Liberty News

Today is D-Day for the city of almost 300,000, a bedroom community in the San Francisco Bay Area that is facing bankruptcy.

Stockton isn’t the first California city to file for bankruptcy. Nearby Vallejo filed in 2008 and is still trying to scramble their way out of the mess created by the housing boom and sweetheart contracts with the city’s unions. Stockton will be the biggest city to seek protection under Chapter 9 bankruptcy rules.

City officials have been negotiating with creditors, unions and retirees for months hoping to be able to craft a deal that will allow them to balance their budget. Cities in California are required by state law to balance their budgets by July 1.

Over the last three years, Stockton has cut their spending by some $90M but they’re still facing a $26M deficit this year. Their fiscal problems stem from the standard litany of problems created by governments.

Recordnet.com documents the problem in one short paragraph:

They blame the recession of the past half-decade, generous employee benefits and overborrowing to build things such as the marina and waterfront sports complex.

Let’s take special note here that their number one “problem” isn’t a problem. The recession did not create the fiscal mess in Stockton anymore than it created the budgetary mess in California or the nation. The recession simply highlighted that the people elected to run government at all levels don’t have a clue how run an operation bigger than a lemonade stand.

Recordnet also paints a picture of what the state of California could look like by this time next year.

The backdrop to Stockton’s financial drama playing out at City Hall is the chaos unfolding daily on the streets.

Stockton is in the clutches of gang warfare and a record high number of homicides. The city periodically knocks down homeless encampments. Methamphetamine abuse is rampant. Home foreclosures and unemployment run well above state and national averages.

What the article isn’t clear about is whether “gang warfare” includes negotiations with the city’s unions.

The Californian does provide some detail as to what $90M of cuts has done to Stockton.

They eliminated one-fourth of the police officers, one-third of the fire staff and 40 percent of all other employees.

They also cut wages and medical benefits.

Note that retirement cost for the city’s unions isn’t listed.

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-By Larry Sand

The California Teachers Association can’t realistically unionize all charter schools, so it promotes laws that limit their numbers.

In Golden Missed Opportunity, recently published in City Journal, I examined the options that families in California have if they want to remove their children from failing public schools. The pickings in the Golden State are rather slim, and those options we do have — charter schools, homeschooling and the Parent Trigger — are constantly imperiled by a governor and state legislators who typically do the bidding of the California Teachers Association, the largest state affiliate of the National Education Association.

Charter schools are public schools which aren’t bound by the bloated union contracts that stifle so many traditional public schools. California has over 900 charter schools that currently educate about 400,000 students. To the union’s consternation, only about 15 percent of these schools are unionized. Of course, the union would like to see a 100 percent rate, but accomplishing that would take too much effort and money. Additionally, the flexibility that non-unionization offers is one of the attractions of charter schools for many teachers.

So instead of unionizing, CTA tries to eviscerate current charter laws or get caps on the allowable number of charters. At this time, there are three pieces of CTA sponsored legislation working their way around Sacramento. In fact, just last week the state assembly voted 45-28 to approve one of them, AB 1172. The bill, now in the Senate Rules Committee, was authored by State Assemblyman and former teacher and union activist Tony Mendoza. If AB 1172 becomes law, it would allow a school board to block the creation of a new charter school if it would have a “negative fiscal impact” on the school district. However, “negative fiscal impact” is never really defined, and California charter law already has clearly defined reasons why new petitions can be denied.

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Jerry Brown and CTA: Testphobic Twins

On February 1, 2012, in Corruption, Economy, Teachers Unions, Unions Revealed, by Warner Todd Huston

-By Larry Sand

Children in the Golden State will get a better education when teacher quality becomes a priority

In perhaps the most in-depth study on the subject to date, three Ivy League economists studied how much the quality of individual teachers matters to their students over the long term. The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years, and using a value added approach, found that teachers who help students raise their standardized test scores have a lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates, greater college matriculation and higher adult earnings. (The authors of the study define “value added” as the average test-score gain for a teacher’s students “…adjusted for differences across classrooms in student characteristics such as prior scores.”)

The only caveat from the authors is that using test scores in teachers’ evaluations could lead to “teaching to the test or cheating.” Nothing new here. Some people, when involved in any kind of competition, will try to gain unfair advantage or cheat outright. Typically, it’s a small part of the population and those who do should lose their jobs and face criminal charges.

The lesson is clear: test scores can give us a great deal of information about who the really good teachers are. But California Governor Jerry Brown, unfazed by the blockbuster study, actually called for less testing in his recent State of the State address.

No, Governor. In fact, we need more testing. In California, English and math are tested yearly starting in second grade. But history and science are tested only every few years. Tests should be given in the four core areas every year. As a former American history teacher, I could never figure out why there was no 6th or 7th grade history test. Why wait for grade 8 and throw in a few questions from the 6th and 7th grade curriculum? Never made any sense to me.

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-By Larry Sand

Busting LAUSD and every other school district in the state for negligence should help kids, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when. In the meantime, giving families more educational options would be a great help, but don’t hold your breath, California.

With National School Choice Week underway, we see many positive things happening across the country. In states like New Jersey and Louisiana, governors are taking the lead in proposing ways to break the devastating monopoly that government run schools – their educrat leaders, corrupt and/or inept school boards and the powerful teachers unions — have held for far too long.

As an example of Big Education gone bad, I write in City Journal about a crime that has been perpetrated on the children of California for 40 years and the lawsuit that addresses it:

For nearly 40 years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has broken the law—and nobody seemed to notice. Now a group of parents and students are taking the district to court. On November 1, a half-dozen anonymous families working with EdVoice, a reform advocacy group in Sacramento, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the LAUSD, district superintendent John Deasy, and United Teachers Los Angeles. The lawsuit in essence accuses the district and the union of a gross dereliction of duty. According to the parents’ complaint, the district and the union have violated the children’s “fundamental right to basic educational equality and opportunity” by failing to comply with a section of the California Education Code known as the Stull Act. Under the 1971 law, a school district must include student achievement as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Los Angeles Unified has never done so: the teachers union wouldn’t allow it. To continue reading “A 40-Year Shame,” go to http://www.city-journal.org/2012/cjc0119ls.html

However the above case is decided, there will undoubtedly be lawsuits, union pushback, teacher dissatisfaction and who-knows-what-else as the various special interests scramble to do what is best for themselves. And as always, children’s needs are left out of the equation.

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-By Larry Sand

There are those among us who think that teachers unions, collective bargaining and peer assistance review are the way to a better education for kids. They look like earthlings, but in fact are extraterrestrials.

As the year draws to a close, newspapers, magazines and blogs are filled with best of and worst of lists that deal with everything imaginable. The Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force got on the bandwagon early and posted Best and Worst in American Education, 2011 in November. All solid stuff. Can a reformer not be happy about the Parent Trigger being raked over the coals, yet surviving, or that many of Michelle Rhee’s reforms are still in place despite leaving her post as D.C. Schools Chancellor after a major push from the American Federation of Teachers? On the worst list, the Task Force includes the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal and the union-orchestrated overturn of Ohio’s recent anti-collective bargaining law.

Then lo and behold, we received a dispatch from Planet Ravitch on December 23rd. (Most people are not aware that shortly after astronomers ruled that Pluto was not a planet in 2006, a new planet would be identified. And it is inhabited!) The people who live on this celestial body (named after Diane Ravitch, a former reformer who turned into a champion of the failing status quo) are afflicted with a dyslexic-like condition: they have the entire education reform picture exactly backwards. The way to true reform is to hold their ideas up to a mirror with the resulting image revealing the best way to proceed.

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-By Larry Sand

Every year untold thousands of school kids are harmed by teachers who shouldn’t be allowed in a classroom. Parents must be given an opportunity to send their children elsewhere.

A teacher arrives at work high on drugs…daily.

A teacher regularly flies into rages, terrifying kids and coworkers.

A teacher talks in explicit terms about sex to the students.

A teacher makes constant sexual advances to other teachers.

A teacher doesn’t teach her students anything.

These are a few of the teachers that new Perth Amboy schools superintendent Janine Caffrey has to deal with on a daily basis. She is quick to point out that most teachers are committed and talented, but there are a few….

The evil here is tenure or permanence, which in New Jersey bestows a position for life on teachers after just three years on the job. (It’s even worse in other states – in California, for example, a teacher can get into the untouchables club after only two years.) Tenure for teachers would be nothing more than a bad joke if it didn’t destroy the education experience for tens of thousands of children who are subjected to incompetent/cruel/perverted people on a daily basis.

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