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    Friday
    Dec062013

    Teacher Quality

    As the organization representing 922 PUSD educators, UTP has a special interest in promoting teacher quality and quality teaching. UTP has concluded that teacher quality is a result of the relationship among several factors, three of which are addressed here: pre-service preparation, professional development, and the occupational environment in which teaching occurs. 

    Pre-service Test Preparation

    California’s current battery of tests should be streamlined and revised to focus on evaluating the skills that candidates need to apply content knowledge to teach students with varying needs.

    • Teacher preparation programs should include a supervised teaching component that more appropriately supports teacher collaboration.
    • Standards for preparation program approval and continuing accreditation should require closer cooperation between university-based programs and K-12 systems, especially in the transition and placement of new teachers in appropriate teaching assignments.

    Professional Development

    • Professional development and teacher learning programs should be aligned to state standards and the work teachers do in their classrooms. They must also meet locally determined needs.
    • California should invest in a professional practice model that builds school based teacher learning communities and teacher leadership. Teacher leadership includes traditional roles such as mentoring and coaching and should be expanded to increase teacher authority in other areas of professional practice. Funding must be provided for teacher-directed professional development that occurs during the workday and addresses the challenges of practice within the teachers’ classrooms.
    • California should fully fund professional development that spans the spectrum of a teacher’s career, beginning with mentoring support for new teachers (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) and continuing through a comprehensive Peer Assistance and Review program.

    RECOMMENDED READING

    Teaching Conditions

    • Teaching effectiveness should be recognized as more than the efforts and attributes of an individual teacher.
    • Teachers are only as effective as the systems in which they work. California should invest sufficient resources to provide the teachers the facilities, tools, and resources necessary for effective instruction.

     Read the full recommendations.

    Friday
    Dec062013

    School Funding

    UTP believes that students need and deserve smaller class sizes, up-to-date textbooks, computers, and a safe learning environment. Despite the funding approved in the state budget for 2016-17, California continues to lag behind the national average in per-pupil funding, has some of the largest class sizes in the country and ranks dead last in the number of counselors and librarians in our schools.

    California's schools and students saw some relief with the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, with much needed moneys flowing to the state's public school system. With Prop. 30 originally set to expire in 2018, Californians passed Proposition 55 - the California Education and Health Care Protection Act - this past November. Passing Prop. 55 will extend taxes on the wealthiest Californians, preventing a staggering $4 billion budget deficit and severe cuts to public education.

    As a result of Proposition 13 in 1978, more than 80 percent of school funding comes from the state. It is incumbent on the state to uphold the California Constitution, which says that public education has first call on state moneys. The state's budget crisis from the not-too-distant past made us all too aware of the pitfalls of our faulty tax structure, which is currently benefitting the wealthiest corporations over Californians themselves. It's time to restore fairness to our tax system.

    In 1988, CTA led the fight for Proposition 98, which was approved by California voters and guarantees minimum funding to California public schools. CTA believes all public schools in the state should have adequate resources to assure all students a quality education that helps them reach the state’s academic standards and meets their individual needs. 

    UTP also believes that the state must provide assistance, rather than sanctions to those schools that have been labeled low- or under-performing based on state or federal assessments. These schools have the most crowded campuses and classrooms, have more students from low-income families, a higher number of uncredentialed teachers, and a larger number of students still learning to speak English.

    State funding is also needed to support the community colleges and California State Universities, which have the responsibility of training California’s 21st century workforce.

     

    • Tax Cuts Widen Budget Gaps
      When states cut taxes, typically they must make up for the lost revenues by reducing spending, and expenditure cuts tend to reduce any positive impact that tax cuts might have on state economies.
    • Sharing the Burden of Economic Recovery
      With the state facing ongoing yearly deficits of $20 billion, the survival of basic services and a healthy public sector is at stake. To address this looming future, the burden of recovery must be shared fairly — in contrast to the current path by which public services, the poor and education have taken the largest cuts and the middle-class has borne the increased tax burden.

     

    • The Basics of California's School Finance System
      Every summer, the California legislature and the governor decide how much money and how many resources will go to kindergarten – grade 12 public education.
    • Proposition 98: What You Should Know

      Passed by California voters in 1988, Proposition 98 sets a minimum funding guarantee for public education. That amount can vary slightly from year to year but is usually around 40 - 41 percent.

    Friday
    Dec062013

    Retirement

    THE TRUTH ABOUT TEACHERS' RETIREMENT

    CTA believes all public employees and education employees in particular deserve secure retirement benefits with defined and equitable benefits. Both the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) should remain autonomous contributory systems providing a single tier of benefits to all employees.

    Two Distinct Public Employee Retirement Systems

    California must maintain and keep strong its two defined benefit systems, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) for employees from pre-kindergarten through higher education. Both systems should offer equal benefit structures and equal costs.  All future members of CalSTRS and CalPERS are entitled to the same basic benefit structure provided for current members.

    Defined Benefit Systems

    Defined benefit retirement plans offer a moderate but secure retirement based upon a formula that will last for the members’ lifetime.  Efforts to eliminate defined benefit retirement plans in favor of 401(k) style retirement plans should strongly be resisted.

    Benefit Improvements

    Benefit improvements must be applied on an equitable basis to all members and beneficiaries of CalSTRS/CalPERS.  Ad hoc benefit increases, which aid one group of members to the disadvantage of another group of members, should be resisted.

    Contributory Retirement Systems

    The two public retirement systems must be contributory systems with costs shared by the employer, employees and the state.  The Retirement Fund must be an inviolate trust fund solely for the benefit of members, retirees or survivors, without special consideration for any person or agency, including the state.  The actuarial integrity of the CalSTRS/CalPERS Defined Benefit Program must be retained with full benefits maintained in any proposals to modify or create an alternate retirement system.

    Retirement, Disability and Family Benefit Allowances

    Retirement, Disability and Family Benefit Allowances must include adequate protection against inflation, either indexed to the California Consumer Price Index (CCPI) or realistic replacement value of the original allowance.

    The Independence of CalSTRS

    The California State Teachers Retirement System should be an independent state agency headed by an independent teacher-majority board and administered by an executive officer not subject to political control.

     

    Sustaining Retirement Security for Future Generations: Funding the California State Teachers’ Retirement System

    Teachers and public employees are being scapegoated for problems caused by Wall Street, and pensions are being used as a wedge issue to divide working class Americans. Why the attack on public employee pensions? Who really benefits by their elimination? The answer is Wall Street. The elimination of public pension systems would be a huge boon for financial planners and companies that stand to invest that money while making profit off of the fees they can charge each individual. And politicians are using pensions to attack collective bargaining and weaken unions. That public employees are being portrayed in the media as "the haves" is simply ludicrous. It’s time to set the record straight.

     Teachers contribute to their retirement.

     Teachers do not retire into a life of luxury. The average monthly benefit is $3,300.

     The California Teachers Retirement System is aggressively against pension "spiking".

     CalSTRS members do not contribute to or receive Social Security.

    All Californians should have a safe and secure retirement. The real problem is not that teachers, firefighters and other public servants have pensions ("defined benefit plans"), the problem is that private sector workers do not. That’s because the private sector systemically eliminated defined benefit pension plans in favor of risky 401(k) plans - reducing costs to corporate America at the expense of the American worker. Instead of attacking teachers over the retirement benefits that they have earned, we should be having discussions about how to create better retirement options for everyone. Read more

    • New Legislation Stabilizes CalSTRS Funding

      Educators may notice a little extra going out of their paychecks into to the California State Retirement System (CalSTRS) beginning this month, but that’s a good thing since the money will not only come back to them at retirement, it will stabilize the retirement system into the future. 

      Governor Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 1469, enacted as part of the 2014-15 budget, concludes a decade-long effort, supported by CTA, to bridge CalSTRS’ nearly $74 billion funding gap.

      "This plan will help our schools attract and retain our highly qualified educators by shoring up CalSTRS and keeping the promise made to our dedicated school staff that they will have a secure retirement after a lifetime of devoted service to our students,” said CTA President Dean Vogel.

      arrow Read more
      arrow Read the CalSTRS press release
      arrow Learn more about CalSTRS 2014 Funding Plan

      Tiered Changes to CalSTRS

      AB 340 significantly alters the retirement structure and benefits to public pensions in California, including the California State Teachers Retirement System. Some important changes for newly hired educators in California schools:

        1.  Almost all changes apply solely to NEW CalSTRS members – those hired after January 1, 2013.

        2.  All new CalSTRS members would be required to pay half of the normal cost of their retirement. The language is very unclear on the impact this would have for local school districts and school funding under Proposition 98.

        3.  The proposal changes the formula for determining retirement benefits from 2% at age 60 to 2% at age 62, and from 2.4% at age 63 to 2.4% at age 65.

        4.  It eliminates the ability of teachers with more than 25 years of service to use their single highest year salary when calculating retirement benefits. All future teachers would be required to use their three highest years of salary. 

      arrow Read CalSTRS Summary of Pension Changes and Funding Resolution
      arrow Analysis: The impact of AB 340


      More News...

       

    • MYTH: Our state would be better off financially without having to contribute to teachers’ retirement benefits. 

      FACT: The state benefits economically from teachers’ retirement benefits. In fact, $4.5 billion in value is added to the state’s economy each year from generated business activity from retirement benefits. Entire counties depend on that retirement income. Read the CalSTRS Economic Impact Study.

      MYTH: The retirement fund is a taxpayer giveaway.

      FACT: Over the life of their careers, teachers contribute 8% of their monthly pay to their retirement. Employers kick in another 8.25% of monthly pay, the state contributes just over 2% (which previously was 4.6% but was reduced a decade ago), and the returns garnered by CalSTRS investments do the rest.

      MYTH: Teachers engage in pension 'spiking'

      FACT: CalSTRS is vigilant in preventing spiking. All extra compensation for teachers over and above their normal salary gets put into a separate account that cannot be used towards their final retirement salary. Learn about CalSTRS Pension Abuse Hotline to help combat spiking.

      MYTH: Teachers retire too early and into a life of luxury.

      FACT: The average benefit payment is $3,300 per month while the number of years a teacher works for those benefits averages 27.

      MYTH: The CalSTRS system is headed toward insolvency.

      FACT: While it is true that CalSTRS has a $70 billion shortfall, this is not an amount that is paid overnight. Just like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over 30 years, not in the first month’s payment. Even under current economic conditions, CalSTRS has sufficient assets and projected contributions to pay benefits until 2044.

      MYTH: CalSTRS suffers from a lack of accountability and oversight.

      FACT: CalSTRS has received national recognition for its ethical standards. The system has a long history of accountability and transarency. In fact, the ethical standards of CalSTRS has become a national model for board accountability.

    Friday
    Dec062013

    Legislation

    Monitoring the legislative process and advocating for laws that achieve gains for students, teachers and public education are among the cornerstones of CTA's mission. CTA’s State Council of Education is comprised of more than 700 elected teacher leaders and is the statewide representative body of the Association. This large, diverse group of elected representatives serves as the policymaking body, considering and acting on legislation affecting the welfare of public schools in California. 


    The State Council representatives’ role is to help prioritize the CTA legislative agenda by asking these important questions:

    • Will this legislation make public schools better for students, families, educators and the greater education community?
    • Does this legislation protect and promote the well-being of our members and improve the conditions of teaching and learning?
    • Does this legislation support and advance the development and quality of the teaching profession and that of Education Support Professionals?

    This is a vital process in which CTA continues to strengthen its role as the voice for public education in California.

    Friday
    Dec062013

    Education Improvement

    There is a great deal of discussion about "education reform" in the national media. Everyone seems to think they know how we should best improve our public education system. 

    A couple years ago, the film Waiting for Superman shook the public awake, offering a glimpse into some of the problems with our system, but it did so at the expense of public school teachers and our union in order to promote charter schools as a panacea. And then came Won't Back Down, this time ignoring the realities our schools and students face to promote the misguided "parent trigger" law as a silver bullet.

    One voice has been surprisingly left out of the debate on "education reform" - or as respected education historian Diane Ravitch refers to it, "corporate education reform":  the voice of educators.

    Day in and day out educators are doing their best for their students with far fewer resources and overcrowded classrooms. Instead of pointing the finger and casting stones, especially when research proves these "reforms" ineffective, we should be working together to not only reform our public schools, but to improve our public schools.

     

    STUDY: VAMS DO NOT REFLECT TEACHER QUALITY

     

    New research published by the American Educational Research Association finds weak to nonexistent relationships between state-administered value-added model (VAM) measures of teacher performance and the content or quality of teachers’ instruction. Based on their results, the authors question whether VAM data will be useful in evaluating teacher performance and shaping classroom instruction.

    arrow RESOLUTION: "Supporting California’s Public Schools and Dispelling the Corporate 'Reform' Agenda"