CTA: Can the Acadmenics

Posted: Mar 27, 2002 12:00 AM
The forces that want to dumb down public schools never rest. Failure never cows them; success never hinders them. After years of producing poor readers, California has returned to recommending phonics-rich reading programs. As more new schools adopt the program each year, reading test scores have risen modestly as a result. Folks at the California Teachers Association (CTA), alas, aren't fond of phonics reading programs. CTA President Wayne Johnson even claimed that one successful phonics-based reading program treated "teachers like chimpanzees almost." So, the CTA found a legislator, Democrat Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg of Los Angeles, willing to carry a bill to make curriculum and textbook selection decisions part of union collective bargaining. What they can't stop at individual schools, they'll stop with Sacramento savvy. If enacted, AB2160 effectively could freeze out parents from curriculum decisions, as union representatives and school boards would negotiate new contracts -- including which textbooks to buy -- behind closed doors. Unions would be able to hold failing districts hostage by refusing to approve the adoption of research-tested curricula unless they were granted even bigger raises. "If anyone thinks that won't happen, they're totally naive, " said Laurie Juengert, an attorney who represents school districts in labor negotiations. The CTA claims that it simply wants to ensure that teachers are involved in curriculum decisions. "Teachers have five years of college and are treated like kids instead of adults," argued CTA Vice President Barbara E. Kerr on the group's website. That comment would make you think that teachers have no role in evaluating or choosing curriculum -- which, I am happy to report, is not true. And note that the CTA wants teachers to be treated like "adults" while it wants parents to be treated as if they are invisible -- or irrelevant. Goldberg has help from Democratic Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, who is backing her bill. So, AB2160 will bypass the Assembly Education Committee and instead be heard by the Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security next month. Wesson spokesperson Patricia Soto explained, "The PERSS Committee has jurisdiction over public-sector bargaining bills." True, but it's also true that with five Dems (one an AB2160 co-sponsor) and two Repubs, the committee is stacked in the CTA's favor. The re-election-minded Gov. Gray Davis can't want AB2160 to make it to his desk. He doesn't need to invoke the wrath of the California School Boards Association or the anger of the politically powerful CTA. That goes for other Democrats who understand that freezing out parents from curriculum decisions would allow unions to hold a low-performing district hostage unless school boards pay teachers extra in exchange for a valued reading program. But even if AB 2160 is confined to the dustbin of bad educrat ideas, Goldberg has another trick up her sleeve -- AB2347, which would repeal the STAR achievement test, replace it with another (no doubt easier) test and postpone testing students until the third grade. It's a great idea -- if you want to mask illiteracy in early grades. The CTA is a proud sponsor of the measure. That tells you everything you need to know about the CTA.