What do the Election Results Mean for Ed. Reform? (and a tangent)
What an odd and wonderful state we live in.
Let’s start with the big ticket:
For Governor, the Republicans selected Meg Whitman who ran a company that ten years ago was basically the classified section and the primary source of revenue for most of the major newspapers in the state. In some ways, you could say that Ebay’s rise and Whitman’s fortune was built on the slow and steady decline of every major newspaper company in California and the nation.
For education, one can only hope that Whitman has a more coherent agenda that the current administration who has drifted from self-interested political pragmatism to partisan bashing to something in between often in the space of a single day. The only practical result of this has been to confuse everyone and create enemies on all sides. All in all, a remarkable accomplishment.
On the other side, the Democrats selected the late Governor Jerry Brown. My apologies. He’s alive. It’s really wonderful for me to know, now that I’m forty years old, that our Governor could be twice my age and dated stars from movies made before I was born. Really gives me hope. By the way, didn’t we just have a campaign for President where the Democrats and the Republicans did the opposite thing with John McCain and Barack Obama? What if Obama had come from CA instead of Illinois? From the looks of it, he’d have to pay his dues for another thirty years before he could run for Governor.
I’m not sure where Mayor-Governor-Attorney General Brown stands on education policy issues. But since he’s going to need the union’s deep pockets to win, he most certainly will owe them some loyalty. Or perhaps he is beyond that point given his long history in politics?
Given how Whitman will owe business and because of her business roots and how Brown will owe labor, we’re likely to see issues of education reform in the coming campaign constructed around the same themes as the past twenty years – MORE MONEY vs. CUT THE WASTE. That would be sad given how much our state has changed and how different our student population is now. We are a majority-minority state with students of color comprising over 70% of the K-12 population. Who will be speaking on behalf of those students and their parents? I’d love to hear from our candidates how they are going to close achievement gaps, place the best teachers with the highest need students, hold people and schools truly accountable for performance and ensure that all of our students will be prepared for a real choice between college or career.
As for the other ticket – Superintendent of Public Instruction. It looks like Aceves vs. Torlakson. What a fight! The big loser is Gloria Romero and the remarkable result is how close the three were and also how many votes went to the other seven candidates. It looked like a lot of people just picked a name out of a hat.
Torlakson is the Education Coalition candidate. Aceves was supported by ACSA. The Education Coalition represents all the adults in the system (especially the adults working in Sacramento). ACSA represents the administrators.
As a former member of both ACSA and CTA, this is a fascinating result. Here you have two organizations that seem like best buddies from a policy perspective. In fact, in Sacramento, the lobbyists for ACSA are so aligned with the agenda of the CTA, I used to wonder where all those ACSA dues went? ACSA opposed allowing principals of high need schools to prevent voluntary transfers a few years ago (the same position as CTA). Now, they are opposed to giving principals and other managers the ability to conduct evaluations of teachers and other certificated employees that actually have meaning and could hold folks accountable for their performance (the same position as CTA). Sacramento ACSA lobbyists are currently opposed extending the probationary period from 2 to 4 years because it would “create more work for administrators” a position that is laughable to anyone who has had the experience of trying to release an ineffective probationary employee vs. releasing an ineffective permanent one.
As far as I can determine my primary benefit from being a member of ACSA was a visit to Shamu. This was in stark contrast to the two other unions/professional organizations I’ve belonged to - the teacher and paraprofessional unions.
To this day, I remember when my paraprofessional union got us health care benefits. I also remember very clearly, when I received a big raise as a young teacher living in a very expensive city because of the work of my union.
For the most part, I cannot remember anything ACSA did beyond the Sea World tickets and the offer to lower my rates for supplemental health insurance. They certainly weren’t there when the local teacher’s union was calling for cuts in “high-priced” administrators (code language for the people who supervise them). They weren’t there when the school board demanded the heads of administrators on stakes to appease the unions. They weren’t there when I had to explain to folks that I had to cut positions and give them unrealistic responsibilities to satisfy the calls to cut management. They weren’t there when I had to explain to a principal who managed two school sites, over two hundred students with disabilities and five programs in addition to three hundred other students, that I couldn’t fund her vice principal because we “couldn’t add administrators.” They weren’t there when she looked back at me in absolute exhaustion and said “we are the dirt under people’s fingernails”. They weren’t there when principals at their wit’s end would call me to beg me to move an employee because they had no faith that the evaluation process they were engaged in would work. They weren’t there when we had to place the folks left at the end of the dance of the lemons at schools and with students who deserved to be educated by the very best, instead of the very worst.
Of course, they were there with me at the check-out line in Sea World. And for that I am grateful.
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