after the free money.

Well, I'm not buying it, mostly because I don't know any teachers who are like that.  The truth is that most miserable teachers who hate kids and hate teaching get out of the profession.  It's not exactly a low-stress job.  I think the life span on a bad teacher tops out at about one year.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Too Little, Too Late?

CTA President David Sanchez called me last night.  He wanted to make sure I got his invitation to one of the "Pink Friday" events being coordinated throughout California, a series of vigils to mourn the loss of public education in the Golden State.

I didn't get to speak with him because I hadn't arrived home yet, so he just left a message on the answering machine.  All right, I know it wasn't actually the real David Sanchez, but I appreciated the robo-call reminder.  It was the second big reminder.  CTA had sent me a pretty pink sticker advertising the event a few days earlier.  They must have spent a lot of time and money putting this series of events together.

I guess CTA has the money to spend now because they saved up so much during the actual budget fight, when the Union basically didn't show up while legislators were taking the wrecking ball to our schools.  Okay, I'm being a little harsh and bitter.  There were those nice holiday cards I dutifully sent off to assembly people and senators when our CTA staffer came to one of our local meetings.  CTA paid for the cards and the postage.  Then there were those radio ads.  And I noticed the TWO pages of the "California Educator" magazine dedicated to saving Prop. 98.  That must have taken hours for a CTA organizer to write and edit.

But the truth is that I heard more about the fight to save our schools from the school administrators association.  They at least coordinated a series of legislator visits during the last months of the budget fight.  I mean, where were the teachers?  Where was the largest, strongest political organization in California when the impact on its own members would be so devastating?

CTA should have been targeting the districts of those Republican assholes who were leading the "no-new-taxes" fight.  They should have been running ads in all the local newspapers about what the cuts would mean to public education -- with the intent being that we would never let the cuts happen.  They could have created an ad campaign so that voters in every Republican's Senatorial district would see what 50 kids in a classroom might look like with no books and supplies.  They could have led a series of "work-to-rule" days throughout the state to demonstrate what it looks like when our schools lose all that funding.

I guess CTA was too busy to do all of that because they were planning the "Pink Friday" vigil.  I love a good funeral.

My only hope is that it's not too late to get started on our fight to ward off the next round of budget cuts.